The Tampa Bay Lightning selected Maxim Cajkovic, with the 89th overall selection in the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft
I had actually selected Cajkovic (pronounced Chi-Ko-Vich, not Catch-Ko-Vich as I initially thought) when I was the Lightning GM in the Puck77 Mock Draft from a little while ago, and I really liked my selection then, so you can probably guess how I feel now. I love this pick, and I genuinely think he could be a steal in the future.
The Bratislava, Slovakia native stands at 5’11, 185 pounds, and played for the St John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
For those that don’t follow the QMJHL, the Sea Dogs finished with a 13-49-2-4 record this season. That is really, really bad. Regardless, the Slovakian right winger scored 22 goals and added 24 more assists for 46 points in 60 games played. While those numbers are unspectacular, he played for a team that finished second-to-last, so you can do the math and expect no one to put up a ton of points.
The best place to look for his production was when he played for the Slovakian U18 team in the World Junior Championships and scored three goals and four assists for seven points in seven games. That’s a point-per-game pace, against other draftees including Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. But let’s breakdown his game, using ProspectShifts.com, where we can watch his film.
I’m sorry, I have to say it: Cajkovic is a better skater than the Lightning’s first round pick, Nolan Foote. He’s quick, able to dart in and out, with fantastic edgework. He can make tight turns and stop on a dime in order to stick with the play wherever it goes. However, he does get knocked off the puck, and often times down to the ice, fairly easy, and needs to work on his balance.
Cajkovic has an outstanding motor, too. He’s constantly moving, trying to get open for a teammate when he doesn’t have the puck. That makes it hard for defenders to keep track of and contain him. He often finds himself getting in the middle of board battles, as he is a feisty player, and isn’t afraid of a good scrum. When he does have a shot, he’s always looking for a spot to unleash his wrist shot. His shot is a bullet, but does lack accuracy at times.
He has great vision too, with very underrated passing ability, but he does force a lot of passes into dense areas, and the puck seemingly never gets from point A to B, and leads to turnovers. He played on the powerplay with St John, working the half-wall and point areas. That’s where he displayed his movements without the puck the most, and showed off his underrated playmaking abilities. On the forecheck is where he displays his feisty game the most. He lays the body whenever he can, playing an uber-aggressive game. But this is a shady area for him.
He plays with a ton of emotion, which can be a positive, but this emotion does lead to dirty hits and penalties. For example, in one of the games I watched, he was shoved hard to the ice as he turned and sent the puck in deep. He then got up and skated full speed to the corner where the puck went, and boarded the guy that hit him. One of the dirtiest hits I’ve seen, in a dangerous area, at a high speed. He can also be seen getting in the faces of opponents after the whistle. This is an area of his game that he needs to tone down, a lot.
Regardless, his forechecking is exceptional and displays his high motor. He also backchecks hard, showing his full compete level. In the defensive zone, he is very rarely caught puck watching or puck chasing. He knows where to be at all times, showing good defensive awareness. His feet are always moving in the defensive end as well, staying with his man at all times. He is quick to transition up ice as well, but never “cheats” by leaving the zone early.
Cajkovic plays a very well-rounded, feisty game. I can see him as a potential top-six winger, with power play and penalty kill time, but more than likely a middle-six winger. He already has good skating abilities, that could become great over time. He has good awareness in all three zones, that he could build on to be great. He has good passing, but lacks consistency, which if he fixes, could pair lethally with his already really good shot. Fantastic third round selection, in my opinion.
All stats via eliteprospects
Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals