When 2011 NHL draft prospect David Musil was looking to set out on his Western League career, the journey began with a bit of controversy.
Because he wasn’t living in Western Canada at the time, Musil wasn’t taken in his bantam draft year. But WHL teams can “list” up to 50 players between 14 and 20 years old after their draft year (including roster players), which prevents them from joining another squad.
Born in Edmonton, but mostly raised in the Czech Republic, Musil’s family moved back to Delta, B.C., prior to the 2009-10 season. The Vancouver Giants were the hometown team so Musil’s father, former NHLer Frank Musil, contacted the club to see if they’d be interested in listing his son.
“We kept it quiet and everything and did all the right paperwork and then all of a sudden we listed him and teams in the league knew who he was and started to complain about it,” said Jason Ripplinger, Vancouver’s director of player personnel. “So the league decided to do a lottery draft and Kootenay ended up winning. Good for Kootenay because they didn’t know he was in Canada and they ended up getting a first round pick out of it.”
Musil wanted to play where his family was living so the Ice traded him to the Giants for first and fifth round picks. And after the initial rocky road to the junior ranks, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman stepped right in as an impact player on one of the WHL’s top teams, despite being only 16 years old.
“Last year him coming in it was like he was an 18-year-old – like he had played two years in our league already,” Ripplinger said. “His poise with the puck when being pressured, not making any mistakes; he was such a reliable player.”
Musil led the Giants with a stellar plus-33 rating in 2009-10 en route to a Western Conference final appearance and entered this season as a first round NHL draft prospect.
Having already played at a couple international events for the Czech Republic, Musil was anticipating hitting the big stage at the World Junior Championship. But after sustaining a broken foot while blocking a shot in a WHL game, Musil was forced to sit out the tournament.
“World juniors was kind of disappointing for me,” Musil said. “I was excited, but a couple weeks before I got injured and I was going with the mindset I was going to play, but it didn’t work out. I was really excited for this season to go to the world junior.”
Nonetheless, Musil remains a hot prospect. Ranked 13th overall by International Scouting Services and 26th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, Musil is a reliable shutdown defender with offensive upside.
But while his powerful frame is daunting, Musil isn’t the type of defender who is always looking to throw the big hit – he’d rather just make the smart play.
“He’s not overly physical, but won’t shy away from it,” Ripplinger said. “He got into a fight at the prospects game, but I haven’t personally seen him fight – he did pretty good. Obviously when you’re that big, you’re going to get challenged.”
Musil cites his father as a significant influence in his career. Frank himself was a big defender who played parts of 14 seasons in the NHL for Minnesota, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton and was a second round pick in 1983. The fact someone in David’s family has lived this life has helped him develop as a player and deal with being a top prospect in his draft year.
“Always practicing with me, coaching me, he passed on a lot of experience,” Musil said of his father. “He went through all this so he knows what he’s talking about.”
When it comes to comparisons, Ripplinger didn’t want to measure Musil against Chris Pronger and had a hard time putting his finger on one specific player, simply stating, “he does it all.” Musil also had a hard time lining himself up to an NHLer, but put a common comparison into context.
“I like to watch Pronger,” Musil said. “It’s hard to say if I play like someone – if I played like him I’d be in the NHL at 18.”
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