2023 NHL Draft prospect Dalibor Dvorsky has game-changing abilities NHL teams need

When there’s a championship on the line, you can always count on Dalibor Dvorsky to give it his all.

It all started with the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Russia was the clear favorite, but with Canada – the most dominant team in tournament history – electing to skip it due to COVID-19, there was room for others to challenge for gold under rare circumstances.

And that challenger turned out to be one of the hosts: Slovakia. Armed with two star 2022 prospects Simon Nemec and Juraj Slafkovsky, it was perhaps the best U-18 Slovakian team ever assembled. But it was actually Dvorsky that caught everyone’s attention, finishing one point (12) behind Russia’s Matvei Michkov for the tournament-scoring lead.

Everyone knew Michkov at that point. But Dvorsky was the true breakout star, putting himself on the map in a tournament where dreams can be made.

Dvorsky recently led Slovakia to a shocking fourth-place finish at the U-18 World Championship, earning tournament all-star honors and a handful of MVP votes after putting up nearly two points per game. That happened a year after helping Slovakia move up through the promotion system.

Each time, Dvorsky was Slovakia’s best player. That’s a lot of heavy lifting.

When Dvorsky’s on his game, he’s truly one of the best prospects in the NHL Draft. Many pegged him to be a top-five pick before the season began. His ability to take over, especially at the international level, has made him so dominant. He has even had some bright moments at the World Junior Championship against older competition, again having to do a lot for a team that needed goal-scoring help.

Dvorsky is a versatile forward with good hands, a quick release and good heads-up play. When the game is close, and his team needs a goal, Dvorsky can almost always be counted on to generate a scoring chance. And that type of dog-like mentality can help separate him from the pack: he really, really, really wants to score at all costs.

The Slovakian center spent the season playing against men in the second division of Swedish pro hockey, with some decent results. As his confidence grew, so did his willingness to create more difficult passes under pressure, His defensive play also is quite solid for a young center, something that isn’t always common at this age. “Dvorsky has a good work ethic that, when fully activated, never seems to differ depending on the time of the game.”

Dvorsky has an excellent, confident release that he’s not afraid to shoot from anywhere. That 2021 Hlinka Gretzky was a perfect example of that, with the young forward scoring goals just about anywhere in the offensive zone. Speaking of that tournament, he finished second in scoring, just one point behind eventual tournament champion Matvei Michkov from Russia. We know how good Michkov is, so that was a good sign.

Dvorsky even outscored Juraj Slafkovsky, the top pick from the 2022 draft. Even last year, if I was picking one or the other, I would have said Dvorsky’s ceiling is higher. That’s how skilled Dvorsky is.

“He’s a legitimate threat every time he touches the puck,” a scout said. “He has a bit more muscle than your average prospect and that helps him protect the puck and shoot it, too.”

So why is he not a surefire top five-pick?

For all of Dvorsky’s strengths, which include offensive awareness, an electric shot and great stick play, there are way too many moments where he’s a passenger. It isn’t that he isn’t willing to battle, but he’ll hang around the perimeter or leave his linemates to do a lot of the work a bit too much.

“It’s like watching an NHL all-star game with him sometimes,” a scout said. “He has excellent talent and there’s no question about it. But there’s always a few examples each game where you wish he was more engaged.”

His footspeed isn’t great either and he got exposed against men at points this year. That can be improved with good coaching, but it’s a concern.

Some scouts weren’t thrilled with his lack of production in Sweden. On one hand, Dvorsky was the highest-scoring player among draft eligibles in the Allsvenskan, but he was also the only to break the 30-game barrier. Between the two top Swedish leagues, only Orebro’s Leo Carlsson had more points (25) than Dvorsky’s 14. Dvorsky had more than two points per game against U-20 competition, so we know he’s way too good for that. It was just finding consistency that was an issue in Allsvenskan, but that’s expected for a player like his.

And if we’re being realistic, I think most public and private scouts are just harder on Dvorsky because they know what he’s capable of. He was always near, or ahead of his own age group for a couple of years. The expectations are simply higher.

“He has game-breaking abilities,” a scout said. “He’s a guy you can point at, through on the ice and expect good things. We just need to be able to see that consistently.”

In short, Dvorsky is a skilled, hard-working forward with a great shot and strong defensive play. He can play on the power play, penalty kill and on the wing and down the middle. His versatility is valuable for teams looking for a bit of flexibility. A lot of scouts project him to score in the 50-70 point range in the NHL. He has a lot of translatable skills, but his lack of high-end speed and acceleration stands out right now.

Public draft boards have placed Dvorsky anywhere from around 8-18. He’ll likely go closer to the top 10, spend another year in Sweden with AIK, and then come over to North America with a chance to make the roster. By then, he’ll have two full seasons of pro hockey under his belt and hopefully a bit of time to improve on his skating. There’s a lot of potential for Dvorsky to be a high-quality prospect if he puts in the work to take his game up to the next step.

I wouldn’t bet against him.

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