With departures of Clarkson, Parise, and Kovalchuk, among others, the Devils have been struggling to find scoring. Typically teams discuss a struggle to find secondary scoring, the Devils are in the unique position of being a very good team that lacks primary, secondary, tertiary, and whateverary scoring. So basically we need someone who scores goals right? Perhaps we could settle for someone who once scored 61 in 32 games? Vaclav Kerabacek could be our man in the second round.
Who is Vaclav Kerabacek?
Born in the Czech Republic, Vaclav Karabacek is a 5'11'' 185lb winger who has a reputation as a gritty scorer. As mentioned in the opening, he was a stud in the Czech U16 league and then came over to North America to play for the presumptively-named Gatineau Olympiques.
The standout numbers are those from the ridiculous Czech U16 year. Now the numbers are somewhat inflated, but the second highest scorer was 19 points behind him. His 3.25 PPG pace was untouchable. While that is impressive, one mustn't dwell on it because he was playing with nobodies. The far more encouraging aspect of his stat sheet is how, at every level, he's found a way to put the puck in the net.
The clear con to me is that his international hockey career has been somewhat underwhelming. He put up a pedestrian 3 goals and 5 assists up in a dozen games while the top prospects of the same age like Jakub Vrana amassed 20+ points
A brief investigation into his game log reveals that, in the QMJHL he was a streaky scorer who became slightly more consistent as the year progressed, culminating in a very impressive 9-point contribution in a 4-game sweep in the first round. Overall, he put up 12 points against some of the best in the QJMHL and that is the player we would be getting now.
What are Others Saying?
From Hockey's Future,
A pure goal-scorer, Karabacek excels at finding the open spots in the offensive zone and bulging the twine. Though not a dynamic skater, he uses his frame well to protect the puck and get into position to make a play. Still needing to round out his game, especially in his own end, Karabacek has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of his first season in North America.
Those first four words make my mouth water. What I like even more though is how it doesn't come off at all like he is a savant that has relied solely on his talent to get this far. That being said, if he is to fit in Devil Country, he's gonna need to shore up those skating and defensive issues.
From Last Word on Sports
He can fight through checks, use his leverage to win board battles, take punishment in front of the net, and protects the puck very well due to a strong wide-base in his stance...
Karabacek’s offensive game is based around his tenacity. He digs pucks out of the corners for his linemates, and works hard to continue the cycle game down low....
Karabacek’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress, but has improved as the season has gone on. Early in the year he seemed lost in the Gatineau defensive system but as the year went on, he eventually learned how to cut down passing lanes and anticipate plays....
I can settle for Ryan Callahan. That first section shows up everywhere online. Apparently, though the big thing you see in the box score is goals, the first thing everyone notices about this guys on the ice is how aggressive he is on the boards. However, I assume the Callahan comparisons are almost strictly offensive since the second most common thing I saw was how his defensive skills, though improved, are currently a liability.
Finally, from McKeen's Hockey
...among the league’s best in terms of puck control as he constantly has his head up to survey options .. passes are generally kept short, as he elects for the safe percentage play .. does an excellent job of sneaking into open areas to utilize his most potent weapon – a quick wrist shot which he can fire with little to no warning
Not only is he a goal scorer, but he seems to compliment the Devils style under DeBoer . He's tough along the boards, doesn't make stupid passes, protects the puck well, and can convert the long possession his style supports into scoring chances with his opportunistic positioning and quick wrister. Guys... I think I'm in love.
At 0:50 you can see the aforementioned puck protection and converting of possession into a scoring chance. So happens that this one went in, but really the Goalie didn't seem ready.
But 2:46 is the reason I love this guy. He has the assist on this one but he doesn't give up on the play, strips a guy onside at the blue line, dekes out one guy and gets a shot on that ends up going in on a rebound. He created this scoring chance from scratch and while his shooting ability is what fills our need and appeases the masses, this type of play is what makes him a Devil.
This one's poorer quality but the puck goes top shelf over the glove and it gets there in a hurry. This clip is a better representation of how he actually has a good shot to complement his gritty play.
My Humble Opinion
I may have given a somewhat biased opinion up until this point, but that's only because Vaclav Kerabacek is the greatest player in the history of the sport. Okay that may have been hyperbole and, in all honesty, it's possible that he doesn't see much time at all in the NHL if he doesn't get a bit stronger and start defending better. But, if he does shore up his deficiencies, which his history for work ethic and self-improvement indicate he will, then he is the exact type of player this team needs to add.
I should qualify my statement somewhat so as to not come off as a fanatic. I think he maxes out as a second liner that gets a really high ZS%, but absurdly high Corsi because once he's in the offensive zone he will win all the loose pucks, protect the puck when he has it, make smart passes, create scoring chances, and sometimes even finish them. He will need to be sheltered, but he could be very useful a great fit. He is exactly one spot lower than Aube-Kubel who we learned about yesterday. Both of them should be available for our 2nd round pick but would probably not be around for the 3rd.
Your Possibly-Humble Opinion
Are you as head over heals as I am? If not then EXPLAIN YOURSELF! But actually, do you think a small scrappy scoring winger with defensive deficiencies sounds like a disaster waiting to happen? Do you think we can use a 2nd round pick on him or only take him if he slides to the 3rd? Even if you don't like him, is this the type of player you want to see Lou take? The floor is yours fellow Devil-worshippers.