David Musil has been on the decline in the Top 25 Under 25 for a while now, and that trend continues in this edition with a drop of four spots to 21st overall. He dropped at least two spots on every individual list, and fell further substantially further than that on several. This is usually the kind of thing that happens to a prospect who's had a pretty poor season, so it will probably come as something of a surprise to hear that the rest of this article is going to be pretty positive.
There have been some consistent criticisms of Musil during his time in the CHL that led several people to believe that he might find the transition to the pro game difficult. The biggest criticism was around his skating, but there were also concerns about his lack of offense, and about his ability to get ice time with so many defense prospects in the organization. Would he be able to handle the speed of the pro game, and if so, would his defense be good enough for him to stand out?
Jonathan Willis has been in Oklahoma City this winter, and gave us an early report on Musil's first pro season in October:
Musil has adjusted far better to the professional game as a defensive defenceman than I would have expected given the doom and gloom reports out of junior. I’d guess Musil gets sent down [to the ECHL], both based on performance (Gernat had a great second game for the Barons) and because Todd Nelson likes his defencemen to be aggressive and Gernat’s style is more suited to that kind of system.
Musil did go to the ECHL very briefly on November 1st, but he was only there for three days (and three games) before returning, and when he got back to OKC, he continued to offer solid play. Here's Jonathan's update from mid-November:
There’s been a lot of doom and gloom around Musil’s status as a prospect, but his game has translated beautifully to the professional ranks. He generally alternates with (and occasionally plays beside) Martin Gernat on Oklahoma’s third pairing and seems comfortable playing on his off-side.
Since November, Musil has continued to play in the majority of Oklahoma City's games, usually on the third pairing, and has done quite well. Since Jonathan has been tracking some statistics that otherwise wouldn't be available for OKC's home games this season, I asked him for an update on Musil before last night's game:
Musil has a +111/-91 Fenwick rating at home, and has been on the ice for 51 OZ draws and 57 DZ draws. He's mostly played with Klefbom, though he's had time with Gernat, Grebeshkov, and Davidson too.
Those are pretty darn good results for a rookie defender. They certainly don't suggest someone who's been overwhelmed by the speed of the pro game, which at least partly addresses two of the biggest issues we identified coming into the year. Musil has been quick enough to get reasonably good results playing AHL hockey, and he's been able to get into the lineup regularly enough that he can continue to improve his game. There's still work to do, of course, and OKC coach, Todd Nelson, identified some of what needs to happen in an interview he did with Jason Gregor about a week ago:
David Musil, I think that everybody knows he has to work on his foot speed. He knows that. Some of his biggest strengths are that he is just really strong in the corners. I think that he is our heaviest defenseman. Him and Oscar, they play together, they are both heavy defensemen that play well in the corners. They do a great job on the PK. So David is progressing nicely.
There's that skating again. Still, it's good to know that he's working on it, and really good to know that, at least at the AHL level, he's finding ways to be successful despite it. The most encouraging thing for me is that Nelson didn't mention his passing ability as a negative, which I think is the big worry when you have a defenseman who doesn't put up much offense (with seven points in thirty-six games, there really isn't much there).
Will Musil one day become an NHL player? He's still got a pretty long way to go, but his first pro season has been a solid step in the right direction, and I'm more bullish on his chances now than I was in the summer.
Check out previous articles in the Top 25 Under 25 series in our