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PROSPECT OF THE MONTH - STEPAN FALKOVSKY

The rookie defenceman was Adirondack's most productive player in February

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

No matter where he is on the ice, you can't miss Stepan Falkovsky.

Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing in at 224-lb, the 20-year-old defenceman is an imposing figure on the ice, towering over teammates and opponents alike.

In the month of February, however, Falkovsky's stature was far from the first thing you noticed when he hit the ice.

His offensive production immediately caught your attention.

The Minsk, Belarus product lead the ECHL's Adirondack Thunder in scoring last month, putting up 12 goals and 15 points in 13 games.

During that stretch, Falkovsky was remarkably consistent in finding the back of net, scoring in nine of 13 games. In addition to establishing himself as Adirondack's most reliable point-producing defenceman in February, he rattled off several career-highs. Falkovsky netted his first professional hat trick, had three multi-point games, scored eight powerplay goals, and put 44 shots on net during that 13-game run. He also scored his first professional shootout game-winning goal.

Tweet from @ECHLThunder: Check out Stepan Falkovsky's hat trick & SO winner with the @SUNYADK highlights and a 4-3 SO win over @BramptonBeast https://t.co/ManjYz1AA2

"I think he's made some really strong progress in terms of understanding how to play the pro game," Adirondack head coach Cail MacLean told CalgaryFlames.com last month. "I think that he has a long way to go - I'll add that right after - but I'm impressed with the way he's adapted offensively at this level and has learned the importance of possession play and having poise with the puck. I think that's probably where the most growth is in his game right now."

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Falkovsky's rise in the second half of his first professional season is likely not a surprise for his former Ottawa 67's head coach Jeff Brown.

After all, he had a similar learning curve during the 2015-16 season, his lone campaign in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He was a fish out of water when he first came here, having to adapt to the North American game and the speed of our league," Brown recalled. "But he's a smart kid and a smart player who, after realizing he couldn't rely on just his long reach, started to move his feet and he became a very effective player for us after that.

"You can't teach size and to move with that size. The kid has a good hockey brain. If he can put it all together the Flames are going to have one heck of a blue chip prospect on their hands."

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Falkovsky's fabulous February is a culmination of hard work and dedication to growing his game at the professional level. 

After signing a AHL/ECHL contract with the club, he was assigned to Adirondack to hone his game with the Thunder. Adapting to his new surroundings took time and he managed just four points in his first three months in Glens Falls.

But when the calendar flipped to 2017, there was a rapid progression in his game. He and the Adirondack coaching staff have worked diligently at rounding out his game in all three zones and it has paid off.

"His habits, his details in his defensive play in the neutral zone and the defensive zone, not only his positioning on the ice but some of the finer points of posture and stick position ... that's what we're looking at," MacLean noted.

"Those are things that when he learns to include those elements, with his size and with his skating ability, he becomes a pretty effective defender. But he's got to keep working away to get those habits down."

Falkovsky now has 20 goals and 29 points through 45 games this year, which ranks seventh in team scoring and sixth amongst rookie defencemen in the ECHL. His 20 tallies and 14 power play goals leads all ECHL freshman blueliners in both categories.

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