Welcome to this year’s Top 25 Under 25 series. If you’re unfamiliar, we’re going player-by-player in a ranking of the top 25 Minnesota Wild players that are under the age of 25. It’s fairly simple. Enjoy!
It is an impossible task to talk about Pavel Novak as a prospect, separated from the fact that he is currently going through a life-changing battle with cancer. To treat him as just this asset to try and squeeze as much potential out of, as he is currently just working through his days in hopes to play hockey again, is a little insensitive.
I don’t say this to appear all-knowing or greater than, but that context just needs to be added to all of this. If we want to discuss Novak, his future, and his recent performances, there needs to be some sprinkling of well he has been battling cancer, even if he didn’t know it yet.
Anyways, Novak has held a special place among the Wild prospects since being selected in the fifth round two years ago. While he wasn’t touted as the next best thing, he wormed his way through to the hearts of prospect-carers and had enough people hyped for his future to put some stock into his development to really see where he can go. The pandemic of course halted that a little bit — having to go back home to Czechia to play some hockey — but he returned to North America motivated enough to put in a decent season.
After treading through various age levels in Czechia, Novak decided that for his draft year, he will try his luck at playing in the Western Hockey League, to further develop his craft but also get many more eyes on his game. He did enough to get drafted, by scoring 58 points in 55 games during his first little taste of North American hockey, and while, again, the pandemic stuttered his development and typical trajectory, he came back last season and was able to put the Kelowna team on his back.
Among a bunch of no-name junior players — Colton Dach is the only other drafted skater on this entire roster — he managed to score 29 goals and earn 72 points in 62 games. Not the most mind-shattering numbers for a 19 year old winger, but still good enough to make us excited.
Roll the Tape
While Novak isn’t known as a goalscorer — and actually tends to be the maker of the plays, not necessarily always the one to finish them — he certainly does have a deadly shot that he has utilized to torment junior goaltenders.
Off the rush, Novak has enough ability to snap off a wicked shot, but also while navigating the blue line on the power play and skating backwards, he can unload a cannon as well.
There are multiple ways that Novak gets his goals, but they seem to always be with a degree of power that is exciting.
All we wish for Novak in the future is him to be cancer free and healthy enough to live his life, hockey or not. But if he can make a similar recovery to other players like Oskar Lindblom and more recently, Rodion Amirov — who just joined his KHL team on their first road trip of the season — then Novak can be in the Wild’s future plans. All we can hope for is health.
If healthy, Novak can provide a little bit of the offensive depth that the Wild do not really have with prospects around his age. Of course there is Marco Rossi, but beyond that in the players that are just graduating to the professional level, there isn’t a lot of spark up front. His eventual transition into the AHL and beyond will be an interesting path to keep track of, and we only wish the best for him.
Hockey Wilderness 2022 Top 25 Under 25
25. Mason Shaw, C/LW
24. Sam Hentges, C/LW
23. Simon Johansson, D
22. Hunter Haight, C
21. Nikita Nesternenko, C
20. Marshall Warren, D
19. Filip Gustavsson, G
18. Mikey Milne, LW
17. Mitchell Chaffee, RW
16. Pavel Novak, RW
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