June 30, 2015

The Skinny On Ottawa's New 230-Pound Defenceman

Big, tall, left-handed, European defencemen haven’t exactly been an oddity with the Ottawa 67’s, and today they made sure to carry on what’s becoming a tradition on their blueline.
6’4 Slovak Mike Cajkovsky spent the latter two of his three OHL seasons in a 67’s uniform while 6’3 Alex Lintuniemi was a workhorse for the team’s blueline last year.
Teams are no longer able to trade up in the CHL Import Draft, but Ottawa found a different way to climb the ladder, taking 6’9, 230-pound Stepan Falkovsky, who All Stars Global Sports Management labels “the best young defence(man) in Belarus,” with their top import pick.

Viewership for those who haven’t seen him live is currently and will continue to be very limited until he makes the jump to North America, assuming he reports to the 67’s.
Outside of video from two of his playoff games with hometown Yunost Minsk, very little viewership is available online.  But there are noticeable patterns in his game that can be deducted from those brief clips.
  • Whether he’s not quick enough with his initial breakout pass or whether he’s double-teamed because he is a two-way threat, Falkovsky has a very good knack for getting himself out of trouble.  He’s really smart at making forward progress with the puck when it looks like he’s in danger of giving it away in his own zone or on his own side of center in the neutral zone.
  • He’s a fairly solid skater for a huge 18-year old.  By contrast, he’s a much better skater than 6’6 Tyler Hill when he was with the 67’s.  He could be a big threat offensively here if he uses his speed and size properly.
  • He's listed as 6'9 but that might be a stretch and might count on-skates.  He only looks a couple inches taller than most other players on Minsk, and it's doubtful that the Belarus junior circuit is a haven for 6'6 players.
  • The go-to tactic for so many defenders in this junior Russian league seems to be to retrieve the puck, skate away from trouble on the big ice and bank it off the boards.  Falkovsky makes it more difficult than it has to be at times, but he seems a little more effective with the puck in the middle of the ice than most.  Because he won’t have the luxury of wide-ice in the OHL with Belleville gone and all 20 teams playing on smaller ice, this is a positive for his transition.
  • As solid as his skating is, he gets a bit off-balance when receiving or delivering checks.  He’ll need to get used to more physicality in North America, although his size will be intimidating for some.
  • He doesn’t engage physically in front of his own net as much, but he doesn’t really have to.  He can box out around his goalie’s crease and opposing forwards have an impossible time getting around him.
  • His defensive positioning is, to say the least, awkward.  He doesn’t always read the play that well and tends to backpedal a bit too much when the opposing team has the puck.  He’ll have to take a little less precaution in the OHL, where standing up forwards at the blueline is so much more important.
  • Maybe it’s coaching, but Falkovsky tends to follow man-to-man coverage way too much.  If an opposing forward is covering for a pinching defenceman up high, Falkovsky follows him.  It takes him out of position too often.  If he buys into Jeff Brown’s collapsing defence, this won’t be much of an issue.

More Improvement Needed On Defence
Regardless of whether Jake Middleton returns or not, Falkovsky is going to be thrown into the fire as an OHL rookie, likely taking on top-four minutes.  Barring a pre-season trade, Ottawa simply doesn’t have many other options on the blueline.
After trading away Troy Henley last season, the team is in desperate need of another right-handed defender.
They helped clear their logjam on the left side by peddling overaged d-man Zack Pittman to Flint today.
 Three Europeans In 2015-16
If Falkovsky comes to the Nation’s Capital, he’ll be one of three Europeans to play next year with the 67’s.
The 67's confirmed Artur Tyanulin will be back with Ottawa, while Leo Lazarev returns as a sophomore to duel with Liam Herbst for the starting job.
The Barrie Colts used their top import pick today, a move that will almost certainly push out netminder Daniel Gibl, which would leave Lazarev as the only European-born goalie in the OHL heading into 2015-16.


The Ottawa Limo Company said...

Can't wait to see what Mike Cajkovsky can do.

Ottawa Limo Guy

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