2015 NHL Draft Profile #40: Erik Cernak

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TopShelfProspectsErik Cernak has been a regular on Slovakian junior national teams for several years now.  He played for his country in the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge; the 2013 and 2014 IIHF Under 18 World Championships; and the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championships. Along the way Cernak was named a top three player on the team in both the 2013 and 2014 Under 18s, and he picked up a bronze medal in this year’s World Juniors which was a major accomplishment for Slovakia. He has been playing for HC Kosice in the Slovakian Extraliga against men for the last two years and helped the team to two straight league titles.  This past season he had five goals and 13 points in 43 games.   Cernak was drafted in the first round, 14th overall by HC Slovan Bratislava in the 2014 KHL Draft

Erik Cernak

Defense — shoots Right
Born May 28 1997 — Kosice, Slovakia
Height 6.03 — Weight 203 [191 cm/92 kg]

Erik Cernak has excellent size, and uses it to play a stout defensive game.  He clears the front of the net, and uses his size to impose his will in the corners. Cernak is already pretty strong, and he still has room to fill out his frame and add some more muscle, which will certainly help in those battles. He is willing to throw big hits if they become available, and can sometimes get himself out of position looking for those hits. He also can sometimes cross the line, as he did in elbowing Mikko Rantanen and earning a suspension during the World Juniors. Cernak also uses a long, and active stick to poke check the puck away from opponents, and to cut down on shooting and passing lanes. He can learn to be even better with it though, as he sometimes looks a little raw. Cernak keeps opponents to the outside on the rush, and in defending against the cycle, holding them to less dangerous areas on the ice. His positioning is pretty good most of the time, but can continue to get better.  Cernak’s hockey sense and ability to read the play are important assets to his game. He is not afraid to put his body on the line and block shots.

Erik Cernak is a decent skater for his size, but is by no means a speedster.  He has decent speed and acceleration, though he could improve a choppy stride to be even better.  Cernak also has decent enough edgework and agility that he becomes hard to beat off the rush.  His best asset though is his balance and strength on his skates.  This gives him a real edge in battling in front of the net, and for loose pucks in the corners.  He can even add more strength to his lower body and continue to get better at this aspect of his game.

Erik Cernak has never put up big points, but he may have some untapped offensive potential. He has a hard slap shot, which he keeps low and on net.  He also makes a decent first pass out of the zone, and can make some plays in the offensive zone.  However, Cernak is more likely to make the safe play than to take chances trying to create offense. He also could stand to be better at choosing when to pinch and keep the play alive, instead of always playing the stay at home role.

Erik Cernak’s game is reminiscent of Dennis Seidenberg of the Boston Bruins.  He has the potential to be a top four shutdown defender, but needs some time playing against better competition and getting coached by someone with the ability to polish up some of the rough patches in his game.  Add into that a little bit of offensive development and he can be a big time boom or bust pick.

Below are some videos of Erik Cernak in action.

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