Filip Král is making a permanent move to North America this year as he tries to show he still has NHL potential. After two seasons in the Czech top division of men’s hockey, sandwiching three full seasons with Spokane in the WHL, Král will be joining the Toronto Marlies for a full season at the age of 22. The fifth round pick from 2018 isn’t old for a defensive prospect, but the clock will be ticking fast once he gets going with the Marlies.
Král is going to be matched up with several young-ish Marlies defensemen next season, including Timothy Liljegren, Mac Hollowell, Noel Hoefenmayer, and Riley McCourt, who are all about the same age. Kristians Rubins is in that group too, though a little older. Where they all end up at the end of the year will be very interesting.
What I’ll be looking for in particular is whether Liljegren can force himself into the NHL, and which defensemen of those remaining will snatch a first pairing job on the Marlies. And I don’t just mean first pairing by default while the team is terrible like 20-year-old Kokkonen last season, but someone who can really push play in a positive direction and do at 22/23 what Liljegren and Sandin did as teenagers.
It was an awkward time for the pandemic when it came to Král’s development. After graduating from the WHL, it would’ve been great to have him at 21 in the AHL full-time, but instead, he smartly chose to stay at home and play in the Czech Extraliga with his home club team. In 48 games, he led all defensemen on his team in points by a big margin. I couldn’t find specifically how many power play points he got, but considering Kometa Brno wasn’t that great last season I wouldn’t think it was especially too many.
After his Czech season, Král was rushed off to Toronto to join the Marlies and get himself bedded in with the new surroundings. In an article by his club team before he left, Král spoke about how he was there to get himself used to the city before a full campaign next year. It was a pretty interesting interview as he pointed out Pittsburgh Penguins winger Radim Zohorna who made his NHL debut last year at 24 as someone he looks to emulate. The two played for Brno so I’m sure they’re friends of some sort.
After Toronto, Král went back to Europe to play for his national team for the first time and played in all three games of the Euro Hockey Tournament. That experience will be good for him as he’s back on the radar for more national team games after being a staple on the U16, U17, U18, and U20 rosters for the Czech Republic.
Going back to his AHL stint, it wasn’t a good one. He scored two goals in consecutive games, which was cool, but his overall play was very shaky. By his highlights from the Czech league and WHL, Král is a crafty player with the puck and is able to make a difference when he has confidence. I don’t think throwing him onto the Marlies last season was going to give him that, but hopefully it prepares him for a chance to do it properly next season. However, he looked very flat and was quickly pushed down to a sheltered third line after getting a couple starts with Calle Rosén. You can only give a first impression once and he definitely didn’t grab any attention.
The Czech league is not the most demanding league to play in, especially when you’re bigger and no longer a teenager. For Král, he was very good at transitioning the puck through the neutral zone, often by pushing his way over the blueline and forcing the play towards the net — ala Morgan Rielly sometimes. He’s got good pace and he’s very clever with the puck, especially when trying to get around his opponents.
With Calle Rosén and Martin Marincin leaving the Leafs and Rasmus Sandin presumably graduating to the NHL full time, there’s a real opportunity for Král to take on lots of minutes and the power play quarterback role he covets. Král’s biggest problem is that he has to replicate what he did last year in a much easier league in the AHL as a rookie. Maybe he has a little more time, but at 22 it’ll be hard to bet on real upside beyond a fringe defenseman.
I like Král, he has the speed, skill, and vision to make high-paced plays in real leagues and be a contributor. I believe in his ability to make things happen in the AHL, and hopefully from there the NHL, but he’s running out of time before he ends up just being another guy.
Filip Kral (TOR) is one of the craftiest puck-movers in the WHL. Not an explosive skater, but consistently separates with convincing deception through fakes, crossovers, changes of speed, cunning routes. Probably won't see a ton of these rushes in pro, but I appreciate the tools. pic.twitter.com/Xx9hBIGZI4— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) April 1, 2020
How We Voted
Seldo ranked Král the highest. Katya actually ranked him higher than me, though I’m pretty sure I’m higher on Král than she is. Brigs continued his anti-Hardev policy by not ranking Král at all and didn’t even bother to say why below.
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What the Voters had to say
Scouch: I watched Král when he played with the Marlies last year and he was uh, not great. I have seen Král’s data over the years and his play in Czechia, and there’s serious improvements. 10 games in the AHL on a bad team doesn’t sink a prospect, so I’m still hopeful, but I like the dynamic, shoot-first defender. He’s turning 22 so the clock is ticking, but a good AHL season would be a nice boost for Král.
Katya: Even allowing for a rough introduction to the AHL in a pandemic year, Král arrived right from gameplay in the Czech league and stank, and that’s a huge mark against him. Kokkonen needed one game to figure it out, get used to all the English, and then he was his normal dull and decently capable self. Král never got there. I think the lesson might be that the Czech league is just really easy. But I ranked him in the not quite hopeless category because I’m willing to give him one more season.
What do you have to say?
Do you think 22nd is a fair ranking for Filip Král?
This poll is closed
I ranked him much higher
I didn’t even rank him
Sounds about right
What pairing do you think Král will end up on the Marlies by the end of next season?
This poll is closed