Name: Filip Král
Physical: Height: 6’1″ / 185 cm, Weight: 172 lbs / 78 kg
TLN Top-20 Ranking From Last Year: #15
Acquired: 2018 NHL Draft, Round 5, 149th overall
Král has been a good offensive producer for Spokane, while being held to defensive responsibilities as well. He scored 35 points in 54 games in his draft year, and another 36 points in 47 games in this most recent season. That’s a quantifiable, though not super significant, improvement on the offensive side of the game.
It’s typically very difficult for a player to transition into the NHL without some semblance of offensive ability and Král has certainly shown enough of that to be worth keeping an eye on. It’s also important to note that Král isn’t typically a major powerplay player for Spokane, so his points primarily come at even strength, unlike the more offensive players on the back end. Last season, 11 of his 36 (30.6%) points were on the powerplay, compared to 31 of 69 (44.9%) for his teammate Ty Smith and 21 of 51 (41.2%) for his linemate Nolan Reid.
There’s a more nuanced statistic we can use, called “PNHLe”. It was developed by Mason Black (@NHL Rank King), based on the “NHLe” statistic developed by Gabe Desjardins. At its core, it compares the points a player scored to a historical points aging curve for players that make the NHL, and sees how the prospect is doing on that aging curve. The model, explained in detail here, has Král as a 2nd line NHL player some day:
Another tool to take a peek at is the CHL player comparison tool developed by Mitchell Brown. Unfortunately, the sample size is very small, but the tracking data shown and the relative ranking against his peers is still an interesting thing to see.
Clearly he’s not on the level of New Jersey Devils’ top prospect Ty Smith, but he’s also pretty clearly in the top of his peer group in a number of subtly important areas of the game, especially zone entry defence and zone exits/entries.
SPO 3 – PG 2#GoChiefsGo pic.twitter.com/AYfyWCYLYf
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) February 27, 2019
SPO 4 – TC 3#GoChiefsGo pic.twitter.com/MrHpuFRQZf
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) March 16, 2019
Big game last night for Leafs D prospect Filip Kral, who scored his first goal of the season and added 2 assists. Also fired four shots on goal.
He’s got 5 points (1-4–5) in 5 games to start off his season in the WHL #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/9WFb5QkPzi
— 51Leafs (@51Leafs) November 11, 2018
Filip Král was a nice choice when the Leafs took him 149th overall. Many felt it was a really good value choice at the time. The Leafs sorely needed defenders in their prospect pool and Král was the fourth and final one that Toronto selected that day to bolster the ranks at that position.
However, he was always going to be a long shot, with minimal pedigree at the time that hasn’t grown at all since. Of course, that’s not to say he’s no good; the Leafs have significantly improved their strategies in the late round selections in the last two years. Král being a long shot out of this group almost feels like holding him to an unfairly high bar compared to defense prospects of years past.
Typically, Král’s role with the Spokane Chiefs has been on a shutdown pairing with Nolan Reid (undrafted CHL overager) that started the game against the opponent’s top competition. He plays in the top four regularly, but being behind Ty Smith has limited his opportunities to get top pairing minutes.
Kral clearly has a great point shot for this level of play, but he likely won’t get the time in the NHL to place it the way he does in junior. His other tools will be far more important in the long run.
He has a stickhandling ability that’s rare, but more common lately, for a defender. While he lacks a bit of top speed, his skating appears to be agile and efficient relative to his peer group. While the one passing highlight up there is impressive, he isn’t at an elite level there it seems.
In pulling out the magic 8 ball, Král the response is “Ask again later.”
He’s going to have a really prime opportunity in the coming season with Spokane, with Smith likely graduating to the NHL with New Jersey and Nolan Reid being ineligible for junior hockey. Assuming the Chiefs don’t have to move him, he’ll get top pairing minutes there that will make a great impact on his development.
Beyond that, though, it gets foggy.
He’s near the bottom of the Leafs’ prospect depth chart for left defense, but with the Leafs being a contender, it’s certainly within the realm of possibilities that that group shrinks and Král becomes a necessary bottom pairing player for Toronto.
He’s probably a bit underrated among the league at this point, but it’s still going to be a long road to the NHL for him. He’s clearly a skilled player, though, and the Leafs will want to hold on to that and let him move through their development system starting in the 2020-21 season when he’ll likely join the Toronto Marlies.
Král and the rest of the 2018 draft may end up being sneaky good.
Certainly for Toronto, they’ll be happy with him at this point and continue to monitor his progress in the upcoming WHL season. Ultimately though, he’ll be a long shot to make the NHL, as most prospects are. This is not intended as a knock on him. He’s got a set of skills that need improving and with good coaching, good luck, and hard work he can make that development happen.
What do you think? Does he have what it takes? I know that I like him and will be keeping an eye on him next year. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!