What Happened to Pavel Brendl?

Pavel Brendl

Pavel Brendl is another in a long line of top draft picks that dominated junior and international competition but failed to make even a small impact in the NHL.

Brendl was drafted 4th overall by the New York Rangers in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, but would actually never play a professional game with the organization.

His early junior career began in the Czech Republic playing for HC Olomouc Jr.  His goal scoring ability was evident immediately scoring 35 goals in 40 games that season.

His next season with the Olomouc Jr. team would be just as successful, scoring 29 goals and 52 points in 38 games before being called up to the Olomouc Division 1 team for which is he would play 12 games.

After this experience, Brendl decided he wanted a taste of North American Hockey and entered the CHL Import Draft in 1998.  He was selected 34th overall by the Calgary Hitmen of the World Hockey League, (“WHL”), which proved to be a major steal for the Hitmen.

The 1997-98 season, his first with the Hitmen, was a whirlwind of success for Brendl.  He took the league by storm, immediately showing his great instincts with the puck.  Interestingly enough, while he played center most of his career in Europe, he was moved to the wing with Calgary, giving him more freedom for his offensive raids.  He earned rookie of the month for his first month in the league, a spot on the WHL All-Star Team and also played in the Top Prospects game.  The one blemish that year was that he wasn’t selected for the Under 20 World Junior Championship Team.  He was beginning to earn a bad reputation, deserved or not, of being a very lazy player and having a bad attitude when he wasn’t 100% sure he wanted to play in the tournament or not.

Once the season had concluded, Brendl had accumulated 73 goals and 134 points in 68 games, falling just shy of a 2.00 point-per-game average, and the record of 145 points scored by a rookie, held by Petr Nedved.   Brendl took home trophies for top rookie, the league’s top scorer and also made the post-season all-star and all-rookie teams.

Next came the NHL draft.  It was clear that Patrik Stefan, The Sedin Twins (Henrik and Daniel) and Brendl were the top prospects in the draft.  The Rangers contacted Brendl ahead of time, asking him if he was ready to play in the NHL.  He emphatically claimed yes and things started rolling.  The Rangers chose Brendl 4th overall in the 1999 Entry Draft, trading away starting goaltender Dan Cloutier and other picks to move up to the 4th position.

During 1999, Brendl would enter his first pre-season camp with the New York Rangers.  What a disappointment it became.  Brendl reported to camp out of shape, refused to learn the coaches tactics or play any defense.  He also didn’t score enough to compensate for the lack of defensively play or physical shape.  Many believe his lack of desire and physical shape was due to the Czech food his host family in Canada learned to cook for him.  He didn’t have the typical diet of a young athlete.  This may have worked in the WHL, but it sure wouldn’t in the NHL.  As a result, he was returned to the Calgary Hitmen for his sophomore season in the WHL.

Very disappointed at not making the Rangers, Pavel wanted to work on his defensive play to lose the “one-dimensional” player tag.  Brendl’s numbers decreased slightly from the previous season, but he was improving as a better overall player.  He would finish the season with 59 goals and 111 points in 69 games.  The Hitmen would be eliminated in the playoffs and Brendl would play two games with the Rangers AHL affiliate Hartford Wolfpack, going scoreless.

During his second camp with the Rangers, Pavel played much better.  He came in good shape, meshed well with his Czech teammates, displayed the offensive skill he was known for and also showed decent effort away from the puck.  Unfortunately, he was one of the last cuts and would return to the WHL one more time.

Fortunately, this season Brendl was chosen to play in the Under 20 World Junior Championships for the Czech Republic Team.  His team would win the tournament and Brendl would be named the best forward scoring 4 goals and 10 points in 12 games.  He also would score 40 goals and 75 points in 49 games with the Hitmen.

Brendl was now ready to make the Rangers roster.  However, before the season began, Brendl was involved in a trade to the Philadelphia Flyers for Eric Lindros, who wanted out of Philadelphia.  Brendl would join several Czech players in Philadelphia as well, which was expected to make him comfortable.  He made the team out of camp, but after 8 games and only 1 goal, he was sent to the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL.

Brendl was given another chance with the Flyers in 2002-2003 where he would play 42 games, scoring 5 goals and 12 points.  Unfortunately, although he wasn’t the defensive disaster he had been in the past, Brendl is primarily a scorer and he never socred enough to justify the roster spot.  He was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in a package deal which included Sami Kapanencoming to Philadelphia.  He would only play 26 games over parts of two seasons withthe Hurricanes, scoring 5 goals and 9 points.  He would never be heard from in the NHL again other than 2 games with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005-06.

The lazy tag would follow him throughout his NHL career, although he did try to work on it somewhat.  Unfortunately, when you are a scorer and you don’t score enough you will not stay on an NHL roster.

After bouncing around the minors in North America, Brendldecided to sign a contract with Mora IK from the Swedish Elitserien League, (“SEL”) for the 2006-07 season.  Brendl would break the league’s record that season with 34 goals ,and the most points by a foreigner, with 57 points in 55 games.

following season Brendlsigned a 3-year contract with Brynas IF Gavleof the SEL, having another impressive season with 31 goals and 55 points in 51 games.  He also added some grittiness to his game with 110 penalty minutes.

