Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Eduard Sale Scouting Report.
The 2023 NHL draft class is a loaded one. From the top with Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli, it is arguably one of the best classes in recent memory. Add to the fact that there are some intriguing names throughout the projected first-round, and it’s clear this draft is also deep. Europe holds quite a few notable names. One of those names is Eduard Sale.
Eduard Sale Scouting Report
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 10th, 2005 — Brno, Czechia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 174 lbs [188 cm / 79 kg]
Eduard Sale, born March 10th, 2005, in Brno, Czechia, is a right wing emerging from the HC Kometo Brno organization in Czechia. Standing at 6’1” and 168 pounds, Sale has a decent frame that he needs to fill out moving forward. This season, he has been ranked almost consistently in the top-10. Various outlets and experts have him ranked as follows: fifth by Craig Button, seventh by Draft Prospects Hockey, DobberProspects, and The Hockey News, eighth by FCHockey and Daily Faceoff, ninth by McKeen’s Hockey and Recruit Scouting, 10th by SportsNet and Smaht Scouting, 12th by Bob McKenzie, and 27th by EliteProspects.
Sale burst onto the scene last season with Kometo Brno’s U20 squad, with 42 goals and 47 assists for 89 points in 39 games. That led to him getting a 10-game stint at the men’s level in Czechia, where he scored three total points. This season, he scored seven goals and assists for 14 points across 43 games, all at the men’s level. That comes despite, again, playing against men, and averaging a small role in terms of ice time per game.
Eduard Sale Deep Dive
As mentioned, Sale is consistently ranked within the draft’s top-10. However, Elite Prospects is low on him, especially comparably. Is there merit behind them being so low? Or is Sale overlooked in what appears to be one of the strongest classes in quite a while?
Sale’s skating is absolutely a strength of his. He’s technically sound in his stride, and has a really strong top-speed. The acceleration and edges could use some fine-tuning, but he’s still above average in those areas. Overall, when Sale skates hard, he is hard to keep up with. The only issue, which is not truly a problem by any means, is he doesn’t always take advantage of his skating.
The reason behind that is he has good vision and high IQ, so he scans the ice. Add strong stickhandling skills into the mix, and it’s certainly not a negative considering he slows himself down sometimes. In fact, that makes his skating even more dangerous. If he manages to scan the ice and stickhandle, all at top speed, which is certainly doable, he can be dangerous.
In the offensive zone, Sale can certainly flash. He has excellent hands, and as mentioned, does a great job scanning the ice. When he is able to pair those two traits together, you get that playmaker everyone saw at the U20 Czech league level, with 47 assists in 39 games. But Sale also has a quick release, and can get shots off from almost any spot. He’s learned to get shots off whilst changing the positioning of his hands, changing the angle on his shot. However, he hasn’t always had the opportunity to display that at the men’s league level, due to a lack of ice time and heightened pressure to not make mistakes.
Having tracked three of Sale’s games, he attempted seven shots at even-strength. On those seven shots, five hit the net. Of the five shots on net, four came from medium-danger. Meanwhile, he had two total attempts from high-danger, but could not put either of them on net.
Those stats are impressive, with context. Compared to guys like Connor Bedard and Zach Benson, who get lots of minutes, it doesn’t seem that way at all. But considering the small role game-in and game-out, it’s impressive. In fact, it almost seemed like, while tracking these games, he wasn’t getting the puck much at all. He’s sneaky good and may not appear dangerous, but can build up some good looks all game long.
But the bread and butter of Sale’s game is absolutely his playmaking ability. Having already mentioned his hands and vision, how did that show up? Attempting 14 total offensive zone passes at even-strength, he completed 11 of them (78.57% completion rate). Of those 11 completions, two of them were from high-danger. In fact, he went 2/2 on high-danger passes.
Meanwhile, he had some power play time, where he recorded three pass attempts and completed two of them. None were aimed at high-danger, but the two completions were aimed at low-danger, extending offensive zone possession time.
