2021-22 Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Date of Birth: August 18, 2004
Place of Birth: Riga, LAT
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 176 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 124th (NA Skaters)
Niks Fenenko played his first season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) this past season with Baie-Comeau Drakkar. After spending the past few seasons developing in Latvia, he was the first overall selection in the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) Import Draft in 2021. With the selection, he became the first-ever Latvian to be selected first overall since the draft’s inauguration in 2000.
Fenenko had a solid first year in the QMJHL, recording 40 points in 62 games. He was also named to the QMJHL All-Rookie team joining Oskars Bartulis and Martins Karsums as the third Latvian to be named to the team in its history. He was Baie-Comeau’s leading scorer amongst defenders and finished seventh in QMJHL rookie scoring. From a statistics point of view, he lived up to the hype.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
There is a long list of positives when it comes to Fenenko’s game. First of all, he is a great skater and isn’t afraid to pinch and try to keep the puck in the offensive zone. In the defensive end, he understands where he needs to be and has excellent stick placement to block off lanes. Whether it is with his stick or through his physical game, he knows how to strip the opposition of the puck and makes it difficult for players to create chances when they enter his space. In short, he is a reliable shutdown defenceman who doesn’t make major mistakes in his own zone.
One of the reasons Fenenko is ranked 124th among North American skaters and not higher is his struggles with the transition game. During a breakout, he often rushes the play and misses teammates with passes. It also seems like he does not want to skate with the puck on his stick. If he is stagnant, he has no issues making passes, but the moment he has to carry the puck, he can’t connect with his teammates. Modern-aged defencemen need to be able to move the puck while in motion to be successful at the NHL level, so there is some concern when it comes to that aspect of his game.
Overall, Fenenko has a solid base when it comes to his on-ice game. He is not overly flashy but can get the job done at both ends of the ice. Teams should be interested in him as he has the potential to play in the NHL as long as he puts in the work and improves on his transition game as well as his decision-making.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Niks Fenenko- NHL Draft Projection
A team should take a chance on Fenenko because of his shutdown ability and progression throughout the season. He has enough upside to make him a late-round pick, probably falling somewhere in the 180-190 range. Other late-round Baie-Comeau Drakkar players drafted into the NHL include Joël Perrault (2001), Gabriel Bourque (2009) and Charles Hudon (2012).
“Fenenko is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman. Even though he was pretty quiet in this viewing, he exhibited some nice skating and mobility prowess. Fenenko is very agile and seems light on his skates, ready to change direction at any given time. He was decent on breakout situation, showing nice poise and a solid first pass.” – Zacharie Labrie, FC Hockey.
“Fenenko is a lanky defenseman with steady defensive zone awareness and a nice touch of offense, but also a lot of rawness to his game. He flashes strong strides, significant straight-line acceleration in his first three or four steps. He sends precise and expeditious outlets at both ends of the ice, but a little bit less in transition.” – Joey Fortin Boulay, FC Hockey.
- Defensive zone positioning
- Getting the puck on net in the offensive zone
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Transition game
- Making plays under pressure
If Fenenko improves his transition game, there is no reason why he can’t be a bottom-pair defenceman in the NHL. His defensive game is solid, and he knows how to create chances in the offensive end. He should become more confident with the puck as time goes on, which is needed if he wants to make the jump to the NHL one day.
Risk- 2/5, Reward 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence- 6/10, Defense 7.5/10
- QMJHL All-Rookie Team (2021-22)
- U20 WJC (D1A) Silver Medal (2021)
Niks Fenenko Statistics
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.