We all know by now how much Toronto seems to like "late blooming" prospects. This could be due to a later growth spurt, later development path getting to top leagues, just later signs of breakouts as potential top prospects, or anything else you can think of.

One player who fits that bill this year is Dominik Badinka. He was not a complete unknown going into this season, but any early prospect lists that mentioned him basically all had him as a potential sleeper or second/mid-round prospect that had some potential.

Well, this season he seemed to finally realize that potential. He had some luke-warm scouting reports early in the year from some of the early international tournaments, but by the end of the season his draft rankings have been climbing steadily. By the time other final draft rankings come out, I wouldn't be surprised if he sneaks in as a late first rounder.


  • Position: Right-Shot Defenseman
  • League(s): J20 Nationell (Sweden U20 Junior) / SHL (Sweden Pro)
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 185 lbs
  • Birthdate: November 27th, 2005

Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:

  • Bob McKenzie: 42nd
  • Will Scouch: 20th
  • Elite Prospects: 35th
  • Scott Wheeler: 44th
  • Future Considerations: 26th
  • Dobber Prospects: 26th
  • McKeen's Hockey: 27th

Badinka has taken an interesting path. In the last three years, he's played in six different leagues across three different countries. Three years ago, when he was 15 years old, he started in Czechia's U17 junior league. Then he got promoted to the U20 junior league, and finished up getting a taste of their 4th tier pro league.

Instead of returning to either the U20 junior or pro leagues in his home country, Badinka instead went to Finland and played the whole season in their U20 junior level – a lateral move in terms of age, but definitely a step up in quality of competition. He was one of the best defensemen of his age group in the league that year, and led the league for U18 defensemen in points (26 in 43 games).

In those two years, Badinka was also one of the top defensemen for Czechia's international teams for his age group. They were not necessarily among the top nations, but he was consistently tied with or one point behind the team lead for points by defensemen. This year, outside of one minor tournament, Badinka missed all but three games for Czechia because of injuries. And because he's a 2005 birthday, he wasn't be eligible for the World U18s.

Instead, Bedinka moved countries again and started in Sweden's U20 junior league – again, a step up in competition but still the same age group. He very quickly proved he was too good for the level, being among the league leaders in points by defensemen at the time – 13 points in 17 games. After, he received a promotion to the SHL pro league.

Badinka's point production (4 in 33 games) may not seem like a lot, but it's the most points and games played for defensemen in his age group. Him just playing so many games in the SHL for his age is remarkable on its own, especially since it wasn't the usual sort of stint where he would get paltry ice time. He actually averaged 14:54 of ice time in the SHL, which is real third pairing ice time.

For reference, Axel Sandin-Pelikka was drafted 17th overall last summer. He had 22 games in the SHL for his draft season, with 5 points. So a better production rate in fewer games, and in less ice time (8:34 per game).

From Lassi Alanen's Euro tracking data: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676


I'll fully admit, I've probably watched Badinka the least out of any of the other players I'm going to profile this year. For players in Europe, half of their games I usually watch are the international tournaments – just an ease of access to and quality of streams, really. But since he barely played in any international games, I am solely relying on a few SHL games and the scouting reports I've read.

That said, what I've seen and read is that Badinka may not have any major standout skill that's at an elite level, but is quite solid in some very useful areas as a defenseman. First, his skating is very good and can cover a lot of ground with his feet and reach as a 6'3" defender.

While Badinka is not the most explosive, or the fastest, or the most agile in terms of lateral movements, he gets around the ice at a high level in all of those ways. Honestly, considering he's 6'3" but only around 180 lbs to me means he has room to fill out with more muscle and use that strength to improve his explosiveness and speed.

From Felix Robbins at McKeen's Hockey: Steven Graves at McKeen's Hockey:

Badinka is an exceptionally mobile skater for his size. His strides are nice and fluid, and he’s just as smooth moving laterally and backwards. He can generate a lot of speed in a few quick steps, and his movements never feel wasted. He is so light on his feet and he’s able to turn any which way tightly and balanced. At the same time, he’s got such a strong and sturdy base that he’s pretty difficult to take down or knock off the puck.
His strong skating and pace have been the key to his defensive prowess this season. He carefully controls his speed when gapping up opponents, making sure his hips stay turned towards his man and matching their speed. He’s constantly suffocating his man in man coverage, battling for inside position and generally making life miserable for whoever he happens to be assigned to.

For me, Badinka's skating helps him the most when it comes to his ability to drive transitions, which you can see in his tracking data above is arguably his greatest strength. He has a good amount of deception as a puck handler, which helps him a lot in retrieving dump ins – he can evade forecheckers and create separation to until he has enough space to make the first pass up into the neutral zone. He also has some good ability making stretch passes according to some scouts, which can help create more dangerous rush chances for his team.

Audio warning for this one, which seems to have gotten borked.

