Paul Szczechura (pronounced “sha-HER-ah”) could be a “hidden gem” in this year’s NHL draft. Overlooked by many followers of the draft, he is a player that is definitely well worth checking out. The Brantford, Ontario native and former player under the tutelage of Walter Gretzky finished third on the Broncos team in scoring with 29 points (6 goals, 23 assists) playing in all 37 games for Western Michigan this season. His 23 assists ranked second on the team. At the team’s season-ending awards ceremony, Szczechura was named the recipient of Western Michigan’s Catherine Lawson Sportsmanship Award.
2007-08: Szczechura split time between two AHL clubs this season, centering for both the Iowa Stars and the Norfolk Admirals. 29 games with the Stars didn’t amount to much, as he struggled to put up points; he recorded just five points (2g+3a) with Iowa. After the trade to Norfolk, things seemed to click for the forward. In 24 games he recorded 26 points (14g+12a) while keeping his PIM to a low 16. Signed as an undrafted free agent by Tampa Bay in 2008.
Szczechura is an outstanding playmaker with a tremendous work ethic. He is very smart and makes very good decisions with the puck. He is a smooth skater with some quickness. He is defensively responsible and can play both ends of the ice quite well. He possesses a very good release and is relentless in his puck pursuit. One area that Szczechura has really excelled at this season is on draws. As one of the Broncos top players in faceoffs, Szczechura has a better than 55 percent efficiency rating. The biggest issue with Szczechura is his lack of shooting the puck. It is something that his team can greatly benefit from his improvement in.
Western Michigan head coach Jim Culhane recently spoke with Hockey’s Future and gave some of his insights on Paul Szczechura: “Paul is probably one of the smartest kids that I’ve coached at Western. He’s a playmaking centerman. He plays a lot of minutes as well as plays in the last minute of the game. He is a key contributor in all assignments for us and is willing to block shots. Paul is a very good student of the game. I think the biggest thing for him now is to grow as one of our leaders. He’s relied upon to do a lot of things for us as a team, and I think he’s well respected by his teammates. The questions that I do at times receive about Paul’s skating are, in my opinion, unwarranted. I think he’s a very fluid skater, and at times he is deceiving in how quick he can track down pucks and pursue pucks. He has a willingness to anticipate and read situations on the ice and puts himself in all key areas on the ice at the right times.”