During 2008, Brendl, ignoring his contract withthe SEL, choose to sign a contract with the new Kontinental Hockey League’s, (“KHL”), Torpedo Nizhny Novgoradand is currently playing withthe team.  He has scored 35 goals and 50 points in 56 games so far with the team.

Like Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan before him, Brendl was a highly regarded player, which undeniable skill that just did not seem to have the desire it takes to make it in the NHL.

It is unclear if we will ever see him want or get another opportunity to play in the NHL (he is still relatively young at 28 years old).  Part of me wonders how successful he could be, assuming he has matured, with the volume of speciality team play in the NHL these days.  Someone with the obvious offensive skill, instincts and hands of Brendl would be an excellent fit on any powerplay.  Unfortunately, its the even stregth play where he had his issues.  If we never hear from him again in the NHL, it appears Brendl has finally found a home playing in Europe and Russia where he has scored 100 goals in 167 games over the past 3 seasons.

For Brendl’s career stats, refer to the Internet Hockey Database

10 Comments

  1. Who wrote this?

    “He was selected 34th overall by the Calgary Hitmen of the World Hockey League, (”WHL”), which proved to be a major steal for the Hitmen.”

    The World Hockey League died in 1979… that would be the Western Hockey League.

    Nate

  2. I find the NHL scouts and the teams that dumped him very poor observers of their own statitics…. for the amount of time he played is scoring as a percentage of the time alotted him on the ice were right up there with the top ten scores in the NHL…

    He was on the fourth line… it seems…yet still produced like a top elite scorer.

    Ron

  3. You know being from Calgary I had alot of first hand expereince watching Brendl play for the Hitmen in his junior career and to me I always thought of him as one of those guys that are just too small to play the grueling game at NHL speed. He didn’t have the desire to go out and get it so to speak he just wanted every thing to fall in his lap. In the WHL playing 15-19yr old players no one has really developed the size and pace the NHL players posess in spades. It seems to me that he had the skill and speed when playing against boys but when it came time to face Men especially tried tested and true bonified NHL starting Goalies, guys like Mr. Brendl fold their cards faster than a Kenny Rogers song.

    Very few guys like Brendl ever hold down a solid spot on an NHL roster. The innovater of the little guy Mr. Theo Fleury (who used to live up the block from my Dad’s house and he’s is also an arrogant S.O.B. but I still like him) was an effective Hockey player in the old era of Hockey where clutching and grabbing was called defense. Also Martin St. Louis who is a former Flame and the robber of one Stanley Cup (the cut runs deep it does and I feel it welling up again seems like always around this time of year, weird) and a guy named Mike Cammalleri former king playing opposite wing for Mr. Iginla. What do all these guys have in common that Mr. Brendl did not? “One of these things is not like the other one of these things just isn’t the same?” Despite all their ties to the Calgary Flames these “small guys” can and do all have the ability to score 30+ goals in the NHL consistently where it has been shown emphatically in the article above that Mr. Pavel Brendl most certainly could not.

    Its all fine and dandy that he is excelling in the KHL because they only play what 55 games a year where here in the Big Boy league we play 82? The Goalies in the Elite League I’m sorry to say are passed their prime of NHL calibre or have not yet found it so I guess the question posed was could Mr. Brendl make a ressurgance? I doubt it, the NHL wants great scoring but above all else the want drive,determination, that compete level that makes this league the most competetive exciting pro sports league in the world (to me and my opinion agree or not it is lol) and attitudes like Mr. Brendl’s are since falling by the wayside or having trouble producing right Mr. Kovalev?

    Anyways.Thanks for this what a great article superbly written and indeed what a throwback I thouroughly enjoyed commenting on such a spectacular peice it certainly gave me plenty to say at any rate. Sorry nothing agaist the European Super Leagues I do beleive it is great Hockey to watch but it is no NHL.

    • Brendl isn’t very little at 6’1″ and 200 lbs., but I do agree he didn’t want to “go get it”. Footspeed never improved either.

  4. Greg Caggiano says:

    I actually liked Lindros when he was here as a Ranger. He had a very solid first season, got screwed over by the coach in his second, and was playing terrific in his third until he got injured which ended his tenure as a Ranger.

    The line of Fleury-Lindros-York (aka the F.L.Y line) still ranks as one of the more exciting lines in Rangers’ history.

  5. Chris Shafer says:

    I would love to thank Pavel Prendl for his subpar play with the Flyers since it meant a one way ticket to Carolina bring back a Philadelphia legend Sami Kapanen.

  6. Woah! Pavel Brendl…I remember him. I even think I have his autograph tucked away somewhere. I remember being so beyond ticked when the ‘Canes traded away Sami Kapanen for his lazy arse. (Oh, and Bruno St. Jacques. What a dynamite acquisition that turned out to be.)
    Thanks for the throwback, Mike, this was great.

  7. Mike DiFranco says:

    Sorry!!!

    Its a very bad memory for me, considering my favorite player of all time is Lindros

  8. You like bringing up bad memories, huh?

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