2012-13 Reasonable Expectations: Roman Horak

Ryan Pike
August 21 2012 03:08PM

 

 

Just over 14 months ago, the Calgary Flames were backed into a corner. With former first round draft pick Tim Erixon refusing to sign with the club and the team poised to lose him for a mere compensatory second round pick, the team rolled the dice on a trade with the New York Rangers. Just before the deadline to sign draft picks, the Flames sent Erixon and a fifth round pick to the Rangers for prospect Roman Horak and a pair of second round picks (used to take Tyler Wotherspoon and Markus Granlund).

A year hence, the move seems pretty smart, especially considering Horak spent the balance of the 2011-12 campaign with the big club while Erixon bounced between the Rangers and their farm team in Hartford all year (and is now singing the blues in Columbus).

But now that highly touted prospects with names like Sven Baertschi, Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland are headed to the pros and expected to challenge for NHL duty, where does that leave Roman Horak?

EXPECTATIONS AND COMPARABLES

Almost immediately, it should be qualified that Roman Horak has probably already exceeded expectations. A fifth round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the odds were against Horak to become a pro in North America. Most domestic juniors drafted that late fizzle, so that a Czech import who had played exactly two seasons in North America prior to turning pro managed to play NHL minutes is pretty impressive. Overall, Horak put up 11 points in 61 NHL games, along with 4 points in 14 contests with the Abbotsford Heat.

That said, now that Horak has jumped over that bar, it's probably time to raise expectations a tad. Now 21 years old (the age he'll be all season long), Horak's comparable players are other mid-to-late round picks who flirted with the NHL in their freshman pro year.

Player Gp G A pts
Cam Atkinson 27 7 7 14
Matt Calvert 42 11 9 20
Teemu Hartikainen 17 2 3 5
Dwight King 6 0 0 0
Andrei Loktionov 39 3 4 7
Maksim Mayorov 5 1 0 1
Average 22.7 4.0 3.8 7.8

It should be noted that, indeed, every single of these players spent (at least) half of their sophomore year in the AHL. And there was also a very wide variation in the amount of time that these guys spent in the NHL and their production while they were there.

In terms of Horak, he was given a bottom six role, in part because he was 20 and needed some time to learn the pro game, but also because the coaching staff seemed to like him and wanted him to succeed (Brent Sutter praised him several times throughout the season). His numbers in terms of face-offs and production gradually worsened throughout the season, but Horak was always an energetic presence in the line-up.

OPPORTUNITY

The old coaching staff liked Roman Horak. He made the team out of camp. He stayed in the show for 61 games – more than three-quarters of the regular season. But the old coaching staff is gone, and now the Flames have Roman Cervenka and Sven Baertschi pencilled into their line-up, along with incumbent Lance Bouma. And another dozen players on one-way contracts. And recent call-ups Greg Nemisz and Akim Aliu.

And the highly-touted Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland are turning pro and may be hoping to be this year's version of Horak – the rookie who makes the team out of camp.

That said, Roman Horak has the advantage of knowing exactly what being an everyday NHL player entails. While he ultimately got shuffled down the depth chart due to the numbers game once players got healthy, Horak might just have the inside track among the younger players heading into training camp.

But he's going to have to be really, really good in camp (again) to earn a roster spot.

CONCLUSION

Roman Horak played 61 NHL games last season. As a first-year pro who was drafted in the fifth round, he has already exceeded the expectations most people would have for a late round pick. But he still needs to prove that he can hack it as a full-time, full-season NHLer, which is the step that a vast majority of prospects fail to take.

The challenge for the young center is he is going to have to out-perform at least a half-dozen really highly-touted players, including guys who are already pencilled into big-club roster spots in order to do that.

It's not exactly Mission: Impossible, but expect to see quite a bit of Roman Horak in Abbotsford next season.

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#1 Kent Wilson
August 21 2012, 03:43PM
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Horak was definitely in over his head by the end of the year. Even when the swath of injuries hit later on, his ice time and role was generally being reduced.

He's still a fair ways back of being an effective everyday NHLer. A year in the AHL probably wouldn't hurt him.

