You guys like Matthew Knies, right? Big guy, plays physical, great forechecker, has a good shot – just a really good supporting forward who has been able to become a valuable NHLer pretty darn quickly for a second round pick.
Well... what if you could also draft a big Slovakian guy, really good skater, forechecker, has a good shot, potentially elite defensively, and has the potential as a really good supporting forward? Martin Mišiak might not be at the same level as Knies, but he does offer a similar skill set. He may not be as good in some ways (offensive skill) yet, but he does seem to offer more potential in other areas (defensive play).
And the one thing I always say with Knies – after watching his best games in his draft year, he seemed just okay. He had the shot, the forechecking and puck protection. But he did not at all show the same amount of dynamic offense with the puck. That came after he was drafted, and the difference he made once joining the NCAA was immediate that same summer after he was drafted.
That's part of the reason why I like Mišiak. He has that similar skillset, but does already show some flashes of having untapped offensive potential. There's no guarantees, but with the right developmental team I think he could follow the same path that Knies did – albeit perhaps a step or two behind.
So let's talk about why I like him.
THE BASICS: STATS AND CONTEXT
- Position: Center/left-wing
- League(s): Slovakia (29 games) and USHL (36 games)
- Height: 6'2"
- Weight: 200 lbs
- Birthdate: September 30th, 2004
Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:
- Bob McKenzie: 76th
- Scott Wheeler: 87th
- Elite Prospects: 115th
- Dobber Prospects: 56th
- Smaht Scouting: 47th
- Future Considerations: 65th
Martin Mišiak has been on my radar as a potential 2nd/3rd round pick since the World Juniors. Will Scouch had been raving about him, and when Mišiak as an U18 prospect cracked Slovakia's WJC roster, not many people noticed even though that's rare for players his age.
Normally, countries will pick their best players – which 95% of the time means you take older who are more developed. Players in their draft years (or younger) who get selected by their countries are top prospects like Connor Bedard, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and so on. Because as good as a 17 year old may be, those 1-2 years of extra development and physical growth matters a lot.
Even Dalibor Dvorsky, another Slovakian prospect in this year's draft who like Misiak has been on Slovakia the last two WJCs is a consensus lock as a first rounder, and may sneak into the top 10. But that's not Mišiak. He's not on the level of Dvorsky, let alone Bedard or McDavid. When Slovakia used Mišiak in those tournaments, he played mostly a shut down, bottom six grinding role.
Mišiak started this year in Slovakia's pro league on a team that did prioritize development of their younger players more than others. He even played 46 games as a 16 year old last season. This year, he had 10 points in 29 games on their third line. But not long after the WJC, he made the jump to the USHL and joined a very strong Youngstown team that ultimately won the championship. He played as their top line center and had 17 points in 27 games – a good but not great total. In the playoffs though, he shined. He had 10 points in 9 games to help them win the title. That led his team in playoff points, and was tied for 2nd in the league. The guy who led the league in playoff points is also 2 years older.
But you look at Mišiak's tracking data, and outside of his really good defense he hasn't been all that impactful. So why do I like him?
THE GOOD: SHOT AND TWO-WAY POTENTIAL
Mišiak initially caught attention for his play at the World Juniors, especially in later games against the likes of Canada. He was used in a very defensive role, but he looked good doing it. At times he was visibly slowing down the likes of Connor Bedard and his ridiculous point production. He may not have had the offensive skill to hang with the top prospects on Canada, but he was also a 17 year old against mostly 18 and 19 year olds.
Mišiak is a bigger guy at 6'2", but is a very good skater and constantly plays at a high pace. He is definitely a high energy player, and uses it for forechecking, harrassing puck carriers, and so on. He has shown some ability to be very capable on transitions carrying the puck with his speed, and has some confidence with the puck on his stick.
Here are some examples. When in the USHL on Youngstown, he is #90. When playing in Slovakia's pro league, he was #92. When on Slovakia's WJC roster he was #22.
Mišiak also has a power game, as he's very willing to throw his body around, engage physically, and use his size to his advantage defensively. If you like high energy checking players, you'll love Mišiak. He's fast, he's aggressive, he's physical, he's defensively reliable and he's very versatile.
