The Czech national team has announced that forward Michal Birner and defenseman Tomas Kundratek will replace Tomas Hertl and Radko Gudas on the roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Both Hertl and Gudas announced Saturday that they will not be able to participate in the tournament due to injuries.
Birner spent most of last season playing in the Czech domestic league for Bili Tygri Liberec. This season he’s suiting up for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL. He was drafted by the St. Louis Blues back in 2004 and spent some time toiling in the AHL before he returned to Europe to play in the Finnish Liiga.
On defense, Kundratek takes the spot of Gudas. He’s currently suiting up for HC Slovan Bratislava in the KHL, where he spent part of last season, posting 24 points in 56 games. He was a New York Rangers draft pick and played 30 NHL games before heading back to Europe. He last played in the NHL when he laced up for the Washington Capitals in the 2012-13 season.
Birner is an odd choice, but the decision may stem from the fact that Jiri Hudler refused to answer phone calls from the Czech general manager and his agent says he has no interest in suiting up for the national team at the World Cup. That likely stems from having been snubbed for the initial roster and having been snubbed from the national team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.