The Pittsburgh Penguins only had four picks this year, but they have made the most out of them and might have found a hidden gem. No, it’s not Daniel Sprong, whom they selected in the second round. The Dutchman was on the list of many teams and was projected to be picked earlier.
It was when the Penguins selected Czech forward Dominik Simon from HC Plzen in the fifth round that questions arose as to who it was the Penguins just drafted. Probably few had him on their radar. The 20-year-old overager wasn’t listed by Central Scouting, nor by several other ranking sources. What people don’t know is that Simon could be a very interesting pick for Pittsburgh and he has the potential to become a steal in some years.
The Prague-native went through the youth academies of HC Sparta Prague before moving to HC Plzen for the 2014-2015 season, where he scored 30 points in 52 league games; 18 of those points were goals. Not bad for a player of his age, who played among men, even if he is a late bloomer. As he turns 21 this summer, he was also one of the oldest players available in the draft.
To top his good season, Simon was invited to play for the Czech National Team at the World Junior Championships. For many Czech experts, it came as a surprise that he played with the hosts but he had good games and justified his nomination with six points in ten games, making him the team’s fifth best scorer in the tournament. This was a perfect ending to his break-out year.
Simon is listed at 5’11” and 176 lbs and is a gifted forward with a lot of offensive upside; the type of player you turn to if you need to get something going on offense. He likes to get involved offensively and uses his smooth hands as well as his good vision to make plays and possesses a powerful pass.
His play away from the puck is decent and although he is not overly big, he isn’t afraid to take on physical battles. Simon is a smooth skater with quick acceleration. His biggest asset is his offensive creativity and the fact that he never takes a shift off.
Areas for improvement:
Simon needs to simplify his game as he loses the puck too often while going into one-on-one situations. He tends toward risky passes and turns the puck over. He has to bulk up a bit and get used to the North American game.
Europe or Wilkes-Barre Scranton?
Simon has two years left on his contract with Plzen, and therefore he will likely stay in his home country before joining the Penguins organization. However, most young European players have an NHL exit clause in their contracts which allows them to join an NHL team even if they are still under contract with their European club.
Simon’s agent will decide after the draft what is best for him. Therefore it is an option that he joins Wilkes-Barre Scranton for the upcoming season, although he isn’t signed by the Penguins as of now. But at the Worlds in Prague he showed that his play is nearly NHL-ready.
He competed against some of the best players in the world and had very good games with flashes of his immense offensive skills. He looked very comfortable for his age in all games. In a team with players mostly playing in the NHL or KHL, he was one of few players still playing in his home country. Nevertheless, Simon wasn’t limited to a third or fourth line role, he was a top-six-forward and played a valid amount of minutes. Seeing him didn’t make you feel he is only 20 as he had shifts where he dominated against older and more experienced players. He even played a couple of games together with Jaromir Jagr, which was the Czech’s most dangerous offensive line. This showed that his compete level is high and that he isn’t afraid to play a proactive game against older opponents.
I love Dominik Simon for Pittsburgh. Looked great at the #IIHFWorlds with six points in a bottom line role. Re-entry.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) June 27, 2015
His puckhandling skills are already at NHL-level and for a player turning 21 in some weeks there is no need to wait any longer to bring him across the pond. In Wilkes-Barre Scranton he could adjust his physical game, bulk up and get familiar with the Penguins organization. He has the potential to make the Pittsburgh Penguins roster one day and as an interesting side note, Simon’s current General Manager in Plzen is former Penguin Martin Straka.
Fun fact: Dominik Simon plays for HC Plzen in the Czech Republic. Martin Straka is the General Manager and CEO of that team.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 27, 2015
Independent Scout covering European Hockey and Prospects for TheHockeyWriters. Located in Switzerland and blogging on www.scouting-factory.blogspot.com. Opinions on blog are my own