The waiting was over nearly two-and-a-half hours after it all started, and the Seattle Kraken are hoping their newest selection is worth a potential wait.
The Seattle Kraken used their 20th overall pick of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft on talented 18-year old Czechia-born left winger Eduard Sale, coming out of the Czech Extraliga with HC Kometo BRNO. He became the third pick in Kraken history to be taken in the first round on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena, joining Matty Beniers in 2021 and Shane Wright last year.
Both of the aforementioned players made their debuts within the next year with the Kraken. The path to the NHL may take a little longer for Sale, considered a project which is typical of players taken later in the first round. He furnished 14 points in 43 games but played in Czechia’s top pro league at age 17 and ended the season as the league’s leading scorers among junior-age players.
That led to Sale, whose last name is pronounced “Shaw-lah”, to earning the league rookie of the year honors, joining history with future NHL’ers to earn the league’s rookie award including Tomas Hertl, Milan Hejduk, Martin Necas, and Tomas Plekanec.
Connections exist with one of those names. Necas, who scored 28 goals last season with the Carolina Hurricanes, was picked by Carolina in the first round six years ago with Ron Francis at the helm as general manager, and Kraken director of amateur scouting Robert Kron serving the Hurricanes as a Europe scout.
That’s not to say that Sale can turn into the next Necas, but he entered Wednesday arguably as the top ranked Czech prospect in the draft, and this season as a potential top five NHL pick, based on his tall frame at six-foot-one, an elite level skill set which includes a top-end shot, one-timer, and passing ability. But his projections began to slide with his scoring numbers, which also had him scoreless in six playoff games.
However, Sale earned a spot on Czechia’s World Junior squad, where he earned six points in seven games and a silver medal at the tournament in Halifax.
Sale’s scouting report, according to NHL Central Scouting:
“A very talented player with great offensive instincts. He has all the skills and attributes needed to become the next star from Czechia. He is very active in the offensive zone and can both shoot and pass with precision and authority. He plays with a lot of confidence, is a strong skater with very good speed and balance. Very good hockey sense with vision. Ability to read plays, is a playmaker and possesses a good selection of shots to finish scoring chances. A finesse-type player whose overall game will only improve with added strength.”
The CHL-NHL transfer agreement does not apply for players from Europe as young as age 18 such as Sale, making him eligible for the American Hockey League. Jeff Marek of Sportsnet though reported on Wednesday evening that Sale is expected to play in the Ontario Hockey League next season, where Kraken draft picks such as Shane Wright, David Goyette, Ty Nelson, Logan Morrison, and Ryan Winterton most recently skated.
Sale’s OHL rights are held by the Barrie Colts, who selected him at 29th overall in last year’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.
Across several levels of competition with Team Czechia, Sale has 21 goals and 59 points in 57 career games. It’s expected he will participate in Kraken development camp, opening this Saturday at Kraken Community Iceplex and open to the public on July 2 and July 5.
Day two of the NHL Draft is Thursday, starting at 8am PT, with the Kraken owning nine more selections and three in the second round, a part of what is arguably the deepest draft pool in nearly a decade.