Defensively, Mišiak plays responsibly when it comes to positioning. He'll play down low as a center, and is constantly shoulder checking in the defensive zone. He does not often get caught puck watching. When the other team has a rush going the other way, he skates hard to get back in time to prevent odd man rushes. He has a good sense of timing and positioning to block passing lanes, then close on the puck carrier to cause a turnover. His speed, size (reach) and physical play all lend itself well to defending all over the ice – along the boards, through the neutral zone, and so on.
That same tenacious style also comes through on Mišiak's forechecking, which I link with defense because it helps prevent the other team from getting back to offense. He is very aggressive at chasing after pucks, whether they're dumped in or off rebounds and loose pucks in the offensive zone. He isn't afraid to throw the body against defenders. He bears down on them as quick as he can to give them as little time as possible to make a play. That pressure helps create turnovers so his team can maintain possession. Here are some examples:
While playing in Slovakia's pro league, and on Team Slovakia at the WJC, he played as a winger. When he moved to the USHL, he was immediately used as their first line center. That helped him unlock his offense a bit more, and despite poor looking tracking data I've seen Misiak showing a fair amount of offensive skill – including pretty high level plays with skill.
Mišiak has some good hands when handling the puck, can make some pretty difficult passes, and is a beast around the net and a real threat to deflect point shots in. But his best offensive ability is probably his shot – he has a good, hard wrist shot that allows him to score from middle distance.
Here are some examples of his offensive skills:
THE FLAWS: OFFENSIVE UPSIDE
Having said all those nice things about Mišiak's potential offensive upside, I'm going to pour some cold water over his potential offensive upside. While you can find some examples of him showing off some good passing, shooting, puck carrying, and so on, as of now they're not a consistent thing. I would classify his offensive impact as effective rather than elite. He exemplified the "play the friggin' game" style – focus on making the simple play rather than the flashiest.
That might be, in part, because Mišiak can't make the flashy plays. To be clear, I'm not saying that he can't make flashy plays at all, and I think there's enough video evidence above that he can. It's just that he hasn't really shown signs of being able to make high level flashy plays, the ability to break down defenses through pure skill plays and generate dangerous scoring chances from it. He breaks down defenses in different ways, which are still effective for him as of now but could be something that holds him back when he turns pro.
There is a question of how much of that is because of a lack of skill from Mišiak, and how much of it is from him playing more advanced levels. He has been playing in the top Slovakian pro league since he was 16 years old. He played in the second tier pro league when he was 15. When he's played more against his age-related peers at lower levels, in international junior tournaments at his age level, and in the USHL, he has played differently. He has been able to play up at higher levels and age groups because of his size, skating and defensive ability, but he's probably been asked to or chose to play safer offensively as a result.
But that does mean Mišiak is not getting a lot of time to develop those skills, so even if he did have them at some point he's losing out on that experience trying things out in real games. It remains to be seen if he can develop some more complicated and effective skills on the offensive side of the puck with time and the right coaching.
The worry is that if Mišiak can't develop his offensive skills enough, he'll be limited to more of a fourth line checking role. Which is still good to have, but does limit the potential impact he can have in the NHL – if he even makes the NHL. You can go out and get a checking forward for the fourth line off the scrap heap in free agency, as Toronto proved time and again the past few years. What you want to get from the draft is someone who can do a bit better than that, for cheaper than an equivalent free agent for a time.
So here's my ultimate take on Mišiak: he's likely going to be a second or third rounder for a reason, and that's because he's not a perfect prospect. He already has his skating, physicality and defensive play at a high enough level that I can see a pretty clear path to the NHL to some extent. He also has enough flashes of offensive skill to make me think that can be developed enough in the future to make him a depth scoring threat.
Mišiak also has the benefit of being extremely versatile. He can play in all situations, such as a net front PP role on a second unit, or a side-wall position where he can use his shot. He can certainly kill penalties and be used late in games to defend a lead. He could be a middle six supporting winger if all goes well in his development, playing the Matt Knies, Michael Bunting, or Zach Hyman role as the forechecker and the "responsible" defensive prescence alongside the more offensive stars. If all else fails, he could become a Noel Acciari kind of player in the bottom six – and we all love those kinds of guys.
Thanks for reading!
I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, some NCAA, some USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, and The Athletic.
Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!