The Vancouver Canucks are set to select 15th overall in the first round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
When you’re selecting in the middle of the first round, you need to find an NHL player. Missing on a first-round pick because of the selection of a flash and dash prospect wouldn’t look good on the Canucks’ new management group.
There will be many different options for the Canucks at 15, and one of our favourite players around this spot is Austrian winger Marco Kasper.
Coming in as the second-highest ranked draft-eligible player in the SHL, Kasper plays for the very talented Rögle BK team — the same team that just had Nils Höglander and Moritz Seider.
Kasper’s habits around the rink have been compared to those of Nils Höglander or Vasily Podkolzin. Kasper is the type of person who shows up early, stays late, and is extremely committed to his craft. His coach at Rögle, Cam Abbott, told CanucksArmy that Kasper is another one of these extremely talented kids who have the drive to become the best player and person possible. Abbott told us that Kasper learned how to speak Swedish in about six months and is extremely mature for his age.
“Marco is an exceptional young man,” said Abbott. “He really enjoys working and just loves to put the time in, as Nils Höglander does, which is something I’ve never seen at this level before in terms of teenagers with self-motivation that way. But Marco does it in a very thoughtful way as well. He’s super mature for his age, not just his size for his age, but being mature in his process of getting better.”
There are a few skills that explode off the screen when you watch Kasper play. He’s strong on the forecheck and uses every inch and pound of his 6’1”, 187-pound frame to his advantage. He scored seven goals and added four assists in 46 SHL games this season. Kasper took his game to another level in the playoffs and was noticeable on every shift as he put up three goals and three assists in 13 games.
As a 17-year-old throughout the SHL season, Kasper showed strength against men in one of the best leagues in Europe.
“My hard work and work ethic is a big part of my game but also my hockey sense,” said Kasper during an interview on this Saturday’s episode of the Canucks Conversation Podcast. “I’m not only gritty and hard on the forecheck but I can also make good plays and score goals. I like to think about myself as a player that plays hard but also plays with skill.”
Out of all the Rögle players who participated in all 13 playoff games, Kasper led his team with a 53.1% Corsi. His ability to move the puck up the ice under pressure was one of our favourite parts of watching him play. Even with defenders all over him, he has the intelligence to know where an open teammate is on the ice.
“I want to play an intensive game,” said Kasper. “Always move around and move to the right spots and play hard physically… I know I need to be good at protecting the puck to play at a high level so I work on that with my teammates.”
Here’s a quick sample size of Kasper making passes under pressure.
On top of being a great facilitator, Kasper works hard on the boards and uses his body to keep players as far away from the puck as possible. He also uses things like the net and teammates to create space for himself. There’s a high level of intelligence when it comes to his possession skills and that is very promising at such a young age. He knows how to gain an advantage with his size and even as a 17-year-old, he can use that size advantage against men in the SHL.
The combination of his positional awareness and his high effort level makes him one of the most active players in the offensive zone on a nightly basis. He is always moving his feet in the offensive zone and recognizes when to try and shake a defender with a cut to the dangerous areas like a small forward in a basketball game.
When it comes to his offensive production, you’re going to want to hear this.
Seven of his ten SHL goals came from right around the crease. Kasper shows no fear around the opposing net and works hard to gain leverage under a defenceman so that he can get his stick onto pucks before the defenceman. For this reason, Kasper was given time on Rögle’s power play unit in the SHL playoffs. He played as the net-front presence on the power play, which is also used as a passing option in the corner on their man-advantage group.
Here are the seven goals that Kasper scored around the net this past year in the SHL.
On top of the courage to go to the net, Kasper showed good hand-eye coordination in the slot and was great at tipping in shots this season — as you can see in the previous video.
The part of his game that isn’t quite as advanced as the rest of his game is his shot. Kasper can consistently beat goalies in U20 play but only scored two goals on shots from a medium-long distance in the SHL this season. This is still pretty impressive for a 17-year-old but it’s not the best part of his game.
Here are the two goals from distance in the SHL this year — he likes the slap shot.
Kasper is a great pick at 15 because he already shows so much maturity in his game. He grew up playing centre and still skates in the middle of the ice when he plays the occasional game in junior hockey or international play. This awareness that he has developed from playing at centre makes him a better defender as a winger. He is consistently involved in breakouts and is open for the first outlet pass from his own zone.
On top of that assistance in breakouts, you don’t question his effort level in the defensive zone at all. He gets his stick on shooters in his own zone and takes away passing lanes when attacking the point. His hockey smarts truly shine in the defensive zone and his willingness to go to the dirty areas to disrupt offence in his own zone is a big reason why he doesn’t look far off from being an NHLer even at the age of 17.
From speaking with talent evaluators around the world, the overall thoughts on Kasper are that he could be in the NHL as soon as the 2023-24 season. He will return to Rögle this fall and is likely to see a bigger role with the team. Kasper should be a middle-six forward who will see time on the power play unit and potentially the special teams’ groups as well.
Rögle coach Cam Abbott hinted at a plan to test Kasper out at centre next year in the SHL because Abbott really liked Kasper’s awareness in his own zone. This would be a big boost to the value of Kasper, who played the entire SHL season on the wing.
Our projection for Kasper is to be a lock as a middle-six forward in the NHL with the potential to be a top-six player if he is able to become a bit more dynamic with his offensive skills. There’s a lot to be excited about with Kasper, he’s a hard worker on and off the ice with parents in the hockey world and all the resources to develop over the next year or two in Sweden with Rögle.
I spent 18 minutes with Kasper on episode 262 of The Canucks Conversation Podcast. You can listen to that episode on your favourite podcast provider by clicking here.
Let’s see if he’s available for the Canucks at 15.