Weight: 168 pounds
Date of birth: December 11, 2000
Hometown: Kadan, Czech Republic
OHL Draft: Round 1, 12th overall, 2018 CHL Import Draft
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season: NR, November: C Prospect. Mid-term: 103 overall NA
Erie Otters forward Petr Cajka was born in the Czech Republic but spent most of his time playing at different levels in Switzerland. The lanky pivot earned a reputation of being a shooter first and when you look at his stats throughout his career, it is confirmed by the fact he almost always puts up more goals than assists.
That reputation has carried over to the Ontario Hockey League where the Otters selected Cajka with the 12th overall pick at the 2018 CHL Import Draft. To date, the Otters centreman has appeared in 57 games and has posted 20 goals and 14 assists.
Let’s begin by looking at areas that Cajka needs to improve. The first thing that draws my attention is faceoffs. With just 249 faceoff wins on 622 attempts, which is only 40%, it is a major concern. I can live with draft eligible players being in the 47%-49% range in their rookie season as they tend to always show improvement, but 40% makes me wonder whether he is better suited on the wing – at least for now.
Secondly, if you are going to have success in the middle, using your teammates more effectively has to at some point become a staple in your arsenal. Sure, we can look at the quality of teammates, but at some point, we must recognize there is a trend happening.
But there is so much to like about Cajka’s game. Despite the lack of size and bulk, he is incredibly strong on his skates. Combined with a motor that always seems to be in high gear, he wins more battles then he loses along the wall. His puck protection skills are very good and he uses his excellent edgework to escape the check.
Cajka’s shot is high calibre and he uses it with a deceptive release and accuracy. He has a 22.2% shooting percentage from high to mid danger zone shots. He’s not afraid to shoot from anywhere on the ice. Half his goals come from low-danger zone shots where he is scoring on 11.24% of those shots. In fact, he has twice as many low danger zone shots as he does high to mid danger zone shots.
When you look at Cajka’s defensive game, you have to come away with nothing less then impressed. He is highly skilled on the penalty kill using that same motor he has offensively to do the necessary battling when down a man. He understands his positioning extremely well, gets into lanes, battles for pucks and does not shy away from going down to block shots. He’s also a threat offensively when a man down.
Now let’s circle back to that playmaking. Cajka has shown that he is capable of doing more in the area. It’s interesting to note that 8 of his 14 assists are primary assists. And they were all high quality – not just bouncing in off a teammates skate. So, there is some quality playmaking ability there.
At this point, I’m just not convinced Cajka is better suited down the middle at the next level. There is some work that needs to be put in. The wing might be a better situation for him. That said, he has the ability to be a quality third liner in the NHL who can kill penalties, take on defensive responsibilities and chip in some offence.