Photo Credit: Tomas Kyselica / Hockey Slovakia
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Adam Sýkora is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Piešťany, Slovakia. He is one of the youngest draft eligible prospects as he is 8 days older than the cut-off. If he was born 8 days later, he would be one of the oldest 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospects.
He plays for HK Nitra in the Slovakian Tipos Extraliga alongside fellow 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, Šimon Nemec. Sýkora’s home town of Piešťany is roughly a 45/50 minute drive north of Nitra. Sýkora had played youth hockey in his home town for SHK 37 Piešťany before making the move to Nitra. He has played U16, U18, U20 and at the Tipos Extraliga level for HK Nitra. In addition to his play with Nitra, he has played with Team Slovakia U18 and HK Levice at the 2. Hokejová liga (Slovak 2. Liga) level.
In international play, Sýkora represented Slovakia at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Czechia and Slovakia. Sýkora was on the same squad as Dalibor Dvorsky, Juraj Slafkovský, Filip Mešár, Peter Repcik, Alex Čiernik, Ondrej Molnár and Šimon Nemec. That team dominated and proved to be a force to reckon with. In the championship game, the Slovakian squad was just out of gas after a tournament that had games on back-to-back-to-back days. But, they still had an outstanding showing and took home the silver medal. In five games at the Hlinka Gretzky, Sýkora netted two goals.
Sýkora’s father is Roman Sýkora, who currently serves as the Development Coach for Team Slovakia U18 and has served as a head coach in international play for Slovakia U17. In addition, Roman had played in WHL for the Tri-City Americans and in the BCHL for the Trail Smoke Eaters in 1997/1998, before returning home to Slovakia to play in the Tipos Extraliga for many years.
D.O.B – September 7, 2004
Nationality – Slovakia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Right Wing/Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Sýkora‘s Style Of Play
When entering into the offensive zone and he doesn’t have a clear passing lane or skating lane, he likes to do a dump and chase into the corner and see if he can leverage his speed to beat the attacker to the puck.
When Sýkora is on the forecheck and going for loose pucks, if he has the clear advantage, he looks to hook the puck in to secure possession instead of leaving it more exposed right away. While Sýkora has really good speed on the forecheck, in tight puck battles, he will try to cut inside but sometimes struggles to cut in because he doesn’t have the weight / upper body strength to force his way in. In situations in which he is skating behind the rush, he will try to stick lift, but his stick lifting doesn’t do much to disrupt the attacker who is pushing the puck out of the zone. His reach is somewhat limited and thus he needs to be extremely close to the attacker to strip possession when lifting his stick.
Speaking of upper body strength, he needs to beef up his upper body strength to generate good slot presence when he is facing tight pressure and he is looking to grab open ice for himself. He likes to skate into the slot when he skating parallel to his puck carrying teammate, but will struggle immensely with carving out open ice for himself. Defenders will box him out. Sýkora needs to develop upper body strength to fend off those attempts to box him out and use that same strength to force his way in.
Sýkora has really good puck security and maintains control of the puck when down low in tight even when the attacker puts pressure on his back. Sýkora will cradle the puck towards him, pivot out of danger and then will deliver a quick pass to a teammate coming towards him with open ice. He is very good at quickly processing/scanning the ice in front of him and making quick adjustments. For instance, check out this clip of Sýkora cradling the puck through the legs of the attacker to open up ice for himself when the attacker extends his stick blade towards him. As soon as the attacker extends his stick blade, Sýkora knows exactly what to do.
When it comes to his production, he tends to generate a lot of rebound assists. He doesn’t generate a lot of passes to high or medium danger areas. When he has control of the puck, there are quite a few instances in which he generates open ice for himself along the half-wall by pivoting away from pressure, but instead of taking advantage of open lanes that lead to the slot. He will decide to pass to a teammate along the perimeter. If he has either an open skating lane to the slot or an open passing lane to the slot, he needs to take it. He has a far better chance of generating a quality scoring chance at net-front versus at the perimeter.
When moving the puck through the offensive zone and he hits a roadblock in which he can’t get enough separation, he will look to place deceptive drop passes to try to keep the cycle alive and running. Sometimes he will look to complete a behind the back pass. He has good perception and knows when he has teammates are right behind him.
When it comes to his goal scoring ability, the majority of his goals have been scored at net-front when play is at 5v5. Per InStat (as of March 3, 2022), 32 of his 51 shots at even strength came from high danger and medium danger. He likes to shift the goaltender over and waits for the goaltender to expose his five hole. Sýkora also likes to wind-mill at net-front to distract the goaltender and cuts right and finds a gap to exploit at the crease. His presence in the slot has also led to deflection goals.
When shooting from range, Sýkora needs to open up his stick blade to heighten his shot and push more weight above his knee to generate quality power for his shot. He lacks the power behind his shot to be dangerous from further out.
Sýkora will lower and widens his stance when defending. It allows him to take up as much space as possible and eliminate skating/passing lanes. He will lower himself when defending against puck movement between the perimeter and the blue line to try to take away space. Sýkora will do the same when he is defending in medium danger or in the slot and a puck carrying attacker skates closer in. By lowering his body to take as much as space up as possible, he forces an ill-advised shot as the attacker runs out of open ice. Not only does he widen and lower himself to eat away open ice, but he also does a good job of echoing the attackers movements at the point and forcing them to take an ill-advised shot and dump the puck to the corner. He has strong alignment to the puck carrying attacker.
