Yesterday we took a look at Brock Boeser's suitability for the Arizona Coyotes. We stay on the same team in the USHL to take a look at another center prospect who turned heads earlier in the season but is now in a position to become a late round steal for the Coyotes: Thomas Novak.
#28 - Thomas Novak - Center - Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
2014-15 Stats: 46 GP, 14 G, 34 A, 12 PIMs
A native of River Falls, Wisconsin, Thomas Novak steadily rose to prominence in his first season of developmental hockey in the United States Hockey League, and is primed to take the next step when he plays at the University of Minnesota next year.
Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects speaks highly of Novak's offensive skillset:
A highly skilled playmaking center with first-rate "hockey sense" and puckhandling ability. Creates energy through being an offensively dominant presence. Plays an up-tempo game that can catch a lot of defencemen off guard; excellent skater.
Novak's best quality as a young center is his skating ability; the better an individual skater Novak can be, the better he can be at finding space in the offensive zone and avoiding checks from larger defensemen.
His head coach also has high praise for Novak's vision and ability to anticipate plays:
"I think he's sometimes two and three steps ahead of the play," O'Handley said. "I think that as well as his vision [are his strongest assets]. I think a part of vision is being able to picture what's to come and I think he's got a real unique ability to see what maybe two steps ahead is going to look like.
The common knock against young players - particularly as the draft goes on - is that Novak is too underweight to be an NHL center. He is slightly smaller than some of the other players we've profiled at just 6'0' and 181 pounds. Additionally, because he is so good at looking ahead at what will happen on the ice, he will need to generate chemistry with his linemates to be at his most effective.
For the Coyotes, Novak would join the pool of first round center prospects with Max Domi and Brendan Perlini. Between those two and Ryan MacInnis, Novak would face tough competition to earn top line minutes with the parent club over the next few seasons.
Still, a glut of centers is not a bad problem to have in today's NHL. Novak's playmaking ability is a highly useful asset for a young center to have, and the Coyotes may want to consider taking Thomas Novak should he be available come June.