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Draft Profile: Martin is no sour-Kaut

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Did I write this profile just to make that pun in the headline? Yes.

United States v Czech Republic: Bronze Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Vitals

Name: Martin Kaut

Position: RW

Height/Weight: 6’1” / 174 lb

Team: HC Pardubice (Czech Men’s League)

Note: Kaut was unable to attend the full scouting combine due to a health concern.

Martin Kaut can score

S TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM #ERROR!
S TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM #ERROR!
2013-14 HC Zdar nad Sazavou U16 Czech U16 30 12 15 27 28 10
HC Zdar nad Sazavou U18 Czech U18 2 - - - - -
2014-15 HC Zdar nad Sazavou U16 Czech U16 24 32 32 64 28 49
HC Zdar nad Sazavou U18 Czech U18 2 - - - - -
HC Pardubice U16 Czech U16 7 5 5 10 4 3 Playoffs 5 1 0 1 4 -1
HC Pardubice U18 Czech U18 6 2 1 3 6 -6
Czech Republic U16 (all) International-Jr 17 3 6 9 6 1
2015-16 HC Pardubice U18 Czech U18 13 6 13 19 12 12 Playoffs 6 6 7 13 10 11
Czech Republic U17 WHC-17 5 1 1 2 4
Czech Republic U17 (all) International-Jr 18 11 15 26 16 0
2016-17 HC Pardubice U20 Czech U20 22 4 12 16 24 0
HC Dynamo Pardubice Czech 26 0 1 1 6 -5 Relegation 3 0 1 1 0 0
HC Dynamo Pardubice Czech Q - - - - - Qualification 3 0 2 2 0 0
Czech Republic U18 WJC-18 5 1 1 2 16 -3
Czech Republic U18 (all) International-Jr 27 10 18 28 36 3
2017-18 HC Dynamo Pardubice Czech 38 9 7 16 14 5 Playoffs 7 3 2 5 4 2
Czech Republic U19 (all) International-Jr 4 3 4 7 0 1
Czech Republic U20 WJC-20 7 2 5 7 6 -1
Czech Republic U20 (all) International-Jr 19 5 11 16 10 0
Czech Republic EHT 5 0 1 1 4 -1
Czech Republic (all) International 4 1 5 6 2 6

Note: Stats are courtesy of EliteProspects

Consensus Kaut Rankings

Publication CanucksArmy (Spring Ranking) Scott Wheeler Corey Pronman Future Considerations NHL Central Scouting (EU)
Publication CanucksArmy (Spring Ranking) Scott Wheeler Corey Pronman Future Considerations NHL Central Scouting (EU)
Rank 29 29 33 22 4

Scout’s Take

Scott Wheeler

Kaut is one of those players who just gets it. He plays a confident offensive game while still being relatively mistake-free because he doesn’t take unnecessary risks, even though he’s always trying to make plays. He was excellent in a good pro league as an 18-year-old and a star at the world juniors without looking the least bit out of place alongside Zadina, Filip Chytil and Martin Necas. There’s an argument to be made for Kaut to be ranked higher because I think the odds that he becomes an NHL player are really strong, but the combination of his October 1999 birthday and his general lack of truly high-end tools suggest to me that he probably tops out as a middle-six forward.

Corey Pronman

Kaut had a very good season between the top Czech pro league and the world juniors, and fared quite well for a player his age on the Czech national team. Kaut isn’t a dynamic offensive player, but he has a lot of above-average qualities with arguably no weakness in his game. He has noticeable skill with the puck, and is able to create space with his coordination and creativity. He has very impressive vision and seems to always be in the right place at the right time. While I like him more as a playmaker, he can finish his chances as well. Kaut is a two-way forward who can kill penalties due to his work ethic and smarts. He also shows decent puck protection skills. He’s an average skater, not slow, but I don’t see a separation gear. Kaut is probably a winger long-term, but I’ve seen him be effective at taking draws.

Kevin Papetti

Filip Chytil posted 8 points in 38 games in the Czech pro-league during his draft season, then followed this up with a strong first year in North America. With 16 points in the same number of games, Kaut has outproduced him. He also scored seven points in seven games at the World Juniors, so he’s built himself an impressive resume.

