Our annual, 2021 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
#18: Lukas Svejkovsky, Winger
2020 Ranking: #20
Age: 19 (November 28, 2001)
Height/Weight: 5’ 10”, 165 pounds
Acquired Via: 2020 NHL Draft (Fourth Round — #108 overall)
2020-21 ought to have been a pretty good year for Medicine Hat, they had the 8th most points in a 22 team Western Hockey League and a lot of older talent. One such player was Lukas Svejkovsky, who finished tied for 2nd on the team in goals and tied for fourth in points. The trajectory of Svejkovsky’s junior career has really taken a turn for the better since a trade in late 2019 sent him to Medicine Hat with an increased role and Svejkovsky coming through with production on his end of the deal.
Up to this point in this year’s T25U25 list, most of the players project to be lower line or role players at best, but Svejkovsky represents an increased in skill. Early on in April in the abbreviated WHL season, Svejkovsky scored eight goals in the first nine games of the season, landing him in the top five of the WHL for goal scoring. This is a player with some serious goal scoring ability in the junior level.
Scoring from a bit of distance here at the top of the circle while on the power play showcases Svejkovsky’s slick shooting ability.
Here in March, he slams on the breaks, looks for a pass but then decides to cut to the middle of the ice and shoot for another goal. And if you look closely at shot placement, it’s even more impressive as he went bar-down and in, short-side too. A very nice shot. Probably aren’t going to see an NHL or even AHL defenseman wipe out like that in the future, but finishing ability is nice to see on display.
Dobber Hockey’s projection based on production is that this is a player who is slowly creeping up to the future NHL radar.
The Patrick Bacon projection doesn’t look quite as sunny, but has a higher bar set for 200+ games as a future WAR positive player. The commonality between both models is that the arrow is pointing in the right direction as his junior career has been going.
For a young prospect like Svejkovsky, the COVID stoppage/shortened season of 2020-21 hurt a lot. Had he been able to play 65-70 games of WHL hockey last year and continue on his production path (a good bet!), we probably would have more data to have a better projection of just how much of a future he may or may not have.
Instead, for a player drafted in 2020 and has to be signed by June 1, 2022 the Penguins have a tougher decision to make. Signing Svejkovsky may be a solid bet, given that Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lot of skilled talent coming through the ranks on the wing in the next few years. Being in an organization devoid of a ton of talent is probably working in his favor to perhaps open more doors than if the Pens were loaded with a lot of higher round picks coming through.
As it stands, 2021-22 will be one last go ‘round in the WHL for Svejkovsky. As one of the older players in the league, and clearly an offensively gifted player at that level, he should be expected to really shine against WHL competition this year. That could also make the Pens’ decision to bring him into the organization as a pro in 2022-23 an easy one.
From there (in 2022-23), the real test will begin as Svejkovsky acclimates to the AHL. We’ve seen plenty of smaller players who lit up the junior ranks, like Justin Almeida, not really be able to find their footing or see their points translate to the pro game. We’ve seen smaller players like Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel have no issues finding ways to get the puck in the net against bigger and stronger competition at the pro level.
Svejkovsky still ranks as a longer-term player with an unlikely future of hitting his absolute ceiling, but he also represents some skills and ability that this team doesn’t have much of in the form of a talented, scoring winger. That alone makes him a player to keep somewhere on the radar with the hopes that he can continue to develop and do enough in 2021-22 to keep his arrow pointing up.