Canadiens’ Jan Mysak Ready to Make Leap to NHL

Jan Mysak has been well travelled in his hockey career since the Montreal Canadiens drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft. He played professionally in his home nation of Czechia, then with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Hamilton Bulldogs, then returned to Czechia, then returned to Canada to join the Canadiens American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, then back to the OHL, and finally, internationally in several tournaments sprinkled in for good measure. Phew!

A well-used passport can be a detriment to many young players, but in this case, it is something that has assisted in his development. This ability to adapt quickly to any scenario, and at multiple levels including at the professional ranks, has helped him prepare for his North American professional career. A career that will begin in earnest this fall.

Mysak’s Progression in Canadiens’ System

This past season, with the Bulldogs, Mysak scored 64 points in 61 games, adding 11 points in 17 playoff games in helping lead his team to the OHL Championship and eventually, the Memorial Cup Final. However, before he can attempt to earn an NHL job, Mysak needs more development time.

Mysak projects as a middle-six forward capable of playing center. That versatility fits in with general manager (GM) Kent Hughes’ plan to add skill, speed and intelligence to the system, allowing his coaching staff to use that versatility to help provide as many options for lineup adjustments as possible. Realistically, he’s likely going to get his NHL shot as a left-winger, playing a style Habs fans would recognize, a style made a fan favourite by Artturi Lehkonen.

Artturi Lehkonen, Edward Pasquale
Montreal Canadiens left wing Artturi Lehkonen scores on Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Edward Pasquale (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

Mysak’s play at the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) has shown that he’s taken another step forward in his development. Having scored four goals and six points in the first five games demonstrates his offensive abilities. But being named captain of Team Czechia for the second time has proven he can not only be relied upon to play in any situation but can also do so in a leadership role. The 2022 Quarter-Finals game versus Team USA encapsulates his leadership and ability to adjust to any situation.

I think we learned a lesson against Latvia. We learned a lesson that they just wanted it more than us. So we lost. Today, we tried to do the same. We just wanted it more, and that’s why we won. We just blocked the shots. We ate pucks, and we had success.

Jan Mysak

Mysak helped the Czechs offensively, scoring a key goal at the end of the first period, giving his team the confidence that they can compete with a hockey superpower like the United States.

From there, Mysak and his Czech teammates played a strong defensive game, limiting the Americans to only four shots on goal in the second frame while building a 3-1 lead. From that point on, Czechia played shutdown hockey, stifling the Americans’ offensive game by choosing to sacrifice their offensive chances in favour of ensuring a total and complete elimination of the potent American offence.

Also, Mysak is unafraid of the media and willing to share his unfiltered thoughts. This is something he will improve upon to avoid “controversy”, but until that time, the general public will be treated to some fun comments and will be able to see the exuberance of his youth on full display.

Mysak just recently told a reporter that he agrees with GM Kent Hughes’ selection of Juraj Slafkovsky at first overall. This isn’t a controversial idea, but the delivery of this statement did point to his thoughts on the decision to not select Shane Wright, and they were not flattering.

Experience with Laval Rocket

Back on the ice, Mysak has already had the experience that will help him take the next step in his development, having already joined the Laval Rocket back in May 2021 due to the pandemic causing the OHL to cancel their entire season, and the AHL allowing players under NHL contract to join their NHL affiliates’ AHL rosters.

Related: Canadiens Prospect Pyramid- End of Season 2021-22

In his 22 games with the Rocket, Mysak had limited offensive output scoring only two goals. What was notable though, was that he seemed comfortable in the AHL, despite the lack of production.

“What I can tell you is that young Mysak is not losing his time with us” answered then head coach Joël Bouchard. “The veterans appreciate him and we do too. He’s passionate. Like I told you, he is a hockey player. He signed his first professional contract and he deserved it.”

Because of the late finish to his season and the short amount of training time before the WJC, Mysak will likely get limited, if any time, at the Canadiens’ main camp to allow him some additional rest before the AHL camps open. Yet any time with Montreal’s development staff can only help him progress further.

Jan Mysak Hamilton Bulldogs
Jan Mysak, Hamilton Bulldogs (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

Mysak will be in heavy competition in Laval this year, not only to earn a position at center but also for a top-six role. Going into Laval’s training camp with Mitchell Stephens, Nate Schnarr, Cam Hillis (who should be highly motivated to prove his value) and Emile Poirier; the former 2013 first-round pick of the Calgary Flames who just signed an AHL deal with Laval for this season. Poirier is returning from playing in Europe and will be looked to play a middle-six and leadership role on what is expected to be a talented, yet inexperienced AHL team. Mysak has risen to each challenge placed ahead of him, and thrived under that pressure. Being challenged to earn a large role on the roster right out of camp is just another hurdle that should serve to motivate the young center.

The Canadiens deep prospect pool means there will be a steady flow of skilled talent to compete for a handful of jobs. The first wave of those skilled prospects is just now entering the professional ranks, and Mysak is one of those players. Being part of a franchise in a rebuild that is also adding to their development staff should give him the time he needs to further develop his game.

This season is an important one for the Czech forward. Mysak has improved in every aspect of his game, positioning, shot, skating, and decision making, all without sacrificing his offensive production. His play this past calendar year has shown he’s ready for the next challenge. His desire to constantly improve should lead to a successful tenure in Laval and if this level of play continues, he may even earn an NHL call-up in 2022-23.

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