2020-21 Team: Slovakia U18 (SVK-2)
Date of Birth: March 10, 2003
Place of Birth: Liptovsky Mikulas, SVK
Height: 6-foot-2, Weight: 194 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 42nd (amongst European skaters)
- Matthew Zator’s Final Rankings: outside first two rounds
- Peter Baracchini’s Top 100 March: outside top 100
- EliteProspects.com: notable prospect (outside first round)
- Dobberprospects: outside top 100
- Craig Button, TSN: outside first round
- Bob McKenzie, TSN: outside top 100
- Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet: outside first round
The NHL Central Scouting List released ahead of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft listed Slovak defenseman Simon Groch as the 42nd ranked European skater. Groch played 19 games for Team Slovakia in 2020-21, and he finished with five points, 24 penalty minutes (PIM), and a plus-8 rating. He added six games for Team Slovakia at the World Junior U18 championship.
Groch was drafted by the Waterloo Blackhawks in the seventh round of the 2021 USHL Draft in May. He will need significant time to develop at the junior level, especially considering his minimal level of experience playing in North America. The USHL has served as a prominent developmental step for NHL prospects, as projected 2021 first-round picks who have played in the league include Matthew Beniers, Sasha Pastujov, Owen Power, and Cole Sillinger.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
At 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, Groch brings a significant physical element to the game. His ability to clear the front of the net has been touted by scouts, and his value as a defenseman at the professional level will likely depend on his ability to utilize his size effectively. Given the success of teams playing bigger, physical defenseman in key minutes during the 2021 Playoffs, teams will likely be more prone to take notice of players like Groch, who could potentially fit the same mold.
Groch is also still willing and able to contribute offensively. Talent evaluator Bill Placzek commended Groch’s strong ability to move the puck through the neutral zone in transition and join the offensive play when the opportunity presents itself.
The surplus of penalty minutes is indicative of the strong, physical style of play. In addition to the penalty minutes accrued with Team Slovakia last year, Groch recorded 83 PIM in 32 games in the Czech U16 league in 2018-19. Steady progression into a comfort level in the USHL and a long-term development within the North American style of play should provide plenty of opportunity for Groch to manage his penalty minutes. He does not project as an NHL player in 2021-22, and he’ll have the chance to polish weaknesses in his game next season.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Simon Groch – NHL Draft Projection
Groch projects to be a sixth-round draft pick based on mock draft simulations from Lines.com. He might be worth the minimal risk for an NHL franchise that respects the comparison to Andrej Meszaros, who averaged over 30 points per season over his first five years in the NHL and played 645 career games. However, sixth-rounders are typically considered longshots to make the NHL.
“He will move in down low on the attack if given the chance. Can hit speeding teammates with cross ice passes that become scoring opportunities. Still developing.”
“Sometimes he forces plays that are not there.”
-Bill Placzek of Lines.com
- Size, physicality
- Willingness to be aggressive offensively
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Selection of offensive risks
- Experience, exposure to North American game
- High penalty minute totals
Former NHL defenseman Andrej Meszaros, also a native of Slovakia, was able to become a capable playmaking defenseman while also using his size and speed to bring physicality to the blue line. Groch’s size and willingness to be aggressive in creating opportunities offensively bears similarities to the style of Meszaros, who was also a left-handed shot defenseman listed at 6-foot-2.