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NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Erik Cernak

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 16, 2015


Get to Know Erik Cernak

Date of Birth: 5/28/1997
Place of Birth: Kosice, SVK
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 203 lbs
Shoots: Right
Position: Defenseman
Team: HC Kosice (Slovakia’s top league)


What Scouts See

Elite Prospects:

Huge, strength and reach man. Has very good experoence for his age. He is impressive talent with solid physical play, Cernak shows brilliant defensive game and the play in front of his own goalie. In his younger years, he is perfect useful in powerplay situations. He is a big defenseman, but doesn’t spend a lot of time on the penalty box. Could be better skater.

Last Word on Sports:

Erik Cernak has excellent size, and uses it to play a stout defensive game.  He clears the front of the net, and uses his size to impose his will in the corners. Cernak is already pretty strong, and he still has room to fill out his frame and add some more muscle, which will certainly help in those battles. He is willing to throw big hits if they become available, and can sometimes get himself out of position looking for those hits.

He also can sometimes cross the line, as he did in elbowing Mikko Rantanen and earning a suspension during the World Juniors. Cernak also uses a long, and active stick to poke check the puck away from opponents, and to cut down on shooting and passing lanes. He can learn to be even better with it though, as he sometimes looks a little raw. Cernak keeps opponents to the outside on the rush, and in defending against the cycle, holding them to less dangerous areas on the ice.

His positioning is pretty good most of the time, but can continue to get better.  Cernak’s hockey sense and ability to read the play are important assets to his game. He is not afraid to put his body on the line and block shots.

Erik Cernak is a decent skater for his size, but is by no means a speedster.  He has decent speed and acceleration, though he could improve a choppy stride to be even better.  Cernak also has decent enough edgework and agility that he becomes hard to beat off the rush.  His best asset though is his balance and strength on his skates.  This gives him a real edge in battling in front of the net, and for loose pucks in the corners.  He can even add more strength to his lower body and continue to get better at this aspect of his game.

Erik Cernak has never put up big points, but he may have some untapped offensive potential. He has a hard slap shot, which he keeps low and on net.  He also makes a decent first pass out of the zone, and can make some plays in the offensive zone.  However, Cernak is more likely to make the safe play than to take chances trying to create offense. He also could stand to be better at choosing when to pinch and keep the play alive, instead of always playing the stay at home role.

TSN Director of Scouting, Craig Button:

Cernak has played well above his age group for many years and has acquitted himself quite well.  There is no area of his game that stands out but he is an effective defenceman who can contribute in an efficient manner. Improving his agility, mobility and quickness will help better utilize his size.

Cernak’s part starts at 1:22

NHL Potential

Cernak is listed as a potential two-way defender by about every reputable service out there. While his offensive numbers haven’t been overly impressive throughout his career, the majority of evaluators feel there is untapped potential in his game. A player of his size should certainly find a role on a team’s penalty killing unit and at work their middle pairing. If Cernak hits his absolute ceiling, he’s a future first-pairing defenseman with shutdown and point-scoring potential.

Expected Draft Position

Cernak’s rankings, like so many others in the glut of second round prospects, waver quite a bit. Corey Pronman has him as the 20th best prospect overall whereas CSS has him rated as the 16th-best European skater. He doesn’t appear on Button’s top 100 but clocks in at 41 on Bob McKenzie’s list and Future Considersations put Cernak 90th. That’s anywhere from the second half of the first round to the end of the third round.

As is we normally do, we’re going conservatively and projecting Cernak to be a second round selection.

How Prospect Fits in Avalanche Organization

There’s already been some noise about Colorado’s interest in Cernak with their second round selection, 40th overall, so clearly the team feels he’s a potential fit in their system. As a right-handed defenseman with a big body and physical playstyle, Cernak would be a perfect fit for the way the Avalanche have been drafting in recent seasons.

His status as a right-handed defenseman shouldn’t be overlooked, either, as the NHL places a higher premium on right-handed defensemen simply because there are fewer of them at the NHL level. In Colorado’s system, the only high quality non-NHL players that are considered legitimate prospects playing that are right-handed defensemen are Stefan Elliott and Kyle Wood.

Cernak would certainly bring an element to the Avalanche organization that is still lacking overall but would continue their trend of going after skilled big men, especially from Europe.

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