What The Numbers Tell Us
When looking at these numbers, they certainly do not jump off the page. Bedard, Benson, Adam Fantilli and others have flashier stats, especially in regards to high-danger impacts with passing or shooting. But Sale clearly has the skill when looking at his U20 season last year. This season, playing full-time against men, there has been some hesitancy. He tends to second-guess himself at times, and can hang onto the puck a half-second longer than he should. But that comes when a young kid plays at a high-level for the first time in a league that isn’t afraid to bench players for mistakes.
So, reflecting back on those even-strength numbers, specifically his high-danger numbers, it’s impressive. Even though he missed his two shot attempts from high-danger, he wasn’t afraid to attack there. As for his passes, he was perfect when he did attack there. That’s a testament to his patience and vision, knowing when he can and when he can’t complete those passes. Once Sale adjusts, receives a bigger role, and gains confidence at this level, he can be lethal. Same can be said about his transition to North America. It may take some time, but he has the tools to pull it off.
Eduard Sale’s Transitional Abilities
Transitionally, Sale has the make-up of a player who can be really good transitionally. Across the three tracked games, he was involved directly in 15 zone exit attempts. He was able to clear the puck, with control, on four of them (26.67% controlled exit rate). Meanwhile, he failed to exit the zone six times (40% fail rate).
When it comes to entering the offensive zone, he was involved directly in 15 zone entry attempts. He managed to enter the zone successfully, with control, six times (40% rate). Meanwhile, he failed to enter the zone four times (26.67% fail rate).
Diving Deeper Into The Transitional Numbers
A large majority of top prospects have transition stats that are skewed more towards entries being better than exits. Top prospects are generally high-skill offensive players with elite, or close to elite, production in their respective leagues. Sale deviates from that with even involvement in both entering and exiting zones. He is better entering the zone rather than exiting, but that can be explained.
When exiting the defensive zone, that aforementioned hesitancy that he displays is evident here. As mentioned, he tends to slow his game down to scan the ice, but with the pressure of playing against men, he can take a bit too long to make a decision. That’s been the cause of a chunk of his failed exits. He needs to adjust to the level and gain confidence. Meanwhile, when it comes to entering, his IQ is on display. He scans the ice without the puck at a very high level, and puts himself in good spots to receive passes to enter the zone. That can easily be maintained and is translatable to the next level.
Sale’s Defensive Zone Play
In his own end, Sale is average to below-average. He is mostly active in the defensive zone, keeping his head on a swivel and just generally understanding his role. However, he can be drawn out of position at times. There are other times where he can look disengaged, floating in a spot, waiting for the play to happen. That said, he isn’t a liability either.
As mentioned, he knows his role in his own end. He may not consistently get involved down low in support, and he may not force a lot of turnovers, but he is generally in the right spots and doesn’t get pulled out of position very easily. Sale possesses an active stick as well, though it does not always lead to positive plays. He has the base of at least an average defensive presence.
Eduard Sale’s Potential
Sale is not the flashiest player, but he can be when he needs to. His hands allow him to flash. He can also set up teammates with excellent vision and play-reading abilities. But his game is summed up as being smart and largely focuses on timing and precision over risk/reward plays. His skating can be improved further, which could allow him to become elite in that area in the future. Meanwhile, most of his weaknesses aren’t even weaknesses; it’s mostly just a lack of experience at the men’s level and not currently possessing a ton of confidence.
While he has some time to fine-tune his game, and to adjust to the pace of the professional hockey ranks, he’s projectable. It may take a few years, maybe two to three years, before he is NHL-ready. He also may not be a high-end NHL player in his first season or two. However, once he adjusts, he has the upside of a top-six winger who can set-up anybody and create plays on his own.
As for an NHL comparison, it gets tricky. Based on style and tendencies, not future outlook, Sale looks a bit reminiscent of a Bo Horvat type. Smart and reliable player that can beat defenders in a multitude of ways, but doesn’t stand out in any super flashy way. However, Sale is a better skater than Horvat was entering the league, which is something to take into account. Another player that comes to mind is Taylor Hall, though Sale’s finishing ability isn’t quite as comparable. But the way he plays is very similar to Hall.
Tracked Stats from Kyle Pereira
Raw stats via Elite Prospects
Main Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports