2014 NHL Draft Profile #51: Vaclav Karabacek

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Vaclav Karabacek is a Czech-born winger who spent the season with the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL.  The 18th overall pick in the 2013 import draft, Karabacek took some time adjusting his game to North American rinks, and started the season slowly.  However he got better and better as the season went by, and was especially good during the playoffs, helping the Olympiques to the second round before they fell to the Halifax Mooseheads.  Overall Karabacek would finish with 21 goals and 47 assists in 65 games, and a further 6 goals and 12 points in 9 playoff games.

Karabacek would continue his strong play into the IIHF Under 18 World Championships where his 3 goals and 6 points in 7 games would help the Czech team to a silver medal. It wasn’t his first time playing for his country as he’s also represented the Czechs in the 2013 Ivan Hlinka tournament and in various tournaments at the under 16 and under 17 levels.

Vaclav Karabacek

Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 2 1996
Height 6.00 — Weight 190 [183 cm/86 kg]

Vaclav Karabacek’s isn’t the fastest skater on the ice.  His speed is merely average and he could use a better first step and acceleration.  However the other aspects of his skating are good.  Karabacek has good agility and edgework, and can be elusive in the offensive zone.  He also has very good balance, and is very strong on his skates.  He can fight through checks, use his leverage to win board battles, take punishment in front of the net, and protects the puck very well due to a strong wide-base in his stance.

Karabacek’s offensive game is based around his tenacity.  He digs pucks out of the corners for his linemates, and works hard to continue the cycle game down low.  He makes short quick passes to teamates, and almost always takes the safe option over those that are riskier, but more creative.  The stickhandling is decent, but it is more about puck protection on the cycle than it is about making the type of creative moves to beat a defender one-on-one.  Without the puck, he has the ability to find open spaces on the ice, and to evade defenders.  From there he is able to unleash a good one-timer, or a very powerful wrist shot, with an excellent release.  The shot is the best part of his offensive game and is among the better shots in this draft class.

Karabacek’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress, but has improved as the season has gone on.  Early in the year he seemed lost in the Gatineau defensive system but as the year went on, he eventually learned how to cut down passing lanes and anticipate plays.  He also seemed to be better on the backcheck.  There is still room for improvement and learning to keep his feet moving at all times, as he can sometimes puck watch and get caught out of position as a result.

Vaclav Karabacek’s game is similar in style to Ryan Callahan of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  This isn’t a talent comparison, but a stylistic one.  Overall his ceiling would be as a second line forward in the NHL.  However the industrious game, the hockey smarts, and the willingness to improve shows that even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he could still make the NHL on a lower line as a grinder type.

Here are some highlights of Vaclav Karabacek in action:


Come back tomorrow to check out my #52 prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft.


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