Birthday: November 2, 1997
Birthplace: Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
Weight: 170 lbs.
Junior Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Drafted: 53 overall, 2016
Fun Fact: Hronek was named Saginaw’s MVP for the 2016-17 season
There has been a barrage of rightful criticism on this blog and through out North America that Ken Holland has lost the mark. Instead of taking another revolution on the hamster wheel, I’m going to present to you a young man who could be a flash in the embattled general manager’s twilight: Filip Hronek.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The 2016 second round pick could end up being a total steal as he emerges from a solid—dare I say, hopeful—pool of defensive prospects from the previous three Red Wing drafts.
Hronek’s biggest strength is hard to pin down because he plays a very advanced game with the puck. His vision up ice on the first pass is what always catches my eye. There was a time, though it seemed long, long, ago, where a requisite to playing defense for this franchise was jump starting the break out. Hronek’s vision and poise buried in his own zone has allowed him to become one of the OHL’s better puck movers. He’s also not opposed to carrying the puck himself in all three zones.
While with the Saginaw Spirit, his power play work was emphasized. In every interview out of prospect camp, whether it was Chris Chelios, Jeff Blashill or Todd Nelson, they all cited how intelligent he was playing quarterback. This goal (one of few Hronek highlights available unfortunately) displays his patience finding a shooting lane. He led the team with 21 power play points. For the season, he was second on the team in shots—a benefit from his power play opportunities. He’s shown to have a booming shot from the point, as he demonstrated in his first and only professional goal this season with Grand Rapids.
Now to tamp down the giddiness. Hronek is small. At 6’0 170lbs. I see him easily filling out, yet his strength and frame have been a negative often pointed to. The era of big, lugging, “stay at home” defensemen seems to be on the way out, but the concern is puck battles, in front of the net—greasy areas. He’s well aware he needs to get stronger, there’s nothing that leads you to believe he’s incapable of putting on 20lbs. in the next couple seasons.
Coming out of the draft it was lamented by some that Holland passed on a couple noteworthy defensemen who had slid down to the 9th pick. I, ahem, was certainly one of them. However, when seeing the progress Hronek and Vili Saarjarvi have made, it’s one aspect of the Red Wings infrastructure that doesn’t seem crumbling at the moment. Obviously the team brass still feels they’re at least a couple seasons away, hence signings like Trevor Daley.
Hronek will likely have an impressive camp. Watch for him in a couple pre-season games; how smoothly he moves the puck, how fluid his stride is, and he well he sees the ice. He’s going to push management to think about advancing him further than they planned to this point. There isn’t going to be anyone Hronek doesn’t challenge on his way to the Red Wings and beyond.