First Round Targets: Thomas Novak

For the second time in our First Round Target series we visit
the bustling metropolis of Waterloo, Iowa. Justin Fisher profiled the Waterloo
Blackhawk’s high scoring winger, Brock
Boeser
, now we’ll take a look at even more all over the board playmaking
center, Thomas Novak.

Novak’s committed to the University of Minnesota next season
and certainly isn’t a risk for jumping into the NHL right away, so you can
count on him attending. He would provide the Leafs with the opportunity to
develop a playmaking center through one of the better NCAA hockey programs, and
that may be necessary since although he’s highly touted, Novak also looks like he
has some areas still in need of development.

The Numbers

novakranks

So right off the hop we can see that most draft rankings
would see the Leafs as reaching for Novak if they were to take him at 24. Craig
Button generally seems to be higher on USHL players than most this year, but
generally he seems to have fallen out of the first round.

Unfortunately when it comes to the USHL, we’re pretty
limited in the numbers department, and Novak being a point per game player in
the USHL seems less exciting and more of a requirement for being considered a
draft prospect given the quality of competition he’s facing.

Novak has put up 48 points in 44 games, 34 of them assists,
so we can comfortably label him a playmaker at this point. Of those 48 points,
20 (3G, 17A) came on the powerplay, so now we are looking at a forward will 11
goals, and 17 assists 5v5 in 44 USHL games. This certainly doesn’t seem like first
round production.

Novak’s 11.4% shooting percentage looks like a reasonable
and stable number, but again when you consider the quality of goaltender that
he’s shooting against, it seems like goal production will be an issue going
forward. (All
stats from pointstreak.com
)

Using The Hockey Projection Project tool, Novak has a 60%
chance of being a bust, which isn’t a high number considering this is a late
first round pick. Of his 182 comparables, 7 are elite, 15 are first liners, and
14 are second liners putting him at a 19.7% chance of being a top six forward
in the NHL one day using that methodology.

With the Prospect Cohort Success Model we see that Novak has a 23.58% chance of success, and has drawn comparables to R.J. Umberger and Kyle Okposo, though you’ll see below, that’s likely not because of the style of play.

The Eye Test

The first thing that popped into my head with Novak is that
he seems like the next Tyler Bozak and I’m willing to bet there are a lot of
people not wanting to go through that again. Novak is a pass first player who
skates well but is a little on the timid side. While I can’t find anyone
praising his faceoff ability, which seems like it’s the missing piece of the
puzzle.

From
Corey Pronman
:

“He’s a quick, elusive skater with good jump in his step,
though one NHL scouted noted that his short legs keep him from exploding
through the neutral zone. He needs to bulk up and work on his defense a fair
amount, but he is a player with great offensive touch and has high upside.”

From the Hockey News Draft Preview Issue:

“The challenges for Novak are size and skating. He’s not the
strongest player out there, so he can get knocked off his feet in tight
quarters, which may explain why he doesn’t drive to the net as much as scouts
would like. His stride is short with a bit of a hitch right now, which is where
the skating criticism comes in.”

From
Craig Button

SKATING

SMARTS

HANDS

SHOT

COMPETE LEVEL

4/5

5/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

PROJECTION: NO. 2
PLAYMAKING CENTRE
Novak has excellent sense and feel for the game with an
effortless approach to playing that can make it appear at times that it is
laissez-faire. He can make plays in all situations and has poise to allow plays
to develop. He has the ability to strike quickly when the opportunity is
there.  Very elusive with his skating  and can change speed and
position quickly. Being a consistent threat can make him a very valuable
player.
NHL COMPARABLE:
DEREK STEPAN, NEW YORK RANGERS

Does he make the Leafs shortlist?

If the Leafs select at 24, Novak should not be on the
shortlist. If the Leafs trade down or acquire a second round pick, then you
absolutely start considering Novak. Despite my earlier comparison to Bozak it’s
worth noting that most teams would happily take a Bozak type player in the
second round and his chance of success is relatively good. It seems unlikely
that he’ll fall as far as the Leafs 65th pick, but with McKenzie
having Novak as 57th on his list there may be a chance to trade up
from 65th and grab him as well.