The Detroit Red Wings are hoping Martin Frk’s nightmarish season landed them a dream pick in the second round.
The Halifax Mooseheads right-winger suffered a concussion in training camp last August and missed the first four months of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season. For much of that time, he was plagued with headaches and not permitted to train — not even on a stationary bike — meaning he could do little more than sit on the couch.
By the time he returned on Dec. 9, his stock had slipped — from potential top-10 pick to late first-rounder — and although he finished with 16 goals and 13 assists for 29 points in 34 games, he was a consensus second-rounder coming into the 2012 NHL draft in Pittsburgh.
That’s where the Red Wings happily grabbed him, 49th overall.
“If he played a full season, he was probably going to be a 30-goal scorer, but he got hurt, and that’s part of the game,” said Red Wings scout Mark Leach. “We love his skills.”
The 6-foot, 193-pound Czech’s best asset is his shot, which might be the hardest in the 2012 draft class. The puck screams off his stick and intimidates opposing goaltenders, although he could stand to take some heat off it to be more accurate.
But he’s also got a solid build, with excellent puck protection skills and vision, as well as the ability to beat players 1-on-1.
Put it all together and he has all of the assets of a top-six winger who can make noise on the power play.
“He has great ability to get into holes, he can shoot the puck, he knows what to do with it once he gets it and he can score,” Leach said. “He’s got very good work ethic off the ice, he’s willing to compete, he’s willing to battle, he wants to go into the hard areas and get the puck … and he knows what it’s going to take at the next level.”
His defensive effort needs to come a long way, as does his discipline. Before he came to Halifax, he led the Czech under-20 league with 186 penalty minutes in 41 games, but he accumulates most of them via after-the-whistle retaliation and misconducts.
Skating is another area scouts have concerns with, but the Red Wings aren’t overly worried — especially knowing how much time he missed with the concussion.
“He’s got good enough speed and his hockey sense allows him to get to the holes and the right areas,” Leach said. “We think his foot-speed is very good.”
The Red Wings had a good feel for Frk because they watched him as an underager, when he finished fourth among QMJHL rookies with 22 goals and 28 assists for 50 points in 62 games.
Better yet, he had three goals and three assists in six games with the Czech Republic at the 2011 IIHF world junior championship, which he missed in 2012 because of his concussion.
To top it off, Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer is familiar with Frk through the Czech national junior program and vouched for his off-ice work ethic. A testament to that was his fifth-place finish in the grueling VO2 max test at the NHL scouting combine in May.
“He’s in pretty good shape for a guy who really didn’t play a lot this year,” Leach said. “We think we’ve found something to develop.”
The Mooseheads, led by potential 2013 No. 1 pick Nathan MacKinnon, have a strong team pegged as a Memorial Cup contender, so Frk is a good bet for a breakthrough in 2012-13 if he gets a healthy start to his season.
In the end, the Red Wings hope they landed a player who will put pucks in the net for them.
“He’s a shooter,” Leach said. “He wants the puck on his stick, he gets into the holes and he wants to score. Those assets are very difficult to teach and everybody’s looking for them. We’re very lucky to have him.”