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Kārlis Čukste and Adam Parsells: The Long Route

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The Sharks opted for patience in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by selecting project players Adam Parsells and Kārlis Čukste

Adam Parsells is a tall defenseman for the Chicago Steel
Adam Parsells is a tall defenseman for the Chicago Steel
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last summer, the San Jose Sharks took the patient route in the NHL Entry Draft. They selected four players bound for college hockey and another two who were going to develop outside of the ever-popular Canadian Major Junior leagues.

Adam Parsells (college bound) and Kārlis Čukste (pronounced Car-lis Shuke-steh) (unknown future) played in the United States Hockey League as members of the Chicago Steel for the 2015-2016 campaign. Both Cukste and Parsells are defense-first defenders who need to iron out some deficiencies before challenging for a roster spot at the professional level.


Adam Parsells - Chicago Steel - #36
Parsells will be part of the Wisconsin Badgers defense next year. The San Jose Sharks selected him in the 6th round, 160th Overall of last year’s NHL Entry Draft. He was drafted into the USHL (3rd round, 40th Overall) and signed by the Green Bay Gamblers, but was traded early on in the season to the Chicago Steel. He has put up a modest 13 points in 50 games in the low-scoring USHL.

Here is my scouting report on him:
Adam Parsells is a towering yet slight defenseman for the Chicago Steel. He played on both the 1st and 2nd even strength pairings at different points in the year for Chicago, and served as a steady presence on the 2nd power play unit. He also manned the 1st penalty killing unit.

Parsells’ biggest assets are his size and skating ability. An extraordinarily fluid skater for his size, where Parsells truly excels is his edge work; an area that often befalls players of his stature. While his feet aren't necessarily quick, Parsells compensates with a long, smooth stride that allows him to cover an impressive amount of ice. He is strong on his skates and has decent lateral movement. At times, his forward to backwards transitions leave something to be desired, which could haunt him at the next level.

Parsells is a very safe player when it comes to his offensive game. He makes a good first pass, but really struggles when he skates himself into trouble and fumbles the puck. He can be jumpy at times and he can make errant passes. While his vision is solid, his passing ability is erratic. His decision making with the puck is questionable. Often, he defers to his defensive partner to lead the breakout or skate the puck out of trouble. He needs to get more involved offensively, as he often patrols the blue line as a ‘hang-back’ option when the puck is in the offensive zone.

Parsells has an above average shot. Over the course of the year he became more comfortable with using his shot as a means to create scoring chances and get whistles. He has a decent release on his wrist shot, but I really like his slap shot. The velocity and power he can get into it is incredible when he leans into it.

Parsells is a mixed bag when it comes to thinking the game. He makes nice defensive reads, but his hesitation and decision making with the puck really kills any sort of offensive prowess he could possess. I love that he knows his limitations and that he’ll never play a flashy type of game. It shows signs of mental maturity.

Defensively, Parsells uses his size well to clear the crease and break up plays with his long reach. He has nice defensive instincts and uses his size to box out smaller opponents from jumping into prime scoring areas. He is great on the penalty kill, where he uses smart stick placement, poke checks, and positioning to eliminate high danger scoring chances. I think he has a solid defensive toolset to build on.

Parsells is disappointing physically. He doesn’t have a mean streak, and for his size he does not intimidate opponents or deliver many body checks. I like how he uses his size as a mechanism for defending his positioning, but adding some brutish physicality would do him well when trying to earn a contract. He has the raw physical tools to succeed, he just needs time to put it together.

Adam Parsells has potential as a defenseman at the NHL level, but he is a long way away and will likely need all four years of college hockey before he can make the jump to the professional level. Right now he needs to work on his decision making, physicality, and offensive toolset to be successful. He will certainly look to improve in many of these areas under the Badgers coaching staff.

Summary:
Pros:
- mobile
- makes safe plays
- good defensive toolset
- is huge and has physical upside

Cons:
- not physical enough
- doesn’t think the game well enough
- isn’t dynamic enough to stand out
- a long way off of his potential


Kārlis Čukste- Chicago Steel - #16
Kārlis Čukste is a 6-foot-2 defenseman with some promise. The San Jose Sharks selected him in the 5th round, 130th Overall of last year’s NHL Entry Draft. He originally attended the Waterloo Black Hawks camp, but never made an appearance for them. The Chicago Steel signed him in mid-October, and he has notched 13 points in 38 games since.

Here is my scouting report on him:
Kārlis Čukste is a rather large Latvian defenseman who plays for the Chicago Steel. He saw time on both the 2nd pairing and the 3rd pairing. He played both LD and RD and was used as a utility defenseman on both the power play and the penalty kill.

Čukste is not the greatest skater and is not very strong on his skates. His lateral movement isn’t very good, and quick, agile forwards have an easy time finding space or separation to beat him out wide. His acceleration is rather poor, as is his edgework. Čukste needs to do a better job keeping his feet moving.

Čukste is not dynamic enough to be much of a force offensively. He is a good puck mover in tight spaces, but lacks the creativity and passing touch to be effective in the offensive zone. However, he’ll wow you at times with quick, effective outlet passes to start the rush.

One thing I do like about Čukste is his shooting. His wind up is quick, and he does an excellent job at getting pucks onto sticks and on net. His slap shot has a lot of power and punch behind it, but could stand to be a bit more accurate.

Čukste, like Parsells, knows what his limitations are and what he can and cannot do. He has good awareness on both ends of the rink and anticipates plays well. Čukste struggles when he becomes uninvolved in the play or when he makes poor decisions without the puck. He needs to be careful to not go chasing forwards during the cycle.

Čukste has a good defensive toolset that sets a solid foundation for more development in the future. He has a long reach which benefits his ability to break up cross-ice or cross crease passes. He does a good job at tying up sticks near the net, as well as keeping the shooting lanes clear. His gap control is good, but there are warts in his game. He is often a bit too aggressive and sometimes he looks lost and confused on his positioning in the defensive zone. A major problem with his game is that he can have blown coverage at times when the offense attempts to open up space or get wingers moving below the hashmarks.

Kārlis Čukste is not overly physical for his size but certainly doesn’t shy away from contact. He has upside, but is very raw. He is definitely a project pick. I like how he picked up his game after the World Juniors with Latvia, he looked faster and stronger. Kārlis has options for next year, as his rights are owned by the Rouyn Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL.

Summary:

Pros:
- defensive toolset
- slap shot/wrist shot
- puck moving in tight spaces

Cons:
- blown coverage
- poor skating (lateral movement/general mobility)
- isn’t dynamic