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#2 beloch
August 21 2012, 04:02PM
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I'm sure its just coincidence that, when Horak made the team out of camp last season, it greatly reduced the mud on Feaster's face from the Erixon debacle. Even if management may have had alterior motives for wanting Horak to succeed, it's not as if the Flames didn't *need* him once the injuries started piling up.

If there's more depth at center this year and Horak winds up getting some more AHL development time that can only be a good thing for the Flames. It's going to be an interesting preseason this year!

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#3 Alt
August 21 2012, 04:53PM
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Like most 20 year old,s his strength played a large part in his demise at the end of the year.You could see his confidence fall off as a result.He does have some skill, and might be a pleasent surprise when he gets stronger.

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#4 MC Hockey
August 21 2012, 05:34PM
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I think JayFe really encouraged Butter to keep Horak up with the big club to make that trade look better but he did play well his first 10 games, maybe more!

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#5 Austin L
August 21 2012, 05:49PM
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I have no idea where Horak fits in with this team unless injuries happen. With Tangs, Cammy, Iggy, Baertschi, Cervenka, Hudler, Glencross, Backlund, Stempniak, Comeau, Stajan, Jackman, there's not much room. Having those 12 forwards leaves room for Jones as the 13th forward. You have Bouma and Horak fighting for spots, with Nemisz and Aliu not too far behind. Then you have Max Reinhart who will hopefully make a short audition if injuries occur. Horak should look to become a leader on the Abbotsford team, try to get his ppg somewhat near 1.00.

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#6 SmellOfVictory
August 21 2012, 05:55PM
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MC Hockey wrote:

I think JayFe really encouraged Butter to keep Horak up with the big club to make that trade look better but he did play well his first 10 games, maybe more!

Wouldn't surprise me, either. Actually a good move from a PR perspective.

This season, however, I expect Horak to be a 1st line centre in the AHL, and not much beyond that. He's got creativity, but he can't pull it off in the big league yet - I don't think that'll have changed by this coming season.

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#7 Q
August 21 2012, 06:32PM
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I love the trade considering the 2 second rounders but all things considered I won't be surprized to see him in abbotsford for a long time.

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#8 MC Hockey
August 21 2012, 07:50PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Wouldn't surprise me, either. Actually a good move from a PR perspective.

This season, however, I expect Horak to be a 1st line centre in the AHL, and not much beyond that. He's got creativity, but he can't pull it off in the big league yet - I don't think that'll have changed by this coming season.

I agree he's hard-pressed to stick...besides other young guys the Flames have Stajan to put somewhere

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#9 Bikeit
August 21 2012, 11:53PM
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Conspiracy theorists even with Roman Horak. Wow. Sutter would have quit if feaster made him take a player that was not ready.

Give Horak credit, he has a good hockey sense and IQ for the game and reads well defensively. He knew what he had to do to stay up, which is more than can be said for alot of players. Guy's his age are also not used to playing that gruelling schedule. Time in abbotsford should help and putting on weight. Will be interesting to see if he can show offensively what he may be capable of.

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#11 negrilcowboy
August 22 2012, 07:07AM
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learning the pro game in abby is the ceiling of expectation. the youngin needs to develope the tools needed to play in the bigs. making the team out of camp last years was simply the amazing feasteros smoke and mirrors opening act.

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#12 loudogYYC
August 22 2012, 10:27AM
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Nothing wrong with having this guy playing top 6 minutes in Abbotsford. There's no need to play him in the NHL unless his game says so.

This is Calgary's version of depth down the middle... Not impressive but much better than a few years ago.

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#13 MC Hockey
August 22 2012, 12:51PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

learning the pro game in abby is the ceiling of expectation. the youngin needs to develope the tools needed to play in the bigs. making the team out of camp last years was simply the amazing feasteros smoke and mirrors opening act.

The "amazing feasteros smoke and mirrors opening act"...nice! I guess you are in on my conspiracy theory. But seriously Mr Horak did play very well at the beginning.

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#14 PrairieStew
August 22 2012, 04:31PM
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I would prefer to see Horak stay in Abbotsford this year. I think with Jones and Stajan you have the 4th line centre covered and you might even call up Krys Kolanos on occasion.

As I said in the 3 years out article, one of Horak or Nemisz need to make the jump next year, maybe both if Stajan is jettisoned and either Comeau or Cervanka don't meet expectations.

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