Well, here we are back again. Another week and another draft Document. For the first time, we take a jump across the pond and we head over to Europe. We land in the country of the Czech Republic where Milan Michalek is playing. One of the top rated players for this year’s draft, Michalek is delighting scouts around the globe. Here’s an in-depth look at this blossoming young superstar.
Milan Michalek, Right Wing, 6’2, 205 lbs. Budejovice
Milan Michalek is one of the top eligible players for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and is one of the few players viewed to have the ability to catch Nikolai Zherdev for the number one overall spot. Michalek is a two way forward with plenty of skill. The one thing he doesn’t have that a guy like Zherdev does have is the flashiness. That breakaway gear, the stickhandling, the incredible one-on-one moves. Not to say that Michalek can’t be a go to guy in the NHL. He most certainly can. However, he is just more reliable. Not as high of a ceiling as a Zherdev, but a better guarantee as well.
There are four reasons for Michalek’s high praise in the scouting community. One is his size. At 6’2, 205 lbs and still growing, Michalek should hit the NHL at 6’3, 215 lbs., noticeably above average. He is also willing to use this size. Not a big banging forward, Michalek is more like a John Leclair in this regard. Uses his size for positioning and protecting the puck from his opponents. Secondly, Michalek has a tremendous work ethic. Never one to take a day off and always willing to receive criticism of his play, Michalek works hard to improve his game on and off the ice virtually year round. It’s this work ethic that has helped give him a step up on the competition. Another reason for Michalek’s emergence as a force in hockey is his commitment to defense. He believes strongly in the team game over the individual style, which might help explain why, despite his obvious talents, he has not tried to turn into a one-dimensional player like an Ilya Kovalchuk. He is effective in all situations because of this defensive commitment, and this will only go on to serve him in the future. The final area that has scouts drooling is the skills package. Blessed with good vision on the ice and a size package to ensure he has the time to use his creative ways, Michalek is arguably the most complete player on both sides of the puck. A hard slap shot, accurate wristshot, snapshot and backhand, and the ability to make crisp, accurate passes make Michalek a deadly threat on the offense as well. Jake Dole, an editor here at hockeysfuture.com lends his views regarding Michalek’s offensive upside; “he is a very mobile player with excellent straight away speed…. Right now, Milan is mainly a playmaker – he can finish, but he is not going to light the lamp like Nikolai Zherdev.”
It is unfortunate for Michalek that Zherdev is also over in Europe right now as he is stealing some of the thunder from Michalek. Michalek deserves some of the lime light as well, given his abilities and overall game. However, this could be a bonus for Michalek, as it removes some of the pressure and allows him to just concentrate on his game without the unwanted throng of reporters following his every move. The scouts are still there obviously, but that was something he was expecting, in fact hoping for. But without the media pressure, he can put the draft out of his mind somewhat and work on the little things in his game, the things which can make all the difference in where you get drafted. The off-ice stuff is important. Mostly that Michalek trains hard in the off-season, shows up in good shape for camp and isn’t a problem to the team or his teammates by getting into trouble. Thus far, Michalek is golden. He is being a model citizen so far; something that will help put scouts minds at ease. The on-ice stuff is coming into shape as well. “Very unselfish, hard working and versatile – can play all three forward positions,” says Dole. The ability to be able to move around in the line up by playing all forward positions will help Michalek’s early NHL development well, as coaches will have an easier time finding him quality ice time. And with that work ethic, he will endear himself to his teammates and coaches, making the transition to the NHL all that much smoother.
At present, Michalek is viewed to go anywhere from second to fourth in the draft. Only Zherdev is placed as definitely ahead of him. But, given this kid’s work ethic and determination, he is sure to challenge for that coveted number one spot. And what does Dole view about this whiz kid and his chances at the draft? “The kind of guy who is responsible defensively and uses his size well along the boards. Michalek is a very smart player, he doesn’t play scared and his positioning is excellent…. He’ll need to add some bulk in the near future, but already has good size. Has a good shot at the first overall spot in the draft, so he should give Zherdev a run for his money.” Hopefully Dole is right. That’s all this draft is missing is a little controversy about the number 1 overall pick. So far Zherdev has been able to stay one step up on the competition. However, he might have to fight off Michalek in the end to claim that top prize.