After a few weeks of quiet on the recruiting front Northeastern got back in the news Monday night by securing the verbal commitment of Adam Zlnka, a Slovakian winger currently playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL. He is the first player from outside North America to commit to Northeastern since Ludwig Karlsson of Sweden, who played at the school from 2011-2013.
Zlnka is a 2004 birth year, a right-handed shot, stands 6-foot-even and 172 pounds, and is in his second year of USHL play after his first season ended prematurely with an injury to his ACL and meniscus. He has since had surgery and is back skating for the Stampede, already with an assist in their first two games skating on the third line. In 10 USHL games last season he had 4 points (1 goal), all of which came in the five games leading up to his injury while playing in the Sioux Falls top six. Prior to the USHL he played in his native Slovakia where he was a point-per-game player at nearly all levels, including Team Slovakia International Jr (20 points in 26 games over 3 years), 26 points in 21 games for the Slovakia U18 team in the Slovakia 2 League, and Ässät U18 (18 points in 19 games).
Zlnka was selected in the 7th round, 204th overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2022 NHL Draft, after Arizona traded up with San Jose to make sure they got the skilled winger in what some evaluators called the “steal of the draft.” Due to his injury, he was not ranked on many public scouting boards, to the point where it got so late he was not even watching the draft. In an interview with Slovakian media, he said “I was just on my way home from Croatia with my friends. I watched in the car on my phone as the names came up. There was a short break in the draft before the last round, so I turned it off and put my phone away.” However, he knows that being drafted is just the start of his journey, and he’s kept his focus on the road ahead: “The fact that I was drafted means nothing in itself. I have to prove to Arizona that I deserve it and repay their trust.” Zlnka goes on to reveal he had contact with 13 NHL clubs, so despite the injury and the small sample size, the skill and the historical production intrigued enough teams that he was on teams’ radars.
In his draft season, he also played for Team Slovakia’s Hlinka Gretzky team that won a silver medal, sharing the ice with top NHL picks such as Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec, who went one-two in the same draft. While playing in the tournament, Zlnka turned heads and showed he belonged, impressing American and international scouts alike.
Scouting reports describe Zlnka as having “a powerful, quick, and accurate shot,” and a combination of speed and quickness that “always looks better than his numbers show.” One scout added that he believes he should have gone well above 204th overall, as he has “tons of skill in his game,” and that same scout later added that “he’s got first/second round talent to me.” Mark Divver added to the praise saying he’s a “skilled forward with good instincts.”
In the interview linked above, Zlnka mentions that he envisions himself playing one more year in the USHL then heading to college. Given that information and assuming he plays a full year on his repaired ACL, we project that he would likely be a part of the recruiting class of 2023, enrolling next fall. He still would have a year of eligibility if he did choose to return to the USHL and defer a year, but at this point we consider that unlikely. We look forward to watching his development in Sioux Falls this year.
Congratulations to Adam on his commitment to Northeastern!