Hockey fans, remember the name Stanislav Svozil. The 2021 NHL Draft class has been looked at as weaker than normal, but it still packs a punch, especially at the blue line. Names like Brandt Clarke, Owen Power, Luke Hughes and Simon Edvinsson have made the rounds through experts as future top defensemen. Carson Lambos, Sean Behrens, and several others could also hear their names called on day one. While this one defenseman is mentioned plenty as a potential first-rounder, his name often gets lost among the other top names. That player is Stanislav Svozil.
Stanislav Svozil, Remember The Name
Svozil was born in Prerov, Czech Republic, on January 17th, 2003. Standing at 6’1” and 179 pounds, Svozil has good height but needs to fill out his frame a bit more by bulking up as he gets older. He’s a left-handed defenseman, throwing him in a list of names in this class with Hughes, Power and Edvinsson, which is tough competition. For me, he ranks as the second-best left-handed defenseman in the class, behind only Hughes. Overall, he lands at ninth on my list.
Many people will likely disagree with this relatively early ranking considering Elite Prospects’ consolidated rankings have him as the 18th ranked prospect, and Bob McKenzie has Svozil down at 34th. There’s much more than meets the eye, however.
What The Experts Say
Alexander Appleyard of Smaht Scouting said, “Overall, there is a lot to like about Stanislav Svozil. Mobile, high-IQ, skilled blue-liners are hard to come by. If his game continues to mature the young Czech blue-liner can certainly become a top-pairing level NHLer. Additionally, it would be a surprise if Svozil – at worst – does not become a solid NHL #4 in the not-so-distant future.”
Gabriel Foley, our resident expert, said, “Stanislav Svozil has the mind to be a top-10 pick. He has the passing ability to be a top-10 pick. While his overall two-way game could use some work, and his stickhandling is a little below where it needs to be, his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. His ability to perform as a top-level playmaker, even in a professional league, and even as a 16-year-old is incredible.”
Cam Robinson of Elite Prospects said, “The Czech product is silky smooth out there. He engages quickly and decisively with the puck, can break out with smart passes, and is always assessing the ice.”
Stanislav Svozil’s Biggest Strength
It’s safe to say Svozil’s notable trait is his defensive game. While the above quotes assess strictly his overall game, when you watch him play, it is his calling card. He is positionally sound, keeping himself between the puck-carrier and the net when needed. When the puck is on the opposite side, he is not afraid to engage in a net-front battle. Facing off against men, there are times he loses those battles, but he does hold his own more often than not. Svozil also has an excellent sense of how to use his stick effectively and efficiently with consistency as well. It shows up when defending against the rush as well.
Having tracked four of Svozil’s games this year, I looked at his ability to defend the rush. The opposing teams have attacked his side of the ice 31 total times in those four games. Of those 31 rushes, Svozil broke up and ended 12 of them (38.71%). His rushes defended percentage ranks sixth out of 16 defenders tracked. He allowed entries with possession eight times (25.81%), which ranked him fourth out of those same 16 defenders. That’s due to his ability to be tight on his gaps and strong with his stick checking.
Stanislav Svozil’s Weakness?
It’s been said by many, and it is probably why he is a second-round prospect to Bob McKenzie: his offensive game has not been good enough. Consistency in his effectiveness has been mentioned by Tony Ferrari of Dobber Prospects, who said, “The consistency in the offensive zone is what he will need to rectify as he moves forward.” While that can be true, it’s also in part due to the role that he is in. Playing in a men’s league, there aren’t many young players like him getting opportunities. His role is specialized and he doesn’t get a whole lot of time to really make much of an impression outside of a few flashes. However, what he has shown is similar to that of Fabian Lysell; he has shown an outline of the skills that he has that can be built up quite substantially, despite the small role.
For his offensive game, he is very simple-minded. Generally, he sticks back and lets his teammates do the work. When he gets the puck, he scans the ice and takes the best chance given to him. That generally means that he shoots the puck from the point, or gets the puck to a teammate nearby, in space.
On occasion, however, he does attempt passes to high-danger areas. There are also several scenarios where he walks the blue line and creates passing or shooting lanes himself to create opportunities. He doesn’t only sit back and make the simple plays. There’s a willingness and an IQ that has yet to be fully realized, and if an NHL team can unlock that, his offensive game could become strong.
Stanislav Svozil is Underrated
If you couldn’t already tell, this piece is about Svozil being underrated and under-appreciated. Watching his three most recent games, against HC Ocelari Trinec, I specifically broke down his transitional and offensive impacts. He showed out extremely well in the defensive zone, rarely allowing clean entries, and having a sound stick and body positioning, but this piece already touched on that.
Game One Breakdown
The first game I watched was Svozil’s most recent outing, a game against HC Ocelari on March 25th, 2021. In that game, he was involved in just six offensive rushes, as he didn’t play at all in the second period, and very little in the third. Of those six rushes, five generated scoring chances. On the one and only rush that didn’t generate a scoring chance, it was due to him losing space due to his skating limitations, allowing a forechecker to attack and close in on him. He nearly pulled off a strong move to split between the second forechecker and the first forechecker who was, at that point, backchecking. Svozil simply could not pull away.
