Draft Profile: Dalibor Dvorsky’s Offensive Upside?
Dalibor Dvorsky is one of the more confusing prospects in this draft. He has some ardent supporters. He has some equally vicious detractors.
A sort of consensus has been reached that places a very low ceiling on his potential offensive production. I’m not certain if I agree with that, but I’m also not sure I disagree.
Dvorsky is confusing as hell. So I figured I’d talk about some of the things that make him so puzzling.
Dvorsky has elite hands.
Everyone’s first instinct when they hear that sentence is to think about the complexity of the dekes and dangles they see a prospect pull off. The more complex the dekes; the better the hands.
But Dvorsky doesn’t pull a lot of complex dekes. I still think he has genuinely elite hands.
Hands are only one part of the deking ability, and they’re often the less important part. The essence of deking is manipulation.
When someone goes between their legs, that doesn’t just magically shake a defender. They have to set up a defender to be vulnerable to that move.
Connor Bedard uses a simple but effective way to set up his between-the-legs dekes. He loads up a wrist shot and tempts the defender to occupy his shooting lane.
When the defender occupies that shooting lane, he pulls his stick back and puts the puck between his legs to help him step around the wrong-footed defender. The key was moving the defender into a position to be deked.
Tage Thompson has suddenly flashed some of the most impressive “hands” in the NHL. He has some of the most insane deking highlights in the league.
What do Tage and Bedard have in common? Supreme shooting abilities make defenders want to defend even with the mere threat of their shot. They fake-shot and then step around the defender after they pull themselves out of position.
Why did Tage suddenly become such a superstar? Because he managed to make the NHL respect his shot when he was previously thought of as a net-front guy.
Then, he used the threat of his shot as a manipulation tactic to drive past defenders.
Why does this matter?
Dvorsky has the hands part of the equation down already. His control of the puck is really excellent.
For evidence of that claim, just watch a video compiled by one of Dvorsky’s biggest supporters. And watch the common theme of all the clips from one game: he can hang on to pucks indefinitely. You can’t take the puck off his stick.
He can catch any pass. He can thread pucks through traffic and turn them into a shot as he did with one of his goals.
He shows all the indications of someone with excellent hands. What he lacks to this point is the manipulation aspect of deking. But can he learn that? Maybe. He shows some flashes of manipulation. He shows a shot to set up a pass. He can manage look-offs.
He’ll never be Will Smith out there. Smith’s level of manipulation, the ease with which he can mislead his checks with anything from look-offs to shoulder shimmies, is something that is innately his.
But Dvorsky doesn’t need to learn manipulation at that scale to have extremely dangerous hands.
His shot is excellent. Everyone agrees he has one of the higher-end releases in this draft class.
This matters. Having a shot that defenses need to respect is one way to simplify manipulation. You don’t need to be as convincing to defenses if the threat is so dangerous that their safest option is to overreact.
So maybe he can learn?
But does it even matter?
His Puck Protection
Dvorsky’s puck protection skills are high-end. The way he can just keep a defender on his back and keep perfect control of the puck until he finds a good option is among the best in a draft class that includes Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson.
As a general matter, it’s hard to understate just how effective a good puck protector can be at creating offense in the NHL.
Leon Draisaitl has bullied a terrific Kings defense with nothing more than the ability to put a defender on his back and set-up his teammates. You don’t have to deke and trick defenders if they simply can’t take the puck from you.
At the U18 and U20 levels of hockey, it’s absolutely impossible to take the puck off of Dvorsky.
He has 11 points in 5 games at the U18 World Championships for a Slovak squad that isn’t filled with weapons beyond him. He has 21 points in 10 games in Sweden’s U20 league.
These are truly mind-boggling totals.
His 14 points in 38 games while playing in HockeyAllsvenskan aren’t particularly awe-inspiring. Elias Pettersson had 41 points in 43 games in his draft year while playing for the same league.
But Dvorsky has out-produced anything that Pettersson accomplished at the junior levels in his pre-draft years.
Why the disparity? I think it has everything to do with Dvorsky’s size. Despite being extremely young for this draft, a June birthday who will remain 17 for the entirety of the playing season, Dvorsky is huge.
6’1″ isn’t an especially intimidating height. But he weighs 201 lbs as a 17-year-old. At 2 inches shorter than either Fantilli or Carlsson, he weighs more than both.
At the junior levels, he’s an overwhelming power forward whose control of the puck is essentially uncontested. He can shield off anyone with his combination of size and understanding of body positioning.
And he absolutely has the passing abilities to hit people from that apparently compromising position. His accuracy as both a passer and a shooter is an uncontested strength of his game.
He is playing against kids his age, and he’s bullying them with his collection of advanced tools. You can absolutely do that in the NHL. Power forwards are still extremely difficult to contain offensively. Especially when they come with playmaking ability.
The question becomes: Does he have more room to grow? Or has he hit his strength/size ceiling earlier than most kids?
Well, here’s something interesting to consider: he’s one of the youngest kids in this draft. While it’s hardly impossible for him to be done growing, it is pretty unlikely.
And his skating speed isn’t in line with the technical prowess of his skating. He doesn’t need a skating coach, really. Way smarter analyst of strides than I have lauded his technical abilities. He needs more leg strength to be able to push himself off the ice with more force. That’s interesting to me.
Dvorsky is so heavy… and he has underdeveloped legs? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure his legs aren’t weak. But he’s clearly top-heavy.
Some of that’s just down to genetics. But if Dvorsky can improve his speed by improving his lower body strength, it’ll also improve his balance. Which was already a strong suit. Combine those athletic improvements with his built-in poise and puck control. That’s a monstrous, game-breaking two-way center if it all goes according to plan.
The Bottom Line?
Dalibor Dvorsky is thought to be a high-floor and low-ceiling prospect based on his defensive acumen and lack of offensive production against men.
The truth is a bit more complex. Dvorsky’s best-case scenario? It’s pretty obviously game-breaking. There’s absolutely no guarantee he gets there, but that’s the point of “a ceiling.”
Dvorsky is a rare high-floor, high-ceiling player. He has traits that the NHL will value no matter how his development progresses.
But if his size translates to the next level and his lower body strength levels up to turn into a mild positive? He’s a two-way force. A horse that plays every situation and uses his mix of power and playmaking skills to put up points in the process.
Is He A Worthy Gamble For the Flyers?
Obviously, I don’t know every detail. So I can’t say for 100% certain. The way I’d put it is this:
Dvorsky is a good bet for any team. Any team should want Dalibor Dvorsky and be happy if they get him. But that isn’t the only consideration.
In the draft, especially when you’re drafting as high as 7th overall, opportunity costs come into play. He’s a good bet. But there are other bets in this draft class that I’d likely rather make at 7.
At 9? Depending on how the board fell, I could easily see it.
Mandatory Credit: NHL.com