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 Samuel Honzek Scouting Report.
Samuel Honzek Scouting Report
Honzek, born in Trencin, Slovakia, is a forward playing in the WHL. The Vancouver Giants forward stands at 6’4” and 185 pounds, putting him amongst the biggest in the class, especially among the top prospects. This season was his first in North America, after having played 49 games in the top men’s Slovak league last year (he scored 10 goals and 14 total points). In his first season in Canada, Honzek posted 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points in 43 games, which is strong.
With his experience playing against men (last year) and a smooth transition to the smaller North American rinks, he’s been ranked pretty high on some boards. Amongst experts and various sites, Honzek has been ranked 10th by SportsNet, 13th by Daily Faceoff, 15th by Elite Prospects, 19th by Bob McKenzie, 21st by Craig Button, 23rd by Dobber Prospects, 26th by Draft Prospects Hockey and Recruit Scouting, 29th by Smaht Scouting and The Hockey News, and 46th by FCHockey.
Samuel Honzek Deep Dive
Honzek’s wide range is crazy on the surface. As high as 10th and as low as 46th is amongst one of the largest discrepancies amongst the other prospects considered first round talents. Looking closer, his main range is mostly early to late 20’s. That being said, what makes the big forward a first round talent? Why might some sites be higher, and others lower?
When looking at Honzek’s 6’4” and 185 pound frame, most would think he’d be an average skater, or a good one “for his size.” However, that’s not quite true. He is a very good skater… regardless of his size. He’s just as fast as some smaller players, and can even be faster than some too. His stride is mostly technically sound, which will make NHL skating coaches drool over him. Honzek’s speed is surprisingly high end, and that’s due to the power he has in his first few strides. He is impressively explosive, making his short area burst stand out.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect is his edge work. While he isn’t the most consistent in this area, he can change directions effectively, and with his size, that’s scary. He’s hard to shake off when he’s on someone, and that can cause headaches for opponents. Good size, really good skater, and a GM is already on the phone trying to get this guy. What more could a GM want?
When it comes to Honzek’s offensive abilities, therein lies the discrepancy. He’s a big player, but he largely plays on the perimeter. Especially with his passing. When he possesses the puck, he generally sticks to the outside and looks to make a quick pass. Those passes are generally aimed at the point or it’s cycled down low to a teammate behind the net or in the corner. He hardly ever aims into the high-danger areas of the ice. As a matter of fact, while this is just a one-game sample, six of his eight even-strength passes in the offensive zone were aimed at low-danger. On the powerplay, nine of his 11 pass attempts were aimed at low-danger.
As for his shooting, Honzek lacks consistency. Generally speaking, his shots usually hit the net, but they don’t always have the necessary power to be consistently threatening. He also doesn’t often pick corners or find a hole in a goalie. His shooting and goal-scoring is heavily reliant on his anticipation and off-puck abilities, finding soft spots in the offensive zone and striking at the right time. While his IQ and timing are efficient, he needs to work on his pure shooting ability if he wants to translate that skill to the next level. Paired with his mostly possession-based playmaking, he’s not the most noticeable on the ice. All around, he needs to work on his pace and attacking the slot area more consistently.
Samuel Honzek’s Transitional Abilities
Honzek is a good skater with size to boot. His hands can, at times, flash when in a tight spot, but he doesn’t show it off too often. However, he isn’t relied on heavily by teammates in the transition game. He has a low impact in the neutral zone, as he generally leans on his teammates to move the puck. As an example, according to Mitch Brown’s and Lassi Alonen’s tracked data, over a span of 127 five on five minutes, Honzek was involved in just shy of 18 entries per 60 minutes, and just shy of 10 exits per 60. Meanwhile, the usual involvement rate for entries per 60 is 22 and higher, while exits sit around 15 per 60 or higher.
That being said, the same goes for his transition game as it does his offensive game. He needs to become more involved in the play and increase his pace. Because Honzek is effective through the neutral zone, due to all the traits mentioned earlier. Simply put, his skill is there, but it’s still raw. There’s time to figure it out, and it’s easier to coach up pace as opposed to the skills and size he currently possesses.
Honzek’s Defensive Zone Play
Honzek’s game, as mentioned above, is largely anticipation and effectiveness. Simple game, few mistakes, and keeping the puck moving in the right direction. All those traits remain in his defensive abilities. He may not be a game changer in this area, but there are several situations where he breaks up dangerous chances that could have become goals. His positioning is excellent, for the most part, and he has an effective and active stick. His size allows him to hold up well along the boards as well, and win those battles.
The one gripe that can be had with Honzek’s defensive game is, unless he anticipates a dangerous play coming, he does not move his feet a whole lot. Again, he relies on anticipation and maximizing his effectiveness, as opposed to chasing plays. Additionally, he isn’t always seen supporting his defence low, generally sticking to the hash marks or higher, and taking the high slot when the situation calls for it.
Samuel Honzek’s Potential
Honzek is an interesting player to project. When watching his game, on the surface, his ceiling isn’t very high. His skills are projectable to the next level, thanks in large part to the lack of mistakes and 200-foot abilities. But upon deeper inspection, it’s clear there is more in his game that needs to be unlocked. With his size, skating and potential raw skills finding their stride, he has the makings of a future top-six winger. Meanwhile, if he learns how to use his size better in terms of being more physical, and continues building his smart possession-based offence and effective defence, he projects well as a third-line forward in the future.
Based on only playing style and not a projection of skills, Samuel Honzek is comparable to a few NHLers. But one that sticks out the most is Dallas Stars captain, Jamie Benn. While Benn teeters on the line of what’s clean and dirty, especially following his recent suspension, the rest of his game is very similar to what Honzek has shown. Benn does not dazzle with skill on offence, and instead focuses on extending possession and grinding out the opposition. Additionally, he plays an all-around solid, but not outstanding, game in all three zones.
Tracked Stats from Kyle Pereira (passing stats), and Lassi Alanen and Mitch Brown
Raw stats via Elite Prospects
Main Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports