Marco Kasper joins Marco Rossi as another high-level prospect out of Austria. There are similarities beyond their first names and home countries: both are responsible, two-way centres with impressive playmaking attributes, and both players are the sons of long-time Austrian professional players. Whereas Rossi played most of his youth hockey in Switzerland, Kasper played up to the U18 level in Klagenfurt, a city in Southern Austria, before moving to Sweden to represent Rogle. Playing all his youth hockey in Austria did not seem to limit Kasper at all, as he played ten games in the pro-level Swedish Hockey League in his very first season in Sweden, only a season removed from the Austrian U18 level. He expanded his SHL role this season, his second in Sweden, as he played 46 regular season games for Rogle’s professional team and 13 more in the playoffs. He represented Austria at the World Championships, where he was one of the youngest players in the tournament, and tallied two assists in seven games.
Kasper’s intelligent playmaking and effective pro-style game seem to have endeared him to NHL scouts and he has a chance to go quite high at the draft after coming in at tenth overall on Bob McKenzie’s final scout poll. He was not a major offensive contributor for Rogle, but impressed in a two-way role as a seventeen year old, a demonstration that NHL teams will understandably appreciate. It’s been quite the rise for a player only two years removed from the Austrian junior circuit, but Kasper has earned his way to a high draft selection and will be one of the most interesting prospects to follow in this draft class.
|Marco Kasper||Date of Birth: 2004-04-08|
|Position: C, Shoots: L||H/W: 6’2", 187 lbs|
|Stats to Date: (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS)||Rogle BK, (46-7-4-11-17)|
Kasper is an interesting skater– he has a bit of a hunched stride and doesn’t seem to generate a whole lot of power out of his strides. His straight-line speed is rather average, but he seems to rarely move in straight lines; Kasper has a ton of east-west in his game, often entering the offensive zone at an angle rather than straight on. There are ups and downs to that strategy: he demands a greater amount of movement and attention from the defence, who can no longer play him straight up and often have to hand him off from defender to defender, but it also means a slower pace– Kasper’s teammates frequently have to stop up at the blueline to allow Kasper time to carry the puck in. It’s a bit at odds with the NHL (and North American) style, which is heavy on north-south movement and maximum pace, and so it may be something that is coached out of him at higher levels. Regardless of what happens, those movement patterns are an intriguing part of Kasper’s current profile.
Here’s an example: Kasper cuts diagonally across the neutral zone on this entry rather than proceeding in a straight line up the boards. Notice how #7 on the near wall has to slow up and drag his foot to stay onside because of the slower pace. On the flip side, #98 is given time to join the rush and provide a net-driving option because of Kasper’s slower pace, so there are both positives and drawbacks.
This is a pretty good look at Kasper’s mechanics. His stride is short and quick, which is almost more typical of a shorter player than the 6’2” Kasper. He accelerates effectively with crossovers, moves well laterally, and has a top speed that is quite high.
We’ll discuss this more in the physicality section, but Kasper’s skating really enables him to make himself a nuisance on the forecheck. He gets in on defenders quickly and– as you’ll see– loves to throw a good hit, so he can really accelerate the decision-making process of a defenceman making a retrieval. He’s at his own blueline when this puck gets dumped in, but flies up ice to force the defenceman to make an immediate play.
Kasper scored seven times in 46 Swedish Hockey League games, which is certainly not a bad total for a seventeen year old. Tip-ins and opportunities around the net constituted the majority of his scoring punch, but Kasper has a pretty good shot and can beat goaltenders from around the slot.
This is a sweet slapper goal coming down the wall.
I can’t see this being a role he plays in the professional game, but Kasper got work as the triggerman on the powerplay in the twelve junior games he played this year and was quite effective taking one-timers from the circle. This one is labeled for the top corner.
His wrister is accurate and deceptive, often being released out of a toe-drag. It’s not majorly powerful– I’m not sure Kasper will threaten from much further than where he scores here, but he’s dangerous from the slot. This shot is perfectly aimed and well set up with the drag.
He’s a good finisher from in tight, corralling pucks well and efficiently getting into a shooting position. This is a fluid, impressive play to quickly control this puck and then snap it past the goaltender.
He isn’t a major scoring threat, but is capable from around the slot and should be a roughly average scorer.
Kasper has a very good set of hands; that goal from in tight above is a good teaser for his puck skills. Here’s a long sequence of control below the goal line, beginning with a nice between the legs move to get the puck to the corner and begin the cycle and a lot of puck protection work behind the net which includes Kasper controlling the puck from his knees for a period of time. For him to come out of all that with the puck is impressive.
Kasper likes this inside-to-outside between-the-legs move, which can create some space and sometimes give him a lane to the net. Here, he gets around the defender and is able to thread a cross-crease pass for an excellent chance.
Like a lot of younger players, he suffers somewhat from the common problem of making an initial move without much of a plan as to what to do afterwards, which can make a play look initially promising before it dies when the puckcarrier meets the next wave of defenders. Kasper threads the puck between the legs of the first defender at the line, but the move takes him away from the support of his teammate (#12) and Kasper ends up turning the puck over on the boards after failing to make a subsequent play.
His puck skills are very good. The primary area for development here lies in how he uses them, and that will be determined in part by what role he plays in the NHL. If he’s playing centre on a scoring line, he’ll probably be using them to generate controlled entries with puck moves at the offensive blueline. If he tops out as more of a role player, he might more commonly utilize them in short flashes like when he fluidly controlled a puck in front of the net and scored in the shooting section of this report. However he uses them, he’ll need to learn how to smoothly integrate his hands with his other skills as well as how to utilize them within the team’s offence in order to avoid turnovers and ensure that he retains support from his teammates all over the ice.
Kasper’s intelligence shines most often through his playmaking– he’s a clever passer with a knack for finding teammates around the net. He produced a pair of assists in seven games for Austria at the World Championships and four more for Rogle in SHL play, but Kasper’s seven assists in twelve games at the junior level, when he wasn’t constrained by a limited role and older competition, serves as the best demonstration of his potential as a passer. This is a terrific pass to hit his teammate cutting towards the net, with Kasper threading the puck just out of reach of one defender while another is draped all over him.
He sees his teammate begin to sneak in backdoor and opens his hips up towards the play, allowing him to play a pass through the defenders and lead his teammate in towards the net. Opening up to the play makes this an easier pass and so it was important that Kasper recognized this play developing early, in order to create time for him to open his hips and then play the pass.
Here’s an incredibly promising display from professional gameplay. Kasper receives a pass in the netfront position on the powerplay, hesitates for a second to draw the netfront defender to him, and then plays a backhand pass right out into the slot for his teammate cutting in. It doesn’t connect cleanly, but Kasper got it into a dangerous area and #12 is able to find it and finish. That’s an impressive play, not only to recognize that #12 is filing in towards the net there but also to draw the defender to him and create a lane with the spinning backhand pass.
Kasper has a developed understanding of passing lanes and is capable of much more than hitting wide open or stationary targets. His excellent vision and anticipation allow him to capitalize on momentary missed assignments by the defence that many attackers would fail to even notice. He’s able to make difficult passes to players cutting in towards the net, hitting short passing windows and often playing the puck out in front for his teammate to skate into. The first and third clips here are wonderful examples of high-level passing intuition in high-traffic areas that can be very difficult to decipher as an attacker. The Austrian has a lot of promise as a playmaker thanks to his intelligence.
It’s difficult to hang in the SHL full-time and represent your country against men at the World Championships without having both tenacity and a physical edge to your game; Kasper, as you’d expect, has both. He isn’t particularly heavyset for his 6’2” frame, but he can throw a solid check and does not get pushed around in tough areas. He’s shown a willingness to play the body before the puck, allowing him to connect for big hits like this one.
He’s a very aggressive physical player, sometimes teetering on the line of what’s legal. He lands this hit high on the back of the British defenceman, and was probably saved from a boarding penalty by the opponent’s last-minute turn to the side.
Hopefully he’ll keep things on the good side of the line, but the effect of that aggressive physical play is a higher level of panic in opposing players, who may be inclined to rush the play in order to better prepare themselves for the incoming blow. This Finn sees Kasper coming and tries to quickly play the puck to a teammate and then jump out of danger, but Kasper lays him out and the puck bounces back into Austria’s possession at the point.
Kasper finishes every check and is constantly looking for ways to land bumps on opposing players. That type of physicality requires energy expenditure that most skill players would prefer to save for offensive play, but Kasper’s high effort level encompasses all sides of the puck. The Austrian is constantly moving his feet, trying to get in as quickly as possible on the forecheck or give an opponent as little time as possible to make a play, and that compete level is what ultimately makes Kasper a difficult player to play against.
Skating 55; Shot 50; Smarts 60; Skills 55; Physicality/Compete 60
A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity