The second from the bottom of the top 25 is the 2016 Memorial Cup runner up, 2016 QMJHL champion, 2015 Div 1A World Juniors champion, and 2015 third round pick, Martins Dzierkals.
And despite his name, there is only one of him.
Last year Dzierkals was left out of the top 25, and this move was a little controversial. This year he squeaks in at No. 24.
Dzierkals was ranked by eight of us, ranging from 19 (50_MissionCap) to 25 (Species1967/Chris), giving him 28 out of 350 points, tying him with Yegor Korshkov. Dzierkals had the tie break since his highest rank (19) was higher than Korshkov’s (21).
I asked Birky why he left Martins off his list:
For me this year, I see tiers of prospects within the organization. There's a clear top four, then a second tier of about seven or eight players, then a huge tier with 15 to 20 guys. Dzierkals had a solid first season in North America. But I think the lack of history on him hurts his case. He finished ninth in scoring in Russia in his draft year. How do we evaluate that? Seems like a highly skilled player who needs to have a big year in the Q next season. Definitely a candidate to move up my list quickly.
The full ranking:
Dzierkals was a busy man last season. In the Leafs rookie tournament he had a couple assists, but no goals. He was playing in bursts of talent, showing what he could do, but needed to work on sustaining it.
He played almost all of the season's games with the Huskies, missing only December while he was playing with Latvia in the Division 1A World Junior Championships.
With Latvia he helped the team reach the main group for the 2017 tournament (Latvia will play their round robin games in Toronto). He scored one goal and three assists to nab four points in the five games played. Latvia has hard work ahead of them, as group B has Canada, USA, Russia, and Slovakia as Latvia’s opponents.
Once he returned to the Q, Dzierkals helped the Huskies to the QMJHL Championship by scoring seven goals and ten assists in the playoffs. In the Memorial Cup, Dzierkals cooled off, only scoring one goal, but the Huskies were only a lone goal behind the London Knights, losing 3-2 in overtime.
Martins Dzierkals has been described by Hockeys Future as such:
A smooth skater with significant passing and stick handling skills, he makes split-second decisions and is able to execute quickly to either get a shot on goal or create a scoring chance for a teammate.
Scott Wheeler spoke with Rouyn-Noranda head coach Gilles Bouchard in the middle of last season and he praised Dzierkals physical game:
"He plays fucking hard," Bouchard said, shaking his head.
And the physical play isn’t new. Bouchard has been pushing the team to be more physical since Christmas. If they’re going to go all the way in the playoffs, they’re going to need to be physical, he said.
And Dzierkals has bought into that new style.
"He’s shifty left to right, good speed, he likes to go into traffic, and he’s a gritty player – he’s a skilled player but at the same time he’s fast and gritty."
Skilled, fast, and gritty is a good description of his style. If you watch the below video, highlights from the 2015 U18 World Championships, you see him crash the net, get assists off while being hit, and setting up teammates for goals (he’s #11):
Some early QMJHL highlights from SEERVIDEO also shows his talents with and without the puck (He’s #10):
I have high hopes for Dzierkals to reach the NHL. I didn’t rank him myself but I do look forward to watching his progress closely.
Wait, you didn’t rank him, why did you write about him?
Well, when I signed up, I knew I’d have lots to talk about with his accomplishments over the year, and forgot I didn’t rank him.
Really, for me it came down to a few things. Anyone ranked under 20 was very close together, just a bunch of guys really. I think I left Dzierkals off because of a couple of my own personal biases.
First, I put the Q at third out of the three CHL leagues, I don’t think it’s bad it’s just that I have higher standards for players coming out of there in their post-draft year. And while he put up 67 points in 59 games, I wanted to see a higher PPG in a draft+1 year in the Q. Fair or not, it’s just how I felt.
Second is I don’t think he’s coming to the Marlies this season. It’s a pretty full roster and Dzierkals is on the fence there, so I can see another year in the Q coming up, to help the Huskies defend their QMJHL Championship and to head to Toronto in December to lead Latvia into the World Junior Championships.
I don't care about that.
Alright, back to the player.
Dzierkals is everything you'd want out of a third line guy, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see him on a second line someday.
His style of play is that of a bigger player, elite prospects only lists him at 5'11" and 170lbs, but he hasn't spent any significant time on IR yet in his career, so worries about endurance aren't there yet. If he has a dynamite camp and can play in a few pre-season games he could make a case for himself on the Marlies, though I'm sure Latvia would love to have him back in the Q, as that would guarantee he'll be available for the World Juniors.
My thoughts on his schedule in the fall would be that he stays for the full Leafs camp, gets some time at Marlies camp, and re-joins the Huskies to push for a defense of the QMJHL title.
Either way, Martins Dzierkals is No. 24 in the Top 25 Under 25. Too high? Too low? Let us know in the comments, and keep where you'd put him in mind for the community rankings on Sunday.