10K Rinks is counting down the 10 best Minnesota Wild prospects, as voted on by our staff. Today, we’re debuting the list with No. 10, Servac Petrovsky.
Not many times can an obscure prospect catch the eye of the State of Hockey like Minnesota Wild prospect Servac Petrovsky just did. Yet Petrovsky did that for Team Slovakia during the World Junior Championships last month. Yes, they went 1-4 and found themselves devoid of any chance to compete, especially with top NHL draft picks like Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec opting out. Yet in four games, Petrovsky tallied three points and a team-high 14 shots on goal. Not bad for a sixth-round draft pick.
Following that showing, Petrovsky is making his case as the second-best center prospect in the Wild organization, only behind the NHL-ready Marco Rossi. Yes, even ahead of 2020 second-round pick Marat Khusnutdinov.
I know, I know – how can a very recent sixth-round pick leap-frog a highly-touted player like Khusnutdinov, who has been producing highlight reel moments in the KHL playing against men? A player who got the A for SKA St. Petersburg at age 21? Petrovsky hasn’t advanced past posting decent numbers in Canadian Juniors. Trust me, I have all the confidence that Khusnutdinov will be an NHL player and probably a better one than Petrovsky. It just might not be at center. I believe Petrovsky is a better bet to stick down the middle through his career, while Khusnutdinov likely finds himself on the wing.
If that holds up, congratulations to Petrovsky. He now ranks as the true No. 2 center in the organization.
Before discussing how Petrovsky has surprisingly vaulted himself to No. 10 in our annual Wild prospect rankings, let’s explain why Khusnutdinov is a better fit at wing.
Even in his draft year, Khusnutdinov was lauded for his skating, defense, and work ethic on the ice. He jumps off the screen when watching a game due to his speed and electric ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone. However, while most think his offense looks flashy, it doesn’t lead to the ultimate goal in hockey: creating scoring chances.
That lack of playmaking ability, coupled with his smaller stature, makes projecting him as an NHL center tough. It’s not as though there isn’t a path to being an NHL center for Khusnutdinov. It’s just most teams are looking for one of two things from their pivots: playmaking ability with the puck on your stick or defense + size.
Elite Prospects may have put it best in their assessment of Khusnutdinov during his draft year in 2020: “The more likely outcome for Khusnutdinov, in our estimation, is that of a detailed, two-way winger than can generate a decent amount of secondary offense on the rush and the counterattack.”
For those reasons, Petrovsky has vaulted to the No. 2 center prospect in the organization, although the gap between him and Rossi remains massive. The young Slovakian finds himself in this position primarily due to a severe lack of depth at center in the prospect pool. However, it’s also because of what he showed at the World Juniors last month.
Petrovsky is pretty similar to Khusnutdinov in that scouts are high on their defensive abilities. The Slovakian rarely finds himself in the wrong spot in supporting his defenseman. With a larger frame than his Russian counterpart, Petrovsky should be able to translate that defensive ability to the NHL a little easier. The knock on him, though, is that his offense was inconsistent. Petrovsky was finding ways to score in the Canadian Junior circuit last year, but some believe it was due to the play of his higher-skilled linemates. For this reason, Petrovsky fell to the sixth round in a year when he recorded 54 points in 65 games.
However, maybe his impressive showing in the rescheduled WJC tournament last month is his way of proving his flashes of offensive ability are no fluke.
Still, he’s got a steady defensive foundation, and perhaps Petrovsky is putting together his offensive game, too. Hopefully, the Wild can draft a center with more upside in the coming years to supplant him as the No. 2 center prospect. But for now, keep an eye on Petrovsky this year as he returns to the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) for another season. If his offensive numbers explode, watch out. The young man just might be proving everyone wrong after they let him fall to pick 185.