On the five completed rushes, there was one strong similarity. It started with Svozil showing off high-end anticipation in the defensive zone to kick-start the rush. Then, again a similarity with all of them, he displayed strong puck-carrier vision, keeping his head up and simply taking the space given to him. Of the five rushes, he carried it himself into the offensive zone just once.
On that, he displayed strong puck control and protection, changing his hand positioning on his stick to complete a difficult pass with defenders closing in on him. Two chances, including the chance he skated in himself, he continued to drive up ice and go straight for the net-front. On the other chances that he didn’t skate in, one was a dump and chase that his teammates won, and the other three were completed passes to teammates to generate a zone entry. All of his passes had zip and power, to go along with excellent accuracy so his teammates didn’t lose momentum receiving the pass.
The second game, against Ocelari Trinec on March 24th, showed where the issues of inconsistency arise. Being involved in 10 rushes, only four were completed, and two led to scoring chances or offensive zone possession. The common denominator in every single failed rush attempt? Svozil did not have time and space to work with. Whether it was his top-end speed not being quite good enough, leading to forecheckers and attackers closing in on him. Another reason why is because, while his game is overall very simple, he tries to do a bit too much with the puck in an attempt to move the puck up ice. That includes forcing passes and trying to stickhandle through and around attackers and coughing up the puck.
One really poor play was a turnover that you wouldn’t expect a guy like Svozil to make. Trinec cleared their zone and Svozil’s teammate settled the puck down and handed it off to Svozil across the ice. The pass was a bit behind him, and he had a somewhat tough time settling the puck down. Earlier in the game, Svozil faked a pass across the ice and then darted up the boards to shake off a forechecker. With that in mind, rather than reading the body of the attacker closing in and anticipating the play, he decided to just throw it across to his partner since he didn’t do that last time in a similar situation. However, the forechecker expected it, cleanly intercepted the pass, and then had a breakaway and a strong scoring chance.
In the third game, played on March 21st, again against Ocelari, he was given an elevated role and was involved in 15 rush attempts. Of those 15, nine gained the offensive zone, and five led to scoring chances. The common denominator this time was his passing ability. Another thing he showed was an ability to create space for himself. In the second game, he would get caught in pressure and try to stickhandle and skate through it. In this game, he would fake the breakout and cut back into space. Once again, he would display strong anticipation and positioning to get to the loose pucks consistently, and the puck carrying vision to locate space and take advantage of it. Once again, similar to the first game, he would jump up the ice and join the rush, and attack the slot in the offensive zone.
Strong Offensive Plays in Game Three
There was also a prime example in this game about how Svozil plays, and how effective he can be. Of course, it starts with a strong rush play made by Svozil. He positioned himself in support, and received a drop pass. Because it was a drop pass, he had time and space and took advantage, per usual. When he approached the blue line and an attacker stepped to him, he cut back and sent a crisp pass to a teammate in stride to gain the zone.
His team retains possession upon entry, sends a pass to Svozil at the point. He unloaded a heavy slap shot on the net, which is arguably his best offensive attribute. His rebound led to another scoring chance, which generated another rebound, which reached Svozil. That’s when he walked the line to generate space for teammates to get open and for shooting lanes to open. He made several simple passes, maintaining possession, and got another opportunity where he blasted a heavy shot low and on the net. Several scoring chances came out of Svozil keeping play simple and creating space.
Stanislav Svozil is an excellent defender in his own end. He has great awareness, body positioning, stick positioning, and is willing and able to engage physically. Transitionally, he isn’t the most efficient at generating controlled and possessional entries or exits, but he is still effective at engaging and setting up those possessional clears and entries, even if he isn’t directly involved.
Offensively, he keeps the play simple, and in doing so, his team benefits. Svozil also jumps up and pushes the pace on occasion, and he can be very good at generating scoring chances in doing so. His game is very solid all-around, and if he can work on his consistency and carve out a bigger role over the next two years, whether he comes to the AHL or stays in the Czech leagues, could wind up as a strong two-way defender.
Stanislav Svozil Does Have Weaknesses
Svozil does obviously have holes in his game, and the concerns are warranted. His skating is solid, with strong edges and a fluid stride. The issue is the fact that he doesn’t have a very good top speed. This leads him into situations where light pressure for some is tight pressure for him. While his offensive game does not have a very high ceiling, he can still be effective in that area in time. Especially with the right coaching. The biggest thing holding him back at this point, to me, is his below-average top speed.
But he makes it work with his edges, and that will buy him time to work on his lower-body strength. His skating stride can become faster, at the very least, in a straight line. He does have the makings to be a future top-pair defender. If he is drafted by, for example, the New York Rangers and gets paired to Adam Fox, his pair could be elite.
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