He’s one of the older players in this class, but he’s a strong worker at both ends of the ice, and stands out as a talented forechecker and puck thief. He’s a sneaky good playmaker, as he’s not overly flashy, but he consistently makes smart and nifty passes that lead to scoring chances. He should get stronger as he ages, and he will offer an impressive combination of speed and skill for a power forward. I would be surprised if he became a star, but he’s well-rounded and does all the little things well.

My Take

The draft is one of my favourite times of the year, because it always gets me to rethink how I evaluate players. One thing I’ve started to think about more is how to value players with notable strengths and weaknesses versus players who are a jack of all trades, but a master of none. There are arguments for the utility of both. At an elite level, it could be argued that your strengths separate you from everyone else; those are what make you unique and give you a chance to succeed at the pinnacle of your sport. On the other hand, a lack of weaknesses itself could be such a strength, as it means that you have versatility, and that you can be dealt a variety of different hands and still come up with an answer. Really, it could go either way.

In the past, the way I’ve tended to view prospect evaluation is through the lens of the standout skills a prospect could develop that would lead to success at the NHL level. It’s reassuring to look at a player and feel confidence that no matter what, they will do a certain thing at a high level, even compared to the best in the world.

Well, Martin Kaut doesn’t appear to be that guy. Pronman, Papetti, and Wheeler comment on similar things. They note his skill level with the puck. They both comment on his positioning, in the context of knowing where to be offensively and possessing an innate understanding of the game. Notably, they both mention that he doesn’t have truly high-end tools.

It doesn’t sound like Kaut has any one tangible skill you can point to and say “he will be an elite NHL player at that”. Rather, he seems like he’s pretty good at a lot of things, and processes the game well. Which is how you get a player who has clearly excelled at all the levels he’s passed through so far being ranked below some players who have more tools, but less success on their resume.

I’m not here to tell you which is more important — as always, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. However, I feel there’s a very real risk of overthinking this sometimes, and letting the scouting eye talk you out of a decision that someone’s on-ice play is shading you towards. I like betting on the guy who excels at every level.

Fancier Stats

One of the most invaluable resources for me at draft time every year is Canucks Army, and Jeremy Davis in particular, who does absolutely phenomenal work. He’s done a lot to increase the level of sophistication in quantitative draft analysis. Using statistical techniques to find players with similar pre-draft resumes, he estimates the probability that a given draft-eligible player will become a NHL player, and conditional on that, the quality of NHL player that we would expect them to become.

Based on these methods, Davis approximates Kaut’s odds of being a NHL player at 31%. This is pretty much in line with what you would expect from a late first round pick, though it is unclear how much of a sample size there is, since relatively few draft eligible players spend their draft year in the Czech league. Quite interestingly, Davis’ model has Kaut as a high-upside pick - his expected production conditional on making the NHL is 59 points per 82 games, which would obviously be a success anywhere outside the top 10. This flies in the face of what some of the scouts were saying about Kaut.

However, this high-upside projection makes sense when you adjust Kaut’s scoring numbers for context (see the Canucks Army piece linked above for a detailed explanation). If you built a draft solely on context-adjusted scoring, Kaut would not be a fringe first-rounder, he’d be a fringe top-10 pick. Kaut did have a 14.5% shooting percentage, which seems high, but of course, different leagues have differing norms for shooting percentage. That’d be high in the NHL... I have no idea if it’s abnormal or indicative of unsustainable offense in the Czech league.

Patrik Bexell of Habs Eyes On the Prize (still the dumbest SB Nation blog name) wrote a piece on Kaut last month, which contains some interesting tidbits, and is worth checking out.

Bexell compares Kaut’s draft year production to Martin Necas’ (12th pick in 2017) and Filip Chytl (21st pick in 2017), both of whom are tracking well (Chytl especially).

Kaut’s numbers exceed both, which is impressive. Kaut also continued this in the playoffs of his season, with 5 points in 7 games in a first round exit. Bexell also notes that 13 of Kaut’s 16 points were at even strength, and that he was a positive relative possession player.

By all accounts, Kaut had a very strong year, which is why the statistical models are higher on his upside than scouts. Time will tell who will be proven right.

Poll

What would your reaction be if the Leafs drafted Kaut at 25

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Love it
    (53 votes)
  • 13%
    Hate it
    (35 votes)
  • 49%
    Depends who else is on the board (specify in comments)
    (129 votes)
  • 17%
    Indifferent
    (45 votes)
262 votes total Vote Now