Even a month and half after the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Latvian winger Martins Dzierkals in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, there’s still tremendously little information about him out in ther internet wilderness. Dzierkals was drafted out of the MHL, Russia’s top Junior league, meaning that many Western-based scouts never had a great chance to see him play. Even on the international circuit, the Latvian U20 team he suited up for played in the Division I A tournament held this year in Italy. Only the U18 team played in the IIHF’s top division, meaning those six games were the best chance to see Dzierkals live.
Here’s what we do know, though… Dzierkals, standing 5’11, 180lbs, put up good points with each of the four teams he represented this past season. With Ogre/Saga 18, a junior club based just outside Riga, Dzierkals posted 10 points in six games. With HK Riga in the MHL, it was 28 points in 32 games.
Most impressive were his contributions with the international team, specifically with the U18 team. In six games, Dzierkals netted three goals and added six assists. His nine points placed him 10th in tournament scoring, behind some very, very strong competition in Auston Matthews, Mathew Barzal, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrick Laine and fellow Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco.
There really isn’t much from the main scouting services out there, with McKeen’s Hockey and Future Considerations both leaving Dzeirkals out of their 2015 Draft Guides and rankings. HockeyProspect.com ranked him 195th, while ISS ranked him 91st, but no scouting reports are readily available on either of their websites.
UPDATE: I stand corrected. The nice people at HockeyProspects.com have told me that Dzierkals got a full write-up in their 2015 Blackbook. Here’s an excerpt….
“Dzierkals is a left shooting right winger capable of bringing both considerable skill and a great compete level… He will be the first going to the end boards battling for the puck, can throw a check when needed and often finds a way to keep possession against bigger opponents… One thing that has become apparent after multiple live viewings this year is that this kid is absolutely fearless on the ice. It’s been impressive seeing him enter dense traffic at full speed…”
So we’ll just have to trust what Kyle Dubas has to say, as the Leafs’ Assistant GM recently spoke about Dzierkals at Toronto’s recently wrapped Prospect Camp:
“We saw him at the U18 tournament. Statistically, he was outstanding in the games that I personally saw. He was a guy that [scouts] Thommie Bergman and Garth Malarchuk both really liked a lot. We all went and watched him in the relegation games, and he was really, really good.
He’s very fast – a skilled player. His family is very big, so he looks like a guy who’s going to grow a little bit and get a lot stronger.
Statistically, in Latvia, and it’s not a traditional market to be taking a lot of guys from – but his production level in the junior league there was off-the-charts. It just kind of all added together. We knew there were a lot of other teams circling, so we had to pick him there.”
That’s essentially what we’ve heard from everyone regarding Dzierkals – needs to get bigger and stronger, but he has a nice package of offensive skills that will hopefully translate well at the pro level. Toronto is banking on the hockey community’s limited viewings of Dzierkals, hoping they got a steal of a player, even in the third round.
Of course, even if we all didn’t get much of a chance to see much of Dzierkals before the draft, we can always count on friend-of-the-blog SEER to put together a nice highlight package for us…
As for next season, it’s largely expected that Dzierkals will suit up for Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL. The Huskies drafted Dzierkals in the first round, 22nd overall in the CHL Import Draft after it was announced that he would be crossing the pond to continue his development. That said, contract negotiations are currently at a standstill despite Huskies camp already being underway – though it does appear that Dzierkals will almost certainly sign eventually. From Rouyn-Noranda’s La Frontière et Le Citoye (with help from Google Translate)…
Huskies Head coach and general manager Gilles Bouchard, however, qualified this. “These are normal negotiations are ongoing. The young man will come here and we want him to be here,”
Members of Huskies ownership have also expressed optimism in getting Dzierkals signed soon, sending out message via a protected Twitter account that say as much (s/t to Jérôme Bérubé of HockeyProspect.com for that piece of info.)
Ranking as high as 15th in the TLN voting process, Dzierkals also found himself outside of the Top 20 on one of our writers’ lists. Personally, the skilled Latvian just squeeked onto my list in the #20 spot. We all like the skill that Dzierkals brings to the table, but with so little viewings and data to go on, it’s hard to get a good read on him. The whole situation reminds me a lot of the Leafs’ Fabrice Herzog selection from a couple years back – a player that quite frankly is still extremely difficult to pin down (though, I’m not that optimistic anymore when it comes to Herzog).
That said, there might not be another player in these rankings that has more climbing potential than Dzierkals. If he steps into the QMJHL next season, plays well and scores at a point-per-game pace, it’s not hard to imagine Dzierkals moving up much closer to our top ten prospects by the time our Midterm rankings are released.