With just over a month left until the 2022 NHL Draft, all eyes are on the top prospects and speculating where they will end up. The Red Wings have an open sea of possibilities for their 2022 eighth-overall draft pick and one candidate that could fit the bill is 18-year-old Simon Nemec.
Nemec is a 6-foot-1, 192-pound, Slovakian defenseman who has been playing for HK Nitra and representing Slovakia in international competition on a number of different teams (seven teams, to be exact). In the 2021-22 season, he tallied one goal and 25 assists through 39 regular-season games with HK Nitra all while carrying a plus-13 rating. He stood out in the playoffs as he racked up five goals and 12 assists in a 19-game span.
Related: THW Draft Guide
Aside from his season with HK Nitra, Nemec kept himself busy playing on the international stage. He represented Slovakia at the 2022 Winter Olympics and had one assist through seven games as he earned the title of Olympian at just 17 years of age. The 2022 IIHF World Championship brought him a bit more success as he was able to score a goal as well as five assists through an eight-game span. Another notable run Nemec had this 2021-22 season was with the Slovakia U18 team in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in which he tallied six points (one goal, five assists) through five games.
Attributes / Scouting Report
Regarding his style of play, Nemec excels at being a strong two-way defenseman which is always something that comes with a high ticket value. His spatial awareness and hockey sense make him a tremendous asset on the ice as he is able to control the puck with ease both offensively and defensively. Standing at 6-foot-1, he is not a huge defenseman but he knows exactly how to position himself in both offensive and defensive contexts to keep momentum going in his team’s favor. His smooth skating and stickhandling abilities make up for what he may lack in stature as he still gets in the way of the opponent in all the right ways.
Nemec’s demeanor on the ice is confident, calm, and collected; a combination of traits that has made him stand out since he is only 18. He comes off as being a very mature player for his age and almost makes you do a double-take when you see how old he truly is. This being said, he isn’t the type to crack under pressure and make mistakes, yet he pushes through that pressure, guided by his stellar hockey sense, and is able to take the risks needed to make plays. Having the level of hockey sense that he has helps him quickly find lanes for passes or enter the zone himself in order to create scoring chances for his team.
To focus on his style of defense, the first resounding note has to be gap control. He follows the movement of the puck carrier while distributing his focus between him and the other skaters on the ice and is able to break up plays with a well-placed stick. Nemec doesn’t shy away from physicality either and is willing to put pressure on his man with both his upper and lower body. More often than not, he looks to shut down offense in the slot and force turnovers, and his body positioning and smooth skating allow him to do so seamlessly.
“Nemec deploys excellent gap control in the corners and in medium danger situations. In my viewing, I noticed that he keeps good pace with the puck carrier behind his own net. Stays on him and doesn’t open up a gap as the puck carrier shifts from right to left along the boards. You’ll notice that he is quite physical in the corner, puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the attack and puts his stick blade to the puck to navigate the boards once asserted enough pressure.”Josh Tessler, SMAHT Scouting
Although he may not be tallying up consistent goals for himself, he still actively pushes toward the net whether it is simply taking shots or setting his teammates up for success. His two-way game as a defenseman is remarkable enough without him being a goal-scoring machine so it does not necessarily take away from his value when he fails to show up in that way on stats sheets. When he is able to find the back of the net, it is a beautiful sight to see.
Since he is still incredibly young there is still a lot of growth to be had as a player, but overall, he is a superstar in the making.
Fitting in With the Red Wings
The Red Wings’ defensive prospect pool is pretty shallow with only eight unsigned prospects, most notably including William Wallinder, and then a handful of less-known names. Antti Tuomisto and Shai Buium made waves this season as they won the NCAA National Championship title alongside the rest of the University of Denver Pioneers. Other prospects would include Gustav Berglund, Oscar Plandowski, Cooper Moore, Kyle Aucoin, and Kasper Kotkansalo. None of these prospects quite hit the “NHL-ready” mark aside from potentially Wallinder, so the Red Wings could benefit from picking up a defenseman who is closer to being ready to rumble in North America.
When you look at the Red Wings’ defense, the first name to come to mind is most likely Moritz Seider, but who else is in the system? There are 18 defensemen signed with the organization, but a majority have been spending their time in the American Hockey League, ECHL, or other leagues as the Red Wings struggled through their 2021-22 season with under a handful of reliable defenders. In particular, the right side of the defensive roster is what has been under the most scrutiny as the rebuild progresses. Seider is carrying that side on his back for the most part and has had Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom on the lines behind him. The other five defensemen on the active roster are all left-handed.
As you look further down the depth charts past the active roster, you’ll find five more lefties and four more righties, making for a total of 10 and seven respectively. Another thing to keep in mind is that two freshly-signed former big-name prospects, Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johannson, are both left-handed defensemen, which is a faint call to fill out that right side even more.
Related: Red Wings Draft Coverage
Nemec would be a good pick for the Red Wings since he is a strong defenseman, which is something that this team desperately needs. He is currently ranked at third among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, second by Dobber Prospects, and fifth by SportsNet to name a few, meaning that he might be a little bit of a long shot for the Red Wings. Not to mention that he would be a good addition for filling out the right side of the Red Wings’ defense, which is a big item on the rebuild wishlist at this point.
Nemec is a consistent and reliable two-way defenseman who is able to create plays on one end of the ice while being physical and shutting plays down on the other. While defensemen might not be the top priority heading into the 2022 NHL Draft, it wouldn’t hurt to entertain the idea of taking Nemec with the eigth overall pick.
“Nemec’s defensive game is just as impressive as his offensive mindset. He has a very active stick, being able to get into the lane and break up plays in the middle of the ice with a block or perfectly timed stick check. As a result of his ability to jump into the rush, this helps him greatly in transition to force turnovers and lead an attack.” –Peter Baracchini, The Hockey Writers
“Defensively, he has great gap control and is great from a positioning standpoint, often disrupting passing lanes just by being in the right spots and using his stick properly. Offensively, he is extremely smart with super-precise passing ability. Nemec takes risks at times, but they often pay off.” -Samuel Tirpák, Dobber Prospects
“But, it’s not just that he needs to be quicker with his decision-making. Vision improvements are needed as well. When moving the puck up the ice and looking to create a zone exit pass, Nemec will pass behind his back without using peripheral vision to identify a teammate to pass to and that ultimately gives the puck away to an attacker in the neutral zone. The Slovakian defender will consistently struggle with identifying open teammates especially when skating up the boards and looking to pass behind himself.” -Josh Tessler, SMAHT Scouting
Delaney Rimer writes about the Detroit Red Wings for THW who brings a new perspective to the hockey scene as a young female in the industry. Formerly, she wrote for Octopus Thrower- a Detroit Red Wings fan blog.