The right-handed shot defender Jan Kostalek is not the prototypical shutdown defender. At 6’1 and 196 lbs, he won’t over power many forwards in battles and is not the largest net-clearing presence.
He is however an extremely effective shutdown defender. Kostalek uses his high-end hockey IQ and skating to gain control of the puck and move possession out of the defensive as soon as possible.
We continue our summer prospect profile series, checking in at #14.
Here is Kostalek’s Player Cohort Success over the past 3 seasons:
PCS% is the percentage of similar players in height, league, scoring, and age that made the NHL, while PCS points per game is the production typical of those that did make it.
Kostalek’s played his 16-year-old season in the Czech Under-18 league. Despite not scoring over a point per game, Kostalek was moved up to the Czech Under-20 league, and then was called up for a 10 game trial in the Czech pro-league.
Accomplishing this at 16 for a defender is rare and a positive sign on hockey’s minds perception regarding Kostalek’s defensive abilities. Combining his young age and low scoring, Kostalek did not really carry any statistical cohorts for PCS to match with at 16-years-old.
He did however became a highly anticipated prospect for his net season, his draft year, especially after committing to the QMJHL.
Combination of adjusting to the North American game, struggling to score, and injuries led Kostalek’s stock to drop. The player that was once thought of as a possible late first round pick was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the fourth round.
The next season saw some growth, but not substantial enough to say the Jets picked up an undervalued player.
It was his final year in junior though where Kostalek really started to shine.
An injury to teammate, 2013 draft classmate, and first round pick Samuel Morin gave Kostalek the opportunity to take a larger role for his team. Kostalek ran with this opportunity and never looked back.
In the first half of the season Kostalek posted 14 points in 28 games, but after December went 29 points in 29 games.
He kept this pace up even in the playoffs, where Kostalek lead the QMJHL in defensive points, posting 21 points in 20 games.
Some may question why we should care about scoring for a defender that projects as a defensive defenseman in the NHL — if he makes the NHL that is.
Scoring has shown to be one of the driving predictors in prospect success, even for those that end up in defensive roles in the NHL.
In fact, most NHL defensive defensemen who are successful in promoting their team to out shoot and out score the opposition were defenders who competently scored at lower levels. This makes sense, as only the best players make it to the next level, and if you are dominating enough to keep the puck in the other team’s end, you will be picking up some points even if you are not an overly skilled offensive player.
As a member of the Jets largely strong 2013 draft class, Kostalek will be graduating to pro-level hockey this season with others like Nic Petan, Joshua Morrissey, Eric Comrie, etc. Kostalek will likely take a significant role for the Manitoba Moose, as the only other right hand shot defender after Brenden Kichton with a NHL contract in the AHL.
Here is a three point game from Kostalek’s 2015 Memorial Cup run, courtesy of Jets Nation’s own Anthony Lenting: