Flames interested in Daniel Pribyl

The Calgary Flames have had both good and bad experiences with the Czech league. Roman Cervenka was touted “the best centre outside of the NHL”, turned out to not even be a centre, and went back to Europe after one mediocre lockout season that presumably left both parties unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

Jakub Nakladal looked to be heading down the same path, until various injuries and suspensions forced him into the lineup. Since then, he’s been a staple on the Flames’ bottom pairing with increasing responsibilities and ice time, and he looks like he belongs.

The Flames are once again venturing into the Czech Republic, along with several other teams, in pursuit of Daniel Pribyl.

Wait, who?

Pribyl checks a lot of the right boxes: both in general, and for the Flames specifically. HockeyDB lists him as 6’2, 189 lbs., while Elite Prospects has him at 6’3, 238 lbs. That’s quite the massive discrepancy in weight, but either way, he’s got size.

He’s also listed as a right-shooting forward who plays either centre or the right wing. The Flames have more than enough centres, but barely any right wingers of note. There’s Michael Frolik and… um… Josh Jooris? Maybe Emile Poirier? It’s basically a desolate wasteland: one that Pribyl might be able to help fill.

Add on to all that: he can score. True, it’s the Czech league, so not the highest caliber of competition, but the 16 goals and 45 points he has through 45 games this season are noteworthy. He’s leading Sparta Praha this season in scoring.

Pribyl has been trending upwards through his time with Prague. He was limited to just 21 games last season, but still scored eight goals and 15 points: a .71 point-per-game pace. Prior to that, he scored at a .54 point-per-game pace, and the year before, when he became a regular, at .52 points per game.

So to recap: Pribyl is only 23 years old, has size (but hopefully not too much of it), fills a position of need, and has been steadily improving throughout his time in the Czech league. The Flames should absolutely be in on this guy.

He was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by the Montreal Canadiens but evidently never came over. Pribyl was also on the Czech World Junior team in 2012, but only scored one assist through five games.

The importance of giving guys a chance

Nakladal is so important.

I can’t speak to how much free agents take stock in this sort of thing, but I imagine it comes up every now and then. You’re playing over in Europe, but want to have a shot at the NHL. Several teams are in the bidding for you, so you’re basically a prized free agent, and have your pick, no strings attached.

The Flames were in on Nikita Zaitsev, but he chose the rebuilding Leafs. They were also trying to acquire Artemi Panarin, and he chose Chicago. It ended up being a really smart play by the Russian, as he’s played on a line with Patrick Kane all season, which no doubt has been a huge factor in his 64 points (and counting) as a rookie. Could the Flames have offered him that?

They did land Cervenka, though, and that was a disaster on so many levels. From naming him “the