The Winnipeg Jets have announced their signing of 2013 fourth-round pick Jan Kostalek, a defenseman with Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL, to a three-year Entry Level Contract.
So who is this 20-year-old Czech-born defenseman? Let’s break it down after the jump.
Kostalek was the first European born draft selection by the Jets version 2.0, as well as their first selection from the QMJHL.
He is known for being a smooth skater who can adeptly push the play by both skating and passing the puck. At the major junior level Kostalek is strong in transition and performs well in the neutral and defensive zones with and without the puck. He has also been noted to adjust his play style depending on his defensive partner.
The young defender currently plays top minutes for a Rimouski side that is at the absolute top of the QMJHL table with a 45-16-3 record. At the 60 game mark the Oceanic were the second highest possession-close team, as estimated by first-two-periods shot differentials.
Playing an impact role on a top shot-metric team generally serves as a positive sign, and is a reason for optimism despite Kostalek’s pedestrian counting statistics.
Kostalek has managed 7 goals and 36 assists for 43 points in 55 games this season, and leads all Oceanic defenseman in total assists and points. He’s only modestly behind 2013 first-round selection and teammate Samuel Morin by points-per-game.
For league-wide numbers, Kostalek sits ninth in point totals and eleventh in points per game for all QMJHL defenders.
These numbers are only decent, but perhaps are even more so because the defender has always been thought of as a more “defensive” defenseman.
Traditional plus/minus is a highly flawed statistic. Still, leading the team in the statistic is a positive sign when combining with multiple other positive factors, like taking top-minutes on a possession juggernaut and also leading said team in shots and shots per game (again as a defenseman known more for his defensive impacts than offensive).
Kostalek has been a major piece of many of the Czech Republic’s international juniors teams. He scored four points in ten U20 games over the last two World Junior Hockey Championships, and has also played in multiple other tournaments.
Another feather in Kostelk’s cap was playing in the Czech’s mens league at the age of sixteen.
History has shown that just playing in a high-quality mens league at a young age is a positive sign for prospects. Kostalek started a season playing in the Czech’s U18 junior program, but was moved up to the U20 program, and then eventually played ten games for the pro-level team. Only four other defenders played ten or more games in the Czech professional league at a similar age in the ten years prior.
While not a bluechip level prospect, Jan Kostalek arguably sits as the Jets next best blue-line prospect after Josh Morrissey.
As a right-handed shot, the competition will be stiff for Kostalek to make the NHL with the Jets anytime soon. That’s no a big deal though as Kostalek is more of a long term project who will probably need a few seasons in the AHL.