2021-22 Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Date of Birth: Feb. 12, 2004
Place of Birth: Kladno, CZE
Ht: 6-foot-4 Wt: 190 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 13th (amongst NA skaters)
- FC Hockey: 45th
- TSN/Bob McKenzie: 30th
- TSN/Craig Button: 43rd
- Smaht Scouting: 63rd
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 39th
- Matthew Zator’s April Rankings: 54th
- Peter Baracchini’s March Rankings: 39th
Matyas Sapovaliv is enjoying his first season in North America since being drafted to the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Saginaw Spirit 15th-overall in the 2021 CHL Import Draft. Aside from international play, he had only played in his native Czechia up until now.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
He’s a big, solid body and has a long reach that helps in both breaking up plays defensively and protecting the puck offensively. He isn’t the biggest hitter, but he knows how to use his frame to win board battles in his own end and on the forecheck and can be a presence in front of the net. It comes in handy while on the power play, but he has the passing ability to bump off and open himself up to make a play.
While he has a strong shot and a quick release, he’s a bit more of a playmaker. He has great vision in all three zones. His soft hands help teammates transition into the offensive zone via short touch-passes that they can pick up in full stride. His ability to use his size to control the puck and fend off checks allows him the time to find gaps in defensive coverage and make a safe play.
Along with his offensive abilities, he’s very responsible in the defensive zone and plays a good two-way game. He’s good at spotting opposing defenders as they attempt to pinch and pick up the man, and he has good positioning. As of the writing of this profile, he’s taken over 700 more faceoffs than his next closest teammate and won more than 300 more, holding a little over a 50% faceoff win percentage (FO%), all as a rookie.
One of the biggest problem areas for Sapovaliv is his skating. He lacks agility and explosiveness, and despite his strong two-way play, he needs to skate backward quicker to improve his defensive abilities. If he wants his offensive prowess to translate to the faster American Hockey League (AHL) and NHL level, he needs to improve his skating. It could be the difference between developing into a middle-six scoring forward and a bottom-six defensive forward.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Matyas Sapovaliv – NHL Draft Projection
While he plays a relatively dependable two-way game, his skating is what may make some teams hesitant, and it may see him drop a bit further down the draft chart. However, you shouldn’t be surprised to see him drafted somewhere in the second round.
Despite the skating concerns, a team with multiple picks in the early stages, such as the Seattle Kraken, could take a shot on him earlier rather than later. He was listed as a B-prospect on the NHL Central Scouting 21-22 Preliminary Players To Watch List, which projects a prospect to be a second/third-round candidate.
“He sees the ice very well, has superb anticipation, and can thread the needle with a pass. He can slow the pace down and wait for the play to develop or allow his teammates to get into areas and then send a tape-to-tape pass. At the next level, I think his playmaking skills will translate better.” –Dominic Tiano, OHL Writers
“Sapovaliv is a solid, statured forward who does well offensively and on the power play. His stick preparation stuck out to me in the way that he was always ready for a pass, a quick tap in when being net-front, and often showing a lengthy reach and is capable of lifting his opponent’s stick in efforts to take away their possession. … As for his skating, he didn’t seem to quite have the steady pace he will need to excel at the next level. I think Sapovaliv does have potential, and could go in the late second or early third round of the 2022 draft.” -Olivia McArter, FC Hockey (from, ‘23570 – Saginaw vs. Kitchener’, FC Hockey – 03/11/22)
- Quick, accurate shot
- Vision and IQ
- Two-way play
- Faceoff dependability
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Skating in transition
- Explosiveness and agility
- Decision-making speed
Depending on his development and how much he improves his skating, he could find a home in an NHL team’s middle-six. On a playoff team, he would make for a strong No. 3 center who could play in all situations and win faceoffs in big moments. On a non-playoff team, he could get more of an opportunity to play in their top-six. An NHL comparison would be Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal.
Staal has played in all situations and has been a dependable faceoff man throughout his career. He’s tallied over 350 assists and over 600 points in over 1,000 games while having won more than half the faceoffs he’s taken thus far in his career. The 33-year-old is still going too.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7/10, Defense – 6/10
Sapovaliv was drafted 15th overall in the CHL Import Draft in 2021 and went on to be selected to play in the 2022 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
A podcast interview with Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale from NHL Studios.
Matyas Sapovaliv Statistics
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Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.