From Will Scouch:

Badinka is the embodiment of modern defense-first player, but don’t count out the offense he has generated through hard stretch passing and a hard shot from the point. Badinka is a tall, fluid skating defender who covers ice well in stride, monitors gaps well, and erases puck carriers effectively. His data profile looks eerily similar to Anton Silayev, but you may be able to get him a round later. He’s an effective breakout generator through his passing and while I don’t see him winning Norris Trophies or playing 25 minutes a night very easily, he’s a player who could eat solid minutes while participating in enabling offense for other players with the vision and shot he carries.

Lastly, there's the second side of the "two-way" label, and that's the defense. This is another area where he profiles as being a competent defender in multiple areas – defending the blueline to breakup attempts by the other team to enter the zone with control, and defensive plays in his own end to break up cycles, clear the net, and get possession back so his team can clear the puck.

It's hard to really measure how good he is in this area. On the one hand, he was dominant in the junior level this year. He had the size and physical play to push his peers around with relative ease, which made his defense look great. But at the SHL, where his size wasn't as much of an advantage anymore, his defense was still good but not to the same extent. Again, he will likely get stronger in ways that will help him in this regard. So the question of his defensive ceiling lies in his ability to maintain good positioning and make smart reads of the play.

One stat that was impressive to me is that despite being young for the level, and being a defenseman that does play with a physical edge defensively, he only had 6 penalty minutes in his 33 SHL games. He had more penalty minutes in about one-third the games at the junior level! He may not have played as much per game, but he learned to clean up his defense and be physical without taking penalties at a much more difficult level of hockey.

From Sam Tirpák at FC Hockey:

Badinka is very-well skating, intelligent, two-way defenseman that makes calculated plays, understands defensive positioning well, and makes smart decisions in all three zones. What stands out about his game is his understanding of space and positioning. He knows how to cut forwards off of an active play against his team and how to position himself before.
He calculates the best course of action on defense rather quickly and has a high success rate in doing so. He made smart plays in all three zones, joining the rush in correct moments that resulted in scoring chances for his team. Badinka was very active on his skates, always monitoring the ice for the next best course of action – be it on offense or on defense. He read most plays correctly, even being able to cut off forwards in multiple one-on-one situations in this game.


The other thing I'll say is that there is a fair amount of difference of opinions between scouts on what Badinka's strengths and weaknesses are. Everyone seems to more or less agree to a rough range for his rankings, but I just watched the Elite Prospects video talking about their latest rankings. They had two scouts where one said he didn't like his retrievals, then the other said actually that's the thing I liked the most about him.

For the above section, I relied upon what seemed to be the overall consensus from several scouts I follow. So if the majority said Badinka was good or bad at something, OR if I could confirm some things from what I saw myself, that's what I am sticking with. However, the other thing I think that indicates – and this is something I did see some scouts mention – is that his performances game to game are probably more inconsistent than they usually are for prospects. That is definitely something I want to mention in this section.

The other flaw that came up more often from scouts that touches on that inconsistency is specifically related to Badinka's decision making. This comes through in a variety of ways, both with and without the puck. At times he would try to do too much with the puck, which would lead to some turnovers you just know would have the coaches wincing.

Defensively, Badinka had similar issues at times. It could be chasing hits or being too aggressive and trying to do too much and making costly mistakes. This is something where I admit I struggle to consider a defenseman's projection in that regard. How easily can a player simply "improve" their decision making? That is question mark I have about him.

The other potential issue I have is with his offensive ceiling. He moves the puck pretty well, but I wouldn't call him an elite offensive defenseman – in terms of right now or future projection. He likely won't be a powerplay quarterback in the future, not even on a second unit. He projects more as an even strength and penalty killing minutes eater.


The one thing I'll note about Badinka is that he really did seem to be improving as the season went on. It could be a simple matter of him improving that very decision making I just talked about, as well as gaining better comfort and physical maturity while adapting to the SHL.

Bob McKenzie's most recent draft ranking came at the middle point of the season, when Badinka hadn't been in the SHL that long. So his ranking at 42nd is something I would predict gets improved on his final rankings just before the draft. That would still put him within range of Toronto's first round pick, or even a bit after it if they decide to trade down. His size, handedness and profile make him valuable, but his potential limitations make him seem unlikely to project as a potential top pairing guy. Not even as a number two guy.

But for a late first rounder, or early second rounder, having a guy who could play some good minutes on a middle pairing and kill penalties is a more likely outcome than finding a future all star defenseman. It may feel like a "safe" pick, but honestly to me I would love Badinka as a pick. Toronto is particularly weak at defense in their system, and this is the kind of defenseman every team always needs. If you want to give him over to your development team, work on improving his strength, skating mechanics, offensive skills and decision making so he turns into a strong two-way defender who can contribute on a second pairing and on the penalty kill.

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, NCAA, 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, The Athletic, and more.

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!

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