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Edit: Drafted 73rd Overall by the New Jersey Devils.
Ryan Kujawinski was the 4th overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Draft by the Sarnia Sting. He was having a really hard time seeing ice time in Sarnia, and when Alex Galchenyuk blew out his knee during the 2011-12 season, he was traded to Kingston for Ryan Spooner in an attempt to fill the void and help Sarnia qualify for the playoffs. In Kingston Kujawinski blossomed with 30 points in 30 games down the stretch, and at the end of last season, it looked like the sky was the limit for him.
Kujawinski came out of the game flying in 2012-13, winning OHL player of the week. He went on to put up 18 points in his first 21 games, and was threatening to move into lottery territory as I had him ranked 17th in my November rankings. The sky seemed to be the limit for his potential. However, it wasn’t what it seemed. Kujawinski would play very inconsistent hockey the rest of the way. One of my favorites early in the year, his play really soured me as the year went on. The problem is consistency. There are nights where Kujawinski is dominant, and he looks like a sure fire top 15 type of prospect. Then you watch him two weeks later and the kid looks invisible out there. If he can ever find that consistency, Kujawinski is a gem, but the questions here loom large. Overall Kujawinski finished with 48 points in 66 games. He scored 2 goals in the playoffs but the Frontenacs were swept aside.
Kujawinski was a member of Team Ontario’s Bronze Medal winning squad at the 2012 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, and was a member of Team Canada’s Gold Medal winning squad at the Ivan Hlinka last summer. But he was not invited to the IIHF Under 18 World Championships. Its pretty rare to see a member of Canada’s gold medal winning Hlinka squad, healthy, and available (with his team knocked out of the playoffs) not invited to the U18, but this is the situation that Kujawinski found himself in.
Born Mar 30 1995 — Iroqouis Falls, ONT
Height 6’2″ — Weight 200.4 lbs — Shoots Left
Kujawinski has NHL size, and great reach. He has a long stick, and excellent puck control which really allows him to protect the puck and extend plays. He is strong on the puck, and powerful down low in the cycle game. Combine this with excellent vision, and the ability to put the puck through the tiniest of openings, and this allows Kujawinski to be an excellent playmaker as it gives his teammates time to get open and he’s able to make a few quick moves to open up passing lanes and get them the puck when they get open. Kujawinski is also is a powerful skater who drives the net and plays a gritty style getting involved in the corners and in front of the net. His wrist shot is strong and powerful and he has a good release, but Kujawinski lacks accuracy. He projects as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. The tools are all there, the issue again remains Kujawinski’s inability to show them every night.
Kujawinski has excellent top end speed for a big man. His good acceleration and changes of pace make him very dangerous on the rush as he can take a defender off the rush, and drive the net hard. His agility and edgework are good, but not great. Lower body strength, and balance are a big asset for Kujawinski, as he is very tough to knock off the puck.
Kujawinski’s defensive game needs some work. He is guilty of sometimes puck watching and getting flat footed and out of position. He needs to work on learning his responsibilities without the puck. He is also sometimes guilty of looking too much for the big hit which gets him out of position. Kujawinski though, does stick up for teammates and has even been known to drop the gloves.
When Kujawinski is at his best, his style compares very favourably to Winnipeg Jets’ prospect Mark Schiefele. Its also a style we see in the NHL out of Ryan Getzlaf. This is not to say that Kujawinski’s potential is as high as those two, but he could be an excellent 2nd line center if he can find consistency in his game. If he doesn’t, he’s likely to be journeyman, stuck in the AHL, or on a permanent yo-yo ride being recalled from and sent back down to the AHL.
Check back tomorrow for another NHL draft feature.
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