If he sees an attacker looking to execute a pass through a certain passing lane that he can shut down, he will do so by extending his stick out and intercepting the pass. But, he doesn’t have lengthy reach, which means that he can only grab a hold of pucks if they aren’t far away from him.
When looking to keep puck carrying attackers away from high danger areas, he leverages his active stick. Sýkora will extend his stick blade out towards high danger and manipulate attackers to pass back towards low danger.
Since he doesn’t possess the upper body strength to push past attackers, he typically waits for a slight gap to get to inside of the puck battle. If he gets to the inside of the puck battle, he has a far better chance to pick up possession and then he will look to complete a quick breakout pass.
When he is in control of the puck and is looking to create a breakout pass, he uses the space that he has. When facing tight pressure and he doesn’t have a ton of space, he will look to pass underneath the attacker’s stick (through the triangle) to a teammate who is skating into the neutral zone.
He will also look to pass the puck over the attacker’s stick when he had absolutely no room. Sýkora makes the decision quickly on the fly to pass over the attacker’s stick.
Even if sometimes he can’t get the pass to the intended target and his pass doesn’t lead to a zone exit, I like that Sýkora attempts to pass underneath the triangle when he find a teammate in the lane. Sýkora knows that he doesn’t have the reach to create separation, so by passing underneath the triangle or above the triangle (stick), he has proven that he can still get out of pressure with ease.
While Sýkora doesn’t have strong reach and in situations in which he isn’t looking to pass, he will quickly identify when attackers position their stick blade towards the puck and then he quickly makes the decision to position the puck further out to make it a challenge for the attacker to strip the puck.
Sýkora is a dependable puck mover in the neutral zone. His lengthy stride and crossovers get him up through the zone with quality speed.
When skating the neutral zone with the puck, sometimes he will struggle with stick-handling reachability and that leads to bobbled pucks. With that said, he has to implement puck manipulation to open up the necessary space for himself when facing aggressive pressure. Once he manipulates and generates open ice for himself, he will shift the puck to the far side before entering the offensive zone or before finding a passing lane. When shifting the puck to the far side, sometimes he choose to push the puck out further with one hand to create as much space as possible. Sometimes pushing the puck out with one hand will lead to quality shovel passes.
Similarly to his play in the offensive zone, there are situations in which he doesn’t use the most ideal passing lanes when passing in the neutral zone. He needs to be more cautious when passing in the neutral zone. If he runs out of options towards the offensive zone blue line, then he should look to back to his defenders, but passing to his defenders shouldn’t be option number one. It should only be option number one if he is truly sandwiched and can’t get a pass off towards the offensive zone blue line or there is simply no one open.
When it comes to defending in the neutral zone, Sýkora will put on the jets in the neutral zone with lengthy skate extensions to win loose puck battles as he manufactured enough speed. In general, he does a good job of staying in position and staying toe to toe with the puck carrying attacker in the neutral zones. Even though he doesn’t possess the upper body strength needed to force his way in on loose puck battles, he can still match the speed of a decent amount of attackers and trap them along the boards in the neutral zone when the attacker nets possession of the loose puck. He will interchange crossovers amidst lengthy skate extensions to keep chugging along.
Sýkora uses quality edges and crossovers that allow him to chugging along on the forecheck/backcheck and when looking to capture possession of loose pucks. He will leverage lengthy crossovers to generate the exact amount of speed that will allow him to stay toe to toe with the puck carrier. He will implement quality pivots when either trying to shift out of danger when he has control of the puck and when he has maintained good defensive positioning on the puck carrier and he has to react to the puck carrier pivoting out to try to escape him. In the offensive zone, Sýkora’s pivoting can buy him a bit of separation when he is along the boards and facing heavy traffic. He can shake off the tight pressure with a pivot and that nets him a few more seconds to find an open teammate to pass to when he doesn’t have much room to continue skating to the corner.
Sýkora will struggle with agility at times on his edges. It will impact his balance slightly and that hurts his mobility when going after loose pucks or on the forecheck/backcheck. He can be inconsistent with his edges as sometimes he won’t lean on them and sometimes he will. Leaning on his edges needs to be far more routine. He needs to lean on his edges to retain speed. When he doesn’t lean on his edges, he slows down his pace and he is more likely to get out of position in situations where he was following an attacking puck carrier.
Sýkora implements lengthy skate extensions to try to keep up with oppositional puck movement and when he is driving up the ice with and without the puck. When he has control of the puck and is driving the rush himself, he can leverage his forward skate extensions to net the speed he needs to get into the offensive zone and away from pressure. He will use those same skate extensions to generate quality speed when going after loose pucks in all three zones.
I see Sýkora as a top nine contributor at the NHL level.
If he can improve his upper body strength that will allow him to shove attackers out of the way, it will only increase his value. But, in Tipos Extraliga play, it has been clear that the lack of upper body strength has made it far more challenging for Sýkora to generate quality scoring chances. He will get pushed out of the slot easily and he struggles to net possession when facing heavier defenders in puck battles. His straight line speed makes him dangerous and is of great value when staying aligned with both puck carrying teammates and puck carrying attackers. If he can build up his strength for both slot presence and tight puck battles, he will be a pain to deal with. In addition, if he can fine tune his shot mechanics and work on identifying the best passing options in all three zones, his production will go up.
March 3, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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