Sweden and the Czech Republic dominate the news and rumors today. One Swedish prospect will start the season back home before coming over for his NHL camp in the fall. Also, there was some bad news to come out of a set of international games.
Höglander to Start Season in Sweden
Nils Höglander confirmed earlier this week that he will begin the 2020-21 season in his native Sweden. The 19-year-old forward was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round (40th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Höglander has spent the last two seasons with Rögle BK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), the top professional league in his native country. He’s scored 16 goals and 30 points in 91 total games but has shown a ton of skill. He is a high-energy player who is touted for his elite hands and stickhandling skill.
The talented young winger signed an entry-level contract with the Canucks in April. He will begin this season with Rögle BK, who he is still under contract with, and then come over when the Canucks open their training camp sometime in November. From there, he will decide if he will remain in North American or return to finish out the SHL season. In case you are wondering, the SHL season is set to begin on Sept. 19.
Bad News from the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic U20 national team recently held a trio of exhibition games versus Slovakia in the town of Brno. While it was great to see so many prospects back on the ice, there was some unsettling news to come out of the three-game series.
According to a report, three players of the Czech Republic team have tested positive for COVID-19
This situation will need to be monitored as it could have an adverse effect on future international play this fall and winter.
Cajan Coming to Ontario
Sticking with Czech prospects, the Kitchener Rangers made some news this week. They announced the signing of goaltender Pavel Cajan to an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Standard Player Agreement.
Cajan was the only player selected by the Rangers in the recent Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft. The young netminder played in 29 games in the DHL Cup with Liberec Bili Tygri Jr, posting a 915 save percentage (SV%). And 3.13 goals-against average (GAA). He also had a .917 SV% and 1.55 GAA in three games for the U18 Czech Republic national team.
“We are very excited to welcome Pavel to the Rangers. We feel he has all the tools to be a very good goaltender in our league,” said Rangers head coach and general manager Mike McKenzie in an official statement. “We look forward to having him in Kitchener and seeing him continue his development in a Rangers uniform.”
Prospect of the Day – Jaromir Pytlik
We will stay in the Czech Republic for our Prospect of the Day. Pytlik is a 6-foot-3, 196-pound center who has spent the last two seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL. Although he was born in Europe, he is ranked as the 46th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting for playing in the CHL.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Pytlik got off to a fast start to the 2019-20 season, but his numbers tailed off as the season wore on. He finished with 22 goals and 50 points in 56 games before the remainder of the season was canceled.
It wasn’t so much about how often Pytlick scored, but more about when he scored. According to our own Mark Scheig, he has a knack to come up with the big play exactly when it was needed.
The first thing that sticks out about Pytlik is that every time I look on the ice, I feel like he’s out there doing something to impact the game. Need a big goal? Pytlik was on. Need a big penalty kill? Pytlik was sacrificing himself. He had a level of trust and dependability established that he saw himself out there when there was a big moment. It’s no wonder. He does many things well. He can skate. He can score. He can setup plays. He takes pride playing defense. While one thing doesn’t stand out in a dynamic way, these boxes are all checked off as above average.
Pytlik could hear his name called late in the first round, but he is likely to be selected in the second round. He is a well-rounded, 200-foot player who plays just as well without the puck as he does with it. He may never be an elite player, but he can be a solid two-way center; the type of player who has a long professional career.