The Trusted Source of Czech Hockey / Nová stránka o nadějích českého hokeje

Czech List: New Wave of Czechs Entering AHL, Hoping For NHL Spots

By on August 29, 2014 in North American with 0 Comments

If you’re a Czech hockey player, there are many ways for you to get to the NHL. If you’re young, you may go overseas or to Sweden or even Finland or you may just opt to stay at home and look to follow in Tomáš Hertl’s footsteps. If those first steps don’t get you to the NHL, you may find yourself back playing for your hometown team and what then?

That was the case of forward Martin Růžička, among others. Hailing from Beroun, not far from Prague, he went to the Western Hockey League after a couple years in Kladno. Eventually, he came back and in 2012-13, at the age of 27, he had a memorable season collecting 83 points in 52 games. That got him a tryout offer in the NHL, which he unfortunately didn’t accept and now he’s playing the KHL.

It looks like after years of failure, Czech hockey may be coming back not just in terms of junior national teams. This year has produced four of transfer similar to the one that could have occured between Růžička’s Třinec and one of NHL teams just a year ago.

Sekáč na nováčkovském kempu Canadiens. Zdroj: La Presse

Sekáč at the Montreal Canadiens Rookie Camp. Courtesy of La Presse

The most remarkable of those, yet not identical to the others, is the transfer of Jiří Sekáč. He may be the closest of the four to actually playing in the NHL as he was targeted by many teams in the offseason. Formerly USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms forward, the 22-year-old native of Kladno spent two years overseas and now is coming back after three years in Slovakia and Czech Republic.

Playing in 73 regular-season games for Lev Prague of the KHL, Sekáč sent a message to North America that was heard loud and clear. He’s worth a place in the NHL, not down in the minors. And the Montreal Canadiens are willing to give him just that, probably a bottom-six spot where he will be able to put in good use the skills that even got him to the KHL in first place.

What are those? Speed, ferocity among others. He hails from the ultimate Hockeytown of the Czech Republic, Kladno. So is his only Czech teammate, Tomáš Plekanec. That doesn’t increase his odds of becoming a regular in the NHL, but it sure makes you pay more attention.

Kladno is not the only Hockeytown the Czechs have and Pardubice can be called that way as well. Producing the likes of Dominik Hašek and selling out the arena for Extraliga games, that’s just what they do over there. 21-year-old forward Tomáš Nosek comes from that town and he’s one of the four transferring overseas from Czech-based clubs.

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Nosek with the Detroit Red Wings. Courtesy of redwings.nhl.com

The difference between Sekáč and Nosek, right now, is that the latter will most likely play in the American Hockey League. The Detroit Red Wings signed him to a two-way contract and they already have a pretty large Czech colony in Grand Rapids, led by popular goalie Petr Mrázek. At 6’2”, Nosek is able to combine his talent and size into a dangerous package that can get him to the NHL in just a couple of years.

Nosek was always considered a top talent, but his hometown team gave him a lot of time to develop fully among juniors. He played his first Extraliga game at the age of 19, but he still appeared in six U20 Extraliga games a season later. In the meantime, he captained the Under-20 national team at the 2012 U20 World Juniors. Right where his new teammate Mrázek became so popular.

Sekáč was a member of that team as well and so was offensive defenseman Petr Zámorský out of Zlín, member of the 2013-14 season Extraliga championship team. Soon after hoisting the Masaryk Cup, the blueliner signed a contract with Finnish team Espoo Blues, but before even playing a game for his new club, the New York Rangers locked him up for two years.

Scoring 3 assists in 10 games of the 2014 World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, Zámorský might start off his North American journey in AHL’s Hartford, but NHL teams are always looking for talented offensive blueliners and that’s where the Rangers might use him in action.

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Will with BK Mladá Boleslav of First League. Courtesy of blesk.cz

The last of the four is goaltender Roman Will and he alongside Sekáč are different from Nosek with Zámorský. While the other two are going to play for a North-American organization for the first time in their careers, Sekáč and Will have already played in the continent where hockey was born. Born in Pilsen, Will spent a year in Moncton of the QMJHL and even earned a spot in the First All-Star Team of the league.

After that he played two seasons in the First League for Mladá Boleslav where he spent much of his junior career before going to New Brunswick. He might not even have been the number-one for all of the last two seasons, but it was enough to show NHL scouts how much talent he’s got. Colorado signed him to a two-year deal that will have him guard the net of the Lake Erie Monsters for now.

We’ll be back with the Czech List next week as we had to skip last week’s edition due to Ivan Hlinka Memorial final. Going back to Europe, we’ll take a look at which Czech prospects to pay attention to in Swedish leagues. Jakub Vrána and David Pastrňák will be among those.

Top photo courtesy of hokej.cz

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