2015-16 Team: Saskatoon Blades (#25)
Date of Birth: February 4, 1998
Place of Birth: Smrcek, Czech Republic
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 196 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 first-year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking: 38th (June)
- THW Alternate: 44th (June)
- THW War Room: 33rd (May)
- Future Considerations: unranked (June)
- ISS: unranked (June)
- Bob McKenzie: 26th (June)
- Craig Button: 84th (June)
Moving from Europe to North America can be a big challenge for any player, particularly for blueliners adjusting to smaller ice. Saskatoon Blades defenseman Libor Hajek was the second selection in the 2015 Canadian import draft (and the first blueliner taken), and his first season in North America was remarkable in how unremarkable it was.
In his first season in the Western Hockey League, Hajek had 3 goals and 26 points in 69 games. Not amazing offensive production, but not horrible either. Rather than being utilized primarily as an offensive threat, Hajek’s strengths lie on the defensive side of the game. A blueliner’s blueliner, he’s effective at using his size and frame to combat against the rush and guide players into the side-boards. Hajek battles well, though he sometimes goes overboard and he takes a few more penalties than are ideal. He’ll probably have to rein that in to succeed at the next level, though the physical edge in his game is probably what is most attractive to NHL clubs – he makes opposition forwards pay the price for entering the zone and trying to get to the prime scoring areas.
Hajek arguably has depths that haven’t been explored yet. So far in the WHL he’s leaned on the skills that got him to the dance: his defensive abilities. As he gains confidence in the league, we may yet see him jump into the rush a bit more and engage offensively. He’s already an effective first-passer from his own end. He’s an effective skater, though not a high-end one, but he gets where he wants to go and rarely gets turned into a pylon by opposition forwards. His defensive abilities give him a great base to work from, and if he can improve his shooting and puck distribution in the offensive zone even a little bit he could be a very valuable asset on the blueline for whichever NHL club selects him.
NHL Draft Projection:
Hajek will likely be selected in the second round. However, based on the amount of players that are in the mix for the second round, he could slip into the early third.
“Libor Hajek projects as a strong defensive defenceman, who also adds a little offense from the back-end. With an improved slapshot and a little bit better high-end speed; he could be even more than that; but its more likely that his ceiling is as a complimentary defenceman on the top pair. His style is reminiscent of Marc Methot, though this is a style comparison only and not one based on talent.”
– Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports
“Hajek is a physical and smart defender who consistently just makes the right decision for the situation. He skates with a powerful stride that is both agile and quick. He covers a lot of ground whether he is stepping up to lay a big hit or trying to recover quickly on the defensive side. Strong on the puck and likes to have it on his stick, making solid passes up the ice to his forwards. The Czech Import utilizes aggressive positioning and physical play to be effective defensively.”
– Future Considerations
- Excellent defensive positioning.
- Good use of his size.
- Plays with an edge.
- Good first pass out of the defensive zone.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Needs to avoid taking penalties.
- Needs to improve his decision-making in the offensive zone.
- Could stand to improve his shot accuracy from the point.
Hajek projects as a second pairing shutdown defender, along the lines of Karl Alzner or Cam Fowler.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offense 7.5/10, Defense 8.5/10
Hajek has represented the Czech Republic at the World Under-17 Challenge, two Under-18 World Championships and two Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournaments. He won a silver medal at his first trip to the Hlinkas.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.