When Maxim Cajkovic was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning 89th overall in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, a lot of prospect watchers praised the pick, with good reason. Cajkovic is a very skilled winger who played on a Saint John Sea Dogs team that was not very good. He tried his best to carry his team, but he just didn’t have much going around him to really help him out. He was so well-thought-of before coming to the QMJHL that the Sea Dogs used the first overall pick in the 2018 CHL Import Draft to take him.
Cajkovic was the last player on the reader’s rankings coming in at 25th. Among the writers, though, he came in at 18th on the list. He was on all ten of the staff members’ ballots, ranging from 16th to 22nd. Myself and loserpoints had him highest on our lists at 16th with Achariya, Lauren, and Igor placing him at 17th. The other five votes were one at 19th, one at 21st, and three at 22nd.
As I said in the opening, Cajkovic was not on a very good team last season. There are 18 teams in the QMJHL and 16 teams qualify for the playoffs. Saint John was one of the two teams to not qualify. If they had been in another division, they may have finished with a record worse than the 13-49-6 record they had. One thing that helped was having a team in their division that was EVEN WORSE in the Acadie-Bathurst Titan that finished 8-54-6. Oof.
Cajkovic finished the season with 22 goals, 24 assists, and 46 points in 60 games. He led the team in all three offensive categories. To put that into perspective, if he had been on any of the playoff teams with his 46 points, he would have averaged being the 5th highest scoring player with a range from 2nd to 10th best scorer on the team.
There is some hope that Saint John will be better next season with some of these young players having another year under their belts. Of the next 10 players in points on the Sea Dogs roster, one was an overager, three were 19, one was 18, one was 17, and four were 16. The team’s top three center scorers were 17, 16, and 16. The 17 year old player is returning home to the Czech Republic to play, but the other two will be a little older and have a little more experience that could benefit Cajkovic and the other forwards on the team. The top two scoring defensemen were also 16 years old.
Prior to coming to the QMJHL, Cajkovic was playing in the Swedish junior leagues. Cajkovic is Slovakian, but he played in the Czech U16 junior leagues in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and then went to Sweden in 2016-17. In 2017-18, he put up 10 goals and 21 points in the SuperElit U20 league for the Malmo Redhawks. He added 14 goals and 17 points in 10 games for Malmo in the J18 Elit league. His 21 points in SuperElit was 6th among all U17 players and 3rd in points per game.
Internationally, Cajkovic has played in three major tournaments for Team Slovakia. He has played in the U18 World Junior Championships twice. In 2017-18, he recorded four goals and 11 points in five games finishing second in scoring in the tournament behind Jack Hughes’ 12 points in seven games. Slovakia lost in the quarter finals.
In seven games during the 2018-19 tournament, Cajkovic recorded three goals and seven points in seven games and served as an Alternate Captain. Cajkovic tied for the lead on Team Slovakia for goals and assists and led in points. However, Slovakia went 0-4-0 in group play against the USA, Sweden, Russia, and Latvia. They then lost in the relegation round in three games to Switzerland and were relegated to Division IA for 2020.
Cajkovic also played in the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament for Slovakia recording two goals and four points in four games. Slovakia finished third in their group with Canada, Sweden, and Switzlerand with a 1-2-0 record and then lost to the Czech Republic in the fifth place game to finish sixth in the tournament.
There’s definitely still some question marks surround Cajkovic’s future. He’s in a tough situation with Saint John, surrounded by a lot of young players on a team that hasn’t done a whole lot of winning the past two seasons. At this point, I think his ceiling is as a middle six winger. Right now, the Lightning are flush with left wingers from the top of the organization on down. There is much less depth going down the right side after Nikita Kucherov.
It would be great to see Saint John flourish and Cajkovic really kick up the offense this year, or maybe have an opportunity to be moved to a better team in the QMJHL and really show off his skill set. He has two more years that he can spend in the QMJHL before he would turn professional and likely go to the Syracuse Crunch for some seasoning.
At this point, I think an optimistic projection is as a second line right winger that can bring some offensive punch behind Nikita Kucherov, but that is likely three-to-five seasons down the road. Even if he falls short of that and ends up being a nice third line winger that brings some offensive depth, it’ll still be a success for the Lightning from a third round draft pick.