The Czech Republic National Team won the gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. It was the first games where professional hockey players from the NHL were included in the Winter Olympics. The Czechs would capture a Bronze at the 2006 games for their second medal with professional players. In 2010 and 2014 the team finished 7th and 6th place respectively.
The team was able to have recent success at the World Championships and won gold in 2010. This year, as the host nation, the Czechs finished in 4th place. Today, we will be taking a look at my ranking of the top 10 Czechs in the NHL today. The Czechs, currently ranked 6th by the IIHF, will be an underdog when the puck drops in 15 months at the third-ever World Cup of Hockey. That being said, they do have some good NHL talent, including players that can put the puck in the net.
10) Michal Roszival
As much as Roszival was booed in New York, he is quietly a good defenseman that has found a home with the Hawks. It is a shame he is out of the lineup right now and will not get the chance to compete for a chance at a 2nd Stanley Cup. The 36-year-old is a nice depth blueliner on the Blackhawks.
9) Michael Frolik
Frolik had a solid season this past year for the Winnipeg Jets and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Frolik scored 19 goals, added 23 assists and was a plus-4 while appearing in all 82 regular season games for the Winnipeg Jets. One thing that Frolik is not afraid to do is shoot the puck when it is on his stick. Frolik had 206 shots on goal this past season which was 54th in the NHL. He’s also a smart and disciplined player, only accumulating 18 penalty minutes.
8) Patrick Elias
The legendary two-time Stanley Cup Champion in New Jersey is still a good player in the NHL. The 39-year-old had one of the worst years of his career last season offensively, only registering 34 points, but I expect him to rebound next year. Elias is just as good a passer as he is a goal scorer and he is easily one of the best Czech players ever. Elias has spent his entire career with New Jersey where he has registered 1017 points in 1224 career games.
7) Radim Vrbata
This guy has very good hands, and can really shoot the puck well. He fit in perfectly on the Canucks top line this past year with the Sedins. Vrbata scored 31 goals, 32 assists and 63 points in his first season in Vancouver. It was his second 30-goal season of his career. Vrbata netted 35 in 2011-2012 for the Coyotes when the team made a run to the Western Conference Finals.
6) Tomas Plekanec
The 32-year-old Montreal Canadiens center has good jump to his game and can set us his wingers well. Plekanec had 26 goals, 34 assists and 60 points for the Habs this past season. Plekanec is really good in the faceoff circle and can play in any situation. He is as consistent as it gets for Montreal and is usually good for 45-60 points each year for the team with very high expectations ahead. More great Canadiens Czech players.
5) Jaromir Jagr
It’s tough for me to put the best Czech player of all-time at number 5, but if I was starting a team for next season I would simply take the bottom 4 on this list over Jagr. Jagr has the ability at age 43 to prove me wrong and go out and score 70 points next year for Florida. This is a player that needs no introduction. Jagr is just so strong on his skates, so hard to knock off the puck, and can simply dominate a game along the wall. In the 2013-2014 season, at the age of 42, Jagr led New Jersey in points with 67. Last year Jagr scored 47 points combined while playing for New Jersey and Florida. I expect him to have strong seasons as long as he is lacing up the skates. Jagr is 48 points away from passing Gordie Howe for 3rd All-Time in the NHL. There is a very good chance of that next year if he is playing with young center Alexander Barkov.
4) Jiri Hudler
Hudler has really been a top player for Calgary over the past few seasons. He was a big part of the team returning to the playoffs. Hudler led the team in scoring with 76 points. He was a 30-goal-scorer for the first time in his career when he netted 31. He was also a +17 and was a big-time player in the playoffs with 8 points in 11 games. The 31-year-old is looking to help the young Flames get back to the playoffs next year.
3) Ondrej Palat
The Triplets Line has been the best line in the NHL this past season and in the playoffs. Johnson is the leader of the line, Palat is the guy that is willing to go into the corner to retrieve pucks, go hard to the net, and play responsible defensively. This line is known for their transition and their give-and-go plays which Palat has worked with Johnson in the playoffs a few times this postseason. Palat finished the regular season with 63 points and a +31 plus/minus in 75 games. In the playoffs he has 7 goals and 8 assists in 20 games. At only 24 years of age, Palat will be a star in this league for years to come.
2) Jakub Voracek
Voracek was one of the best forwards in the NHL this past season. Voracek’s 81 points ranked 4th in the NHL this past season. While some may think of him as a goal-scorer he actually is an excellent passer as well. Voracek put up 22 goals and 59 assists in 2014-2015, which was the best year of his NHL career. It seems like Voracek has been in the league for awhile, but he is just 25-years-old. Expect to see Voracek and teammate Claude Giroux continue to be a dynamic duo for years to come.
1) David Krejci
Big Centers that can produce offensively, possess great passing ability to his wingers, win faceoffs, and play very good defense are tough to find. The Boston Bruins are lucky enough to have two of them. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci may just be the best two-way center combo in the game today. When Krejci is healthy it just seems to give the Bruins a different look to their game.
If Krejci was healthy this year, I believe the Boston Bruins would have been playoff bound. He only played in 47 games this past season. Krejci had one of his best offensive years in 2013-2014 playing on a line with Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. Krejci scored 19 goals, added 50 assists and was a plus 39. As a result of his complete game, David Krejci is my top ranked Czech player in the NHL today.
I am a 2015 graduate of Montclair State University in New Jersey. I have coached ice hockey at the high school level for two seasons here in NJ. I will be covering the Toronto Maple Leafs moving forward for The Hockey Writers.