The Habs have not been known to take too many risky picks in the first round over the years but with the team picking at the back yet again, the time may be right to make a ‘home run swing’. One of the players who fits the description of a potential boom or bust selection is forward Thomas Novak.
DOB: April 28, 1997 – Wisconsin, USA
Height: 6′ 0.5"
Weight: 179 lbs
CSB: 28 (North American Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: 58
Future Considerations: 37
Hockey News: 35
First, the good. Novak is a highly skilled playmaker with a good all-around offensive game. He plays a fast-paced style and is quite comfortable with the puck on his stick, even in tight checking. Novak also has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time in the offensive end while he sees that part of the game quite well.
You’ll note that the positives all came from one end of the ice. His skating, while not terrible, is awkward while he lacks the willingness to back check on a regular basis. He also isn’t the most comfortable getting involved physically – he prefers to play on the perimeter in the offensive end – but that’s something that should improve as he bulks up.
Novak is a player who is more or less a one-trick pony right now but he’s really good at that particular skill, playmaking. If his all-around game improves enough to even be decent in most facets, whoever picks him has a chance at getting a steal. If the rest of his game doesn’t come together though, his offensive abilities may not be enough by themselves to become a full-time NHL’er. As you can tell from the rankings, there are a lot of varying opinions as to whether or not scouts think Novak can make those key improvements.
As we’ve seen in years past, once you hit the final few picks of the first round, there isn’t a big difference between players ranked in the 20’s and those ranked in the 40’s. It all comes down to what team thinks the player is the right fit for them. Given that the Habs don’t have too many legitimate centre prospects in the system (converted wingers are always question marks) and of those, none that really project as a top six player, Novak may be the right fit for Montreal at the draft table.
Novak is off to the University of Minnesota next season. As is the case with most college prospects, he’ll be there at least two years, perhaps a third. Add on at least one season in the minors and he’s three to four years away from being in the NHL if all goes well.