Along with Martin Necas, Filip Chytil, Jan Kern, and Jan Hladonik, Ostap Safin is one of the most notable forward prospects to come out of the Czech Republic this year. Safin is a prospect that has been gaining some attention, particularly since his 2014-2015 campaign in the Czech U16 league, where he managed to put up a staggering 33 goals and 19 assists in just 31 games that year, following it up with a 28 goals and 19 assists in 38 games the following year for HC Sparta Praha's U18 team. While it's a small sample size, Safin was 2nd in P/Gm for a U18 skater with more than 5 games played. Martin Necas, Ostap Safin, Filip Chytil, Jakub Galvas (D), and David Kvasnicka (D) comprised the top 5 U18 players in Pts/Gm in the Extraliga this year.
Ranking: 14th on NHL Central Scouting for European Prospects
From: Praha, Czech Republic
Weight: 198 lbs
- With HC Sparta Praha U18 in the Czech U18 league (playoffs): 2 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PIM, -3
- With HC Sparta Praha U20: 24 GP, 6 G, 12 A, 18 P, 66 PIM, +6; Playoffs: 6 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 P, 2 PIM, -1
- With HC Sparta Praha in the Extraliga: 8 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PIM, +2
- At the U18s: 5 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 2 PIM, -1
- In all International U18 games this year: 16 GP, 7 G, 5 A, 12 P, 10 PIM, +2
Safin is a very big boy, standing at a hulking 6'4" and 198 lbs. He will only get bigger and stronger as trains more during the next few summers, which will help him transition to the NHL immensely. More impressive than his frame, however, is his skating. Power forwards aren't necessarily known for their agility and maneuverability on their skates. However, when I watched him play at the U18s, I had to double check how big he was on EliteProspects, because I couldn't believe that a player of his size is able to skate with as much finesse as he has. He skates with the balance, agility, and finesse of a much smaller player, but has the strength and power that allows him to play the prototypical power forward game. This is especially evident in tight spaces, where he maneuvers around incredibly well.
He reaches top speed very quickly with very strong strides, and is able to handle the puck seamlessly while in full flight. This makes him a force to be reckoned with in the offensive zone, and very difficult to knock off of the puck. His combination of size, power, and finesse make him particularly dangerous when driving down the wing towards the net.
He is an excellent forechecker, and wreaks havoc in the offensive zone using his speed and reach. He is very effective at driving the play along the boards and in the corners down low, using his reach, strength, and his large frame to protect the puck. He's very physically assertive, and can hit like a freight train, although sometimes he goes a bit too far over the edge. His skating abilities allow him to be a dominant physical force on the ice, and he's one of those guys you'd want to have that can clobber an opponent's defensive corps, as such:
Video Credit goes to Prospect Videos
Safin has a great nose for the net, with a very accurate shot that he never hesitates to use when given a chance. His one-timer is lethal, and has a very quick release with a lot of power on it. He's not the flashiest player in one-on-one situations, but his hands are good enough that he can pull off skill moves when the circumstance requires it. He's a very difficult player to stop when a game is going at a fast pace, and if he can't dominate opponents physically, he's so maneuverable that he can beat them with finesse. He also plays an underrated defensive game, and uses his long reach to his advantage in breaking up plays, and gets himself into position in passing and shooting lanes effectively to shut down attacking opponents. I think this aspect of his game will continue to grow over time.
If there is one issue that I have with him, it's that he doesn't have a lot of creativity to his game. He plays a very point A to point B game (although he's pretty good at it). If you're looking for a forward with more creativity to their game, I'd go with Chytil. But if you're looking for a forward that can wreak havoc on the forecheck, finish plays, and can be used as a battering ram on skates to soften the other team up, Safin is your man. Safin has the tools to be a top 6 forward that can compliment other skill players very well. I could even see him being used in a 3rd line checking role very effectively, and he has enough upside and a good enough two-way game that he would probably thrive in that role. In my opinion, he's one of the best power forwards to come out of Europe this year, perhaps behind only Klim Kostin and Kristian Vesalainen. I've heard other people who have watched him compare his style of play to Jeff Carter. While it has yet to be seen if he ever becomes as good as Carter, it's an apropos comparison.
Credit for both videos goes to NHL Prospects
This is from the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last Summer, where the Czechs won gold. In any international games, Ostap Safin wears #27. This video also gives you a great look at Martin Necas (#18), Filip Chytil (#20), Radim Salda (#21), David Kvasnicka (#7), Jakub Galvas (#10), Jan Kern (#12), Jan Hladonik (#13), Ondrej Machala (#17), Filip Zadina (eligible next year, #19), and Jachym Kondelik (eligible next year, #29). He doesn't score in this game, but there were a few good shots of what he can do on the forecheck. Video credit goes to HockeyCZE.
From the same tournament vs. Finland. Safin scores a goal at around the 1:10 mark, demonstrating his excellent edgework and very accurate wrist shot. Also shows a filthy, nasty goal by Filip Zadina around 1:27, and a Filip Chytil goal around 2:03. Video credit goes to LeijonatTv.
This is actually an edit. Prospect Videos recently came out with a highlight package from his U18 tournament.
A more complete highlight package of the Czechs in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament from last year. Safin scores a goal at 0:42, 1:13 (same goal against Finland, above), and 3:05; has an assist at 2:51; has a nice takeaway at 5:43. Video credit to Czech Hockey Highlights.
Overall, Safin is a player that a lot of teams would love to grab somewhere within the top 90 of this draft. He has a ton of upside, and has a great combination of size, physicality, skating, goalscoring abilities, and two-way play. I can see Ken Holland and the Wings' scouting brass taking interest in what Safin brings to the table. Out of all of the Czech prospects this year, he'd be one of the players I'm most interested in acquiring in the 3rd round of the draft, depending on whether he's still on the board. I see him being taken between the late 2nd round and sometime during the 3rd round. If he falls to the 3rd, I could see the Wings being seriously interested in acquiring him, as he would provide the team with a player that plays with a physical edge with a great nose for the net. Let me know what you think of him in the comment section below.
When I return, I am going to be discussing a relatively unheralded Russian defenseman who has put on a great showing in the WHL this season, Artyom Minulin. Until then, happy scouting!
On an unrelated note, doing this profile for Safin also gives me the sense that Filip Zadina is a prospect that we're going to be hearing a lot about next year. That kid can seriously play. You'll be hearing a lot from me about him next season.