The Vancouver Canucks are preparing for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft — and so are we.
Once again the Vancouver Canucks failed to secure a spot in the NHL playoffs. So, instead of competing for the Stanley Cup, Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff will use the upcoming months to prepare next season’s roster. Now that the organisation is officially in a ‘transition period’, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will be of utmost importance.
A four-game winning streak to start the 2016-17 season gave fans hope for the playoffs. But — blame the coach, the roster, injuries or anything else — unfortunately, the team was unable to play competitively for an entire season. With that, they are guaranteed another high draft pick this year.
Here at The Canuck Way, we will do our best to prepare you for the upcoming draft by profiling as many eligible players as we possibly can. Keep in mind that we are not saying these are players the Canucks are targeting. Instead, these are players that we think the Canucks could or should have interest in.
This year’s draft seems wide-open, with no real consensus in any of the seven rounds. So, it will certainly be interesting to see who will put on a Vancouver Canucks jersey come June.
Today we will look at Czech center Ostap Safin of HC Sparta Praha.
Name: Ostap Safin
Position: Center, left wing
Height, weight: 6’4”, 194
Team, league: HC Sparta Praha U20, Czech U20
Stats (from eliteprospects.com):
Risk, Reward: 2/5, 4.5/5
NHL-potential: Top-six forward
Draft Range: Top 60
A big and strong power forward…uses his size well as he powers himself through traffic and to the greasy areas on the ice…effective whenever he drops his shoulder and drives to the net…has impressive reach and strength allowing him to be a monster at protecting the puck…has the ability to build up some solid speed driving down the wing and possesses impressive quickness in small spaces for such a big guy…not a guy to really deke and dangle the puck one-on-one but does have solid hands and can pull off a skilled move when needed…dangerous finisher as his one-timer is lethal…has a quick release and tremendous power…tough customer who finishes his checks, wins battles along the boards and looks to drive his body through his opponent ever chance he gets…forechecks hard and disrupts due to his speed and reach; giving a solid defensive effort…has solid smarts and room to continue to grow his two-way game. (Future Considerations, November 2016)
Safin is a big, strong playmaking center with great upside. He is a surprisingly good skater at his size — not only good for his size but very good despite his size. He really digs into the ice on his stride and makes sure to make his strides as long as possible, giving him excellent acceleration and speed. Safin is mobile as well, transitioning smoothly from backwards to forwards and back.
Safin uses his frame to win board battles, protect the puck and drive to the net. He follows through on rebounds and doesn’t quit once the puck is gone off his stick.
The Czech plays a 200-foot game and helps out in the D-zone, supporting defensemen well. He displays good defensive positioning, closes passing lanes and blocks shots.
His biggest standout attribute, however, is his vision. Safin is an excellent passer in the offensive zone who sees the ice really well and can set up scoring chances. He possesses a powerful shot as well, mostly due to his size. His quick hands allow him to control the puck at high speed or in the offensive zone with the ability to dodge oncoming defenders.
Safin “only” recorded six goals and 18 points in a relatively weak junior league. One of the reasons could be that there’s nothing really flashy about his game and he lacks creativity. What he can do is power through opponents with speed and make plays. But his game is quite straight-forward (literally) and he doesn’t have that elite scoring ability we see from some other forwards, especially in Canadian junior leagues.
Another issue some people see with Safin is his compete level. Does he give his best every night? Does he have the energy level to compete with the best of the best? The IIHF U18 World Championship was his chance to prove he can and, in my opinion, he took it. But even there he “only” had one goal and four points in five games — can he be an elite scorer?
Safin is a promising player who should be a lock to make the NHL in one role or another, as long as he puts in the necessary work. He has the basics down — size, skating, hockey IQ — so teams shouldn’t worry about him too much. The team that selects him gets a center with a lot of upside and a prototypical frame.
Big centers automatically draw comparisons to Canadian legend Joe Thornton. While that is totally unfair to any young player, you can’t help but hope that big guys like Safin become at least a light version of Thornton. A big playmaker like Thornton is everyone’s dream for the first line (okay, Connor McDavid is everyone’s dream, but let’s just pretend), and Safin’s vision makes those dreams as vivid as ever.
While most scouting services seem to have him ranked in the mid-to-late second round, I personally think he has first-round potential. Safin can be a real game changer if he puts in the work. So if the Canucks have a chance to pick him at 33, they should take that chance and run with it.