Watching Libor Hajek play internationally a few times this year, I can't remember any 'Wow' moments that made me think he was a definite first round Draft pick. And yet, at the end of every Czech Republic game I would watch, I'd look back at my notes, and everything I had for Hajek was extremely positive. Hajek plays a fairly quiet game, but there is a lot of talent there, which is why he's projected to go somewhere in the late-first to early-second round of this year's Draft.
Player: Libor Hajek
Team: Saskatoon Blades(WHL)
Height: 6'1" Weight: 196 lbs.
Stats: 69 games, 3 goals, 23 assists, 26 points, -19
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 31st among North American skaters
What I Like:
Hajek's best asset is his skating ability. He's got a really strong lower body which makes him tough to knock off the puck and gives him excellent mobility. This gives him the ability to be really aggressive from his own point down in the offensive zone. In this clip, Hajek pinches in from the blue line to hold a puck in the zone, then, when it comes free, he takes the puck behind the net and muscles is way out front for a scoring chance:
-Smooth with the puck
Hajek has smooth, calm hands and handles the puck well. He doesn't show it quite frequently enough, but he can make nice passes and also has a good low shot from the point that generates rebounds, as seen in these two clips below.
-Strong one-on-one defender
Hajek is a reliable defender in one-on-one situations. In this clip, he plays it perfectly, lining himself up along the dots to limit the forward from taking the middle of the ice, and maintaining a perfect gap to only allow an incredibly weak shot.
What I Don't Like:
-Doesn't rush the puck enough
Hajek has a lot of skills, and I'd like to see him use them more. With his strong skating ability, I'd like to see him rushing the puck up the ice more often and generating clean zone entries. He's very good zone-to-zone, but I think he could push the play more often.
This isn't a major concern, but could definitely be better. Hajek does so many things well that I just can't help but feel there is another level he could take things to to have a bigger impact on the game. Right now, he just lacks the hockey sense to take all of his tools and turn them into something more than the sum of its' parts.
Hajek was ranked in the second round most of the year, and I still have him high-second round on my list, but with the final ten picks of the first round so wide open, I've seen a lot of people putting him inside the top-30 for lack of a better option. It could happen too. I think Hajek ends up being picked in the last five picks of the first round on Friday.
I think Hajek makes it as a reliable NHL defenseman, but I'm not sure if he has the upside to be more than a reliable second or third pairing guy that eats shifts to let the top pairing guys get some rest. All the tools are there, but he'll have to become more consistent and use those tools more effectively.