Welcome to the fourth installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.
The Blue Jackets hold two first-round draft picks—No. 6 and No. 12–giving the club a prime opportunity to solidify its young core as they look to inch closer to contention status. In a wide-open NHL draft, there are plenty of names to be considered ahead of July.
Today, we're looking at Simon Nemec, an 18-year-old defenseman from Slovakia.
As you know from watching the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2021-22 regular season, their high-event ways—set respective franchise records scoring 258 goals and allowing 297 goals—have caused management to look into beefing up the defensive part of their game.
That's where Nemec could enter the picture, but there will be plenty of teams vying for the talented teen.
According to mock draft models, Nemec projects to be a top-five draft pick so unless Jarmo Kekalainen makes a trade or something else changes, the Blue Jackets could just miss out on drafting Nemec. However, they are right in the picture so anything is possible and it's hard to ignore why the talented defenseman will be so coveted.
Nemec has played for his native Slovakia in international play and he played in the top Slovakian league with HK Nitra for the past three seasons. During the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Nemec captained Slovakia U18, scoring six points (one goal, five assists).
In this last season, he scored 26 points (one goal, 25 assists) in 39 games for HK Nitra. He put up 17 points, including five goals, and led the playoffs with 12 assists in 19 games. Playing in the 2022 Winter Olympics with Slovakia, he took home bronze.
Nemec wore the "A" in the world juniors and had one assist in a pair of games before the tournament prematurely ended due to COVID concerns. In three games for Slovakia during the World Championship, he has two assists.
As the offensive numbers indicate, Nemec grades well all across the board. A mobile, puck-moving defenseman with a right shot who can lead the power play and hold things steady away from the puck.
If there's anything to wonder about regarding Nemec, could size be an issue?
Nemec is six-foot-one, 192 pounds but he's still just an 18-year-old, and he can continue to round out his form and fill out his frame at the NHL level.
As Aaron Portzline said in The Athletic last month, the Blue Jackets are likely looking to get two more defensemen and he specifically mentioned Adam Boqvist (six-foot, 189 pounds) and Jake Bean (six-foot-one, 176 pounds) needing to get stronger.
We also talked about the Blue Jackets' need for defense.
Still, if Nemec is available when it's the Blue Jackets' turn to pick, it's doubtful that size would keep Kekalainen from selecting Nemec who is considered one of the top two defensemen in the draft.
Samuel Takac ties it on the PP for Slovakia— Hockey News Hub (@HockeyNewsHub) May 16, 2022
imon Nemec picks up an assist pic.twitter.com/zk8lXAThtW
Here's a look at Simon Nemec's goal from his final club match of the season yesterday.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) May 2, 2022
Final totals this season:
Playoffs (19GP) - 5G, 17PTS
Regular Season (39 GP) - 1G, 26PTS
Hlinka (5GP) - 1G, 6PTS (MVP award)
WJC (2GP) - 1PT pic.twitter.com/0HT94r13A2
That’s how highly regarded Nemec is considered and Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked him as his fifth overall prospect.
Analysis: Nemec is a very well-rounded defenseman. His puck game is great. He has the high-end brain to make a lot of tough plays often. Nemec can hit seams, make plays under pressure and makes a great outlet pass. He also shows individual skill which, when combined with good speed, allows him to be dangerous in transition too. Defensively he’s solid due to his skating, compete and brain, even though he’s not imposing physically and can be trusted with tough responsibilities. Nemec projects as a top pair defenseman.
|The Hockey News||4th|