Martin Pospisil, selected 105th overall in 2018 by the Calgary Flames, is one of Calgary’s lesser hyped yet very promising prospects. Now that the 2020–21 season has concluded, he was ranked 13th on The Win Column’s prospect rankings. Let’s take a closer look at what the forward brings to the Flames.
Full disclosure: I ranked Martin Pospisil higher on my list than any other Win Column contributors did on theirs.
Pospisil slotted in at 11th on my rankings but he could’ve placed even higher. Few prospects in Calgary’s system offer such a tantalizing blend of attributes. He’s big, but skates well; tough, but undeniably skilled; and, most of all, he’s a fearless competitor.
The 21-year-old Slovak primarily lined up as the third-line centre for the Stockton Heat this season while also taking a regular shift on the power play. He scored five goals and 11 points in 14 games before a knee injury and shoulder surgery cut his season short.
Pospisil’s on-ice results
After two excellent years with the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, Pospisil made the jump to the Heat starting with the 2019–20 season.
Much like Dmitry Zavgorodniy in 2020–21, Pospisil took a while to become acclimated with the American Hockey League. The 2018 fourth-round draft selection recorded just three points (all assists) in his first 19 professional games.
While his offensive game faltered early in his pro career, Pospisil nonetheless hurled him headfirst into the league’s enduring physical arena. The AHL remains a league full of enforcers and Pospisil found plenty of willing combatants, racking up five fights and 56 penalty minutes in 26 games during the 2019–20 season.
In an Oct. 19, 2019 game against the Bakersfield Condors, his sixth AHL contest, Pospisil suffered a concussion after being knocked out in a fight against the late Colby Cave.
Pospisil’s injury kept him out of the Heat lineup for nearly three months; after his return the following January, he finished his debut professional season with seven points (three goals, four assists) in his final seven games.
To start the 2020–21 season, Pospisil played 22 games for Kosice HC in Slovakia and scored 17 points (nine goals, eight assists). He then returned to North America and joined the Heat in time for the beginning of their campaign, primarily occupying a bottom-six centre role for them.
Pospisil thrived on the power play with Stockton, scoring three goals and seven points on the man-advantage. He added two more goals and a pair of assists at even strength to bring his totals up to five goals and 11 points through 13 games.
He earned a promotion to Stockton’s top line—with Matthew Phillips and fellow Slovak Adam Ruzicka—to start game 14. Then, this happened.
Pospisil suffered a torn MCL and MPFL in his left leg as a result of the above knee-on-knee hit by Laval Rocket forward Yannick Veilleux. Just over three minutes into his first game on Stockton’s first line, in the midst of a white-hot personal scoring streak, Pospisil’s season was over.
Veilleux was suspended four games for the hit. Pospisil’s knee did not require an operation following the injury but he underwent shoulder surgery to address a nagging issue shortly after Veilleux’s suspension was announced. He is expected to make a full recovery in time for the Flames’ training camp this fall.
Pospisil’s strengths and weaknesses
Pospisil produced most of his offense in the 2020–21 season by setting up shop in front of the opposing goaltender during Heat power plays.
He effectively used his large frame to clear space for himself and made use of his long reach to swat loose pucks into yawning cages.
Pospisil is a spark plug of a player who toes the line with his physical play, never shies away from confrontations, and seldom passes up an opportunity to defend a teammate.
Although he boasts a decent wrister, Pospisil’s offensive opportunities mostly come from within five feet of the net. He puts in strong work along the boards and down low before advancing just above the goal line and positioning himself in the best possible spot to deflect the puck or jam at a rebound.
Pospisil took 29 shots in just 14 games during the 2020–21 season. As an AHL rookie, he took 27 shots in 26 games.
Heat coach Cail MacLean described the many facets of Pospisil’s game following an 8-1 win over the Toronto Marlies on Feb. 26, 2021:
Given some good opportunity, here, [Pospisil] has done really well. He’s got some great edge to his game. He’s physical and he makes great plays. He had a really solid game tonight. I think one of the things that also stands out with Martin is, he does those things, he plays hard, he makes good offensive plays. And, at the same time, at the drop of a hat, if someone threatens someone in his family, he’ll go right after them. And I think that that is a quality that is deeply, deeply ingrained in him. He’s got a big family that he really loves and he treats his teammates like his family.Cail MacLean, Heat TV, Feb. 26, 2021
Pospisil’s next steps
Once he returns to full health, Pospisil will attend Calgary’s training camp in fall 2021. At this point, following major injuries in back-to-back AHL seasons, it’s unlikely he makes the NHL team to begin the year. The organization will probably prioritize getting Pospisil into as many AHL games as possible in the 2021–22 season.
Pospisil will likely aim to nail down a top-six role with the Heat in 2021–22. With Connor Zary, Jakob Pelletier, and (maybe) Ryan Francis joining the team on a full-time basis next season, Pospisil should have plenty of competition for a spot near the top of the lineup.
Assuming at least one of Phillips and Ruzicka earn a promotion to the Flames to begin next season, Stockton will likely have multiple openings in its top-six. If Pospisil continues his strong play from 2020–21 into the upcoming campaign, he shouldn’t have any trouble earning a big role.
Pospisil has one year remaining on his entry-level contract. He turns 22 in November and could feasibly draw into some NHL contests if he impresses in his return to the Heat. With his NHL-ready size and relatively unique skillset, Pospisil should be able to endear himself relatively easily to new Flames head coach Darryl Sutter if the opportunity presents itself.
For now, Pospisil needs to play a ton of hockey at the AHL level. Look for him to potentially surge up Stockton’s scoring leaderboard in the 2021–22 season.
Featured image created with Venngage.