Prior to the 2010 NHL draft, we ran a regular segment called "Oilers Draft Watch" which featured a number of prospects that we believed the Oilers should target if given the opportunity. A number of the players profiled in that series have very bright futures ahead of them. We've already profiled a number of Swedish players eligible in the 2011 draft, but today we begin the fun part of Oilers Draft Watch 2011 - the sleepers from the the mid and low-rounds that we believe have a real chance to make an impact.
He simply loves to score, and has done exactly that through his first 6 games with Vancouver, putting up 4 goals and 2 assists. At 6-foot-2, 212-pounds, Tvrdon is a big, strong winger with really good hands, in the same mold as fellow Slovak Marián Hossa. He simply has an outstanding offensive skill set...
That's regional scout Dan Sallows on his initial impression of Slovakian winger Marek Tvrdon. I chatted with Sallows recently about Tvrdon and asked him for the rundown on Tvrdon:
Tvrdon's best assets are his tremendous size, his quick release and his net presence. He reminds me a little of the Wings Johan Franzen in that way, but like many good offensive young stars he could use some work in his own end, and use that big frame a little more to get engaged physically down low and along the boards.
#14 / Left Wing / Vancouver Giants
Jan 31, 1993
|2010 - Marek Tvrdon||12||6
Sallows was set to take in a full season of Tvrdon and the Vancouver Giants, but Tvrdon's rookie WHL season was cut short by injury after he exploded out of the blocks with 6 goals and 5 assists in 12 games. His stock was very high in the preseason, as the always outstanding Kirk Luedeke tagged him as "A guy you should know" in September, writing:
Right now, the 6-2, 180-pound left winger is seen as a potential second-rounder by some, but he has the hockey skills and intangibles to move up if he can make a seamless transition to the WHL, much like Nino Niederreiter did last year.
After his injury, his rankings amongst the draftniks collapsed. NHL Central Scouting has him listed in a "Domestic Skaters, Limited Viewing" category, but did verify his weight at 210, so that's something. The Scouting Report ranks Tvrdon 94th overall. TSR's Scott Campbell notes:
Tvrdon has good size and uses his strength to outmuscle opponents and create scoring chances. Once he is in position to shoot, Tvrdon uses a hard wrist shot that has proven to be effective for him.
He has nice high-end speed but could stand to improve his first few steps and turns/change of direction. He can generate offense on the fly and has soft hands for passing and shooting. He uses his size and strength to shield the puck and power through checks. He can take the puck to the net but has to show more consistency and a willingness to bowl defenders over when the opportunity presents itself, as he's not all that effective on the perimeter. Smart, instinctive player who can dictate the offensive tempo of a game, but doesn't always bring his 'A' game.
Each of these scouting reports mentions inconsistent play as being the big red flag in Tvrdon's game. I've written before, as someone that was once an 18-year-old, I can say with authority that consistency falls somewhere between humility and forethought as a personality trait, which is to say, it's low on the developmental functionality list. All 18 year-olds (unless their name is Crosby) are inconsistent to a degree, and those that perform on the highest-levels outgrow it faster than the others.
If the offense is there, especially this early for a big player like Tvrdon, scoop him up and allow your player development organization to guide him through the professionalism, effort and consistency growth period. And the offense is there. Below is a table comparing Tvrdon to two other recently-drafted and draft-eligible Slovak forwards:
Tvrdon has not demonstrated the scoring ability of Tatar, the 2nd round pick (#60 overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009. Tatar is a marvelous player, and it's worth noting that in a redraft, he would be selected significantly higher than #60 overall. He also lags behind behind Panik until they were each 18, but that sample size thing leaves us completely unsure of his potential. It looks like he and Jurco are tracking quite closely. He has, however, significantly bested Viedensky's numbers in each year.
Of course the largest red flag on Tvrdon is the aforementioned injury issue. Tvrdon's season ended after after suffering a dislocated shoulder in which the MRI revealed his labrum was "torn off the bone." Tvrdon underwent surgery in Vancouver and has spent time rehabilitating the injured shoulder in preparation for the draft. The injury is a real shame for Tvrdon because a 35 goal, 30 assist rookie season in the WHL would have been worthy of a late first-round pick.
Now he's stuck waiting by the phones, hoping someone will take a risk in the second round. At this point I believe that's where he's going to go as long as his medical work checks out. There's too much talent and too much goal-scoring ability here for everyone to pass on. My guess is that if Edmonton wants him, they're going to have to trade up into the late second round (preferably before the Red Wings make their second round pick at #55. The Oilers have two third round picks in play and using the first pick in the third round (#62) to and a late round pick to move up would be ideal. If they are so inclined, the Oilers can put a call into fellow Slovak Martin Marincin and get a personal scouting report from a countryman.
One odd note on Tvrdon is a blurb in the Czech Hockey Report about him going to the KHL, from KHL expansion team Lev Poprad's head coach:
That sentiment was shared by the team's head coach, Czech Radim Rulík, who stated, "(Slovak Marek) Tvrdon and Jerábek very much want to play in the KHL, therefore there is a chance that they could appear on our team as early as next year.
Though Lev Poprad is an expansion team and not known to Tvrdon before making the move to North America, it seems odd to me that a player would go to North America prior to his draft year if he had a desire to play professionally in Europe. It's not necessarily a poor move for Tvrdon to play in the KHL, however, it could be a risk and if the Oilers are going to draft him, I would hope they do their due diligence on the situation.
Visit Dan Sallows' scouting page for interviews and profiles, including one on Oilers' prospect Kristians Pelss. Follow him on Twitter @DanSallows.