Name: Jan Mysak
Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Position: Center / wing
Stats: 22 games played, 15 goals, 10 assists, 25 points, 10 PIMs, -12 plus/minus rating
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 28th (North American Skaters)
Comparable NHL player: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Evaluating prospects who spend their draft-eligible seasons in European men’s leagues can be tricky. Not only are they playing against more talented and experienced competition, it can be hard for these young players to earn sufficient ice time and a defined role.
For prospects playing in the Czech Extraliga, the challenge is a little different. Once considered one of the better hockey leagues in the world, the Extraliga has fallen a step behind it’s peers in recent years, arguably even behind the National League in Switzerland and the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. Even though there have still been some top prospects to come up through the Extraliga in recent years (Filip Zadina, Martin Necas, Filip Chytil), its reputation as a place for young talent to develop has taken a hit.
Which brings us to Czech forward Jan Mysak. The 17-year-old, quite impressively, spent the majority of his 2018-19 season against men in the Extraliga at 16 as a member of HC Litvinov, his hometown team, and began his 2019-20 campaign with them as well. He was getting good ice time, and the points were coming in — but getting a confident read on his long-term upside was still a work in progress.
However, after this past winter’s World Juniors (where Mysak played for his home nation, picking up one goal and one assist) he jumped across the pond and joined the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, who held his import rights. Fast forward 22 games and there is little doubt left about what Mysak brings to the table.
Mysak is one of those players who leaves his mark on games. It might not always result in scored points, but he does a lot of the little things that help drive possession for his team and shift the balance from losing games to winning them, which will help him transition to the NHL more easily than players who rely on skill alone.
He is an above-average skater, with some explosiveness in his first few steps, and he combines his skating ability with an excellent motor. He keeps his feet moving and does a very good job of consistently applying pressure on his opponents, which increases the odds of breakdowns, mistakes and turnovers. Additionally, his anticipation and play-tracking are also pretty impressive. When you add all of this together, what you get is a very dangerous transition player, someone who is able to break up opposing plays and then quickly turn them into odd-man rushes going the other direction.
And not only can Mysak create these rushes, he can also convert on them. He can dangle and shoot while in full stride, and he does a good job of disguising the release point of his shot. His goal below from the World Juniors is a good example of all the best parts of his game working together: his defensive pressure helps create the turnover, he recognizes the play starting to break the other direction, he joins the rush, and then absolutely snipes a goal from a difficult angle.
Jan Mysak— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 26, 2019
2-0 CZE pic.twitter.com/AYqJhC61Z8
His motor and competitiveness come in handy when the puck is on his stick, as he’ll drive hard to the opposing net and try to beat defenders wide or cut to the inside, with frequent success. Despite being a little undersized and not overly strong, he isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas around the crease and take some punishment in his pursuit of scoring a goal.
Mysak definitely projects better as a scorer than a playmaker. He’s not a bad passer by any means, as he will occasionally find his teammates in dangerous areas, but he lacks a little bit of pure passing skill, creativity and vision. He’s more of a north-south player than an east-west player, and can sometimes focus too intently on the net while missing some of the other opportunities around him.
Given everything already said, it should come as no surprise that Mysak is a very solid defensive player and penalty killer. He understands where he needs to be positionally, and then puts in the actual work when it comes to getting the puck back. Though not really a physical player, he’ll roll up his sleeves when the situation calls for it.
There is some ongoing discussion in the scouting community about whether Mysak projects as a center or a wing at the NHL level, but I think all the pieces are here for him to develop into a guy who can play up the middle. His success in the faceoff circle this year in the OHL was brutal (46.6 percent), though that’s something that can be worked on in development. The biggest factor about whether a prospect can stick at center long-term is usually their play without the puck, and Mysak already has that covered. And since Hamilton is not an overly good team right now, he’s probably going to see a lot of ice time at center over the next two seasons, which will give him to plenty of opportunity to hone his proficiency at this position.
While his ranking by NHL Central Scouting makes it look like he’s not a 1st-rounder, that’s the outlier among rankings. He’s firmly in the top 30 on the big independent boards, usually somewhere in the 20s, but as high as the teens on one of them (Future Considerations). What that means for the Dallas Stars is that there’s a good chance that Mysak will still be available whenever the Stars pick, unlike someone like Dawson Mercer, who is more of a longshot dream.
If Stars fans want to start getting excited about a forward prospect who the team has a realistic chance at landing, Mysak is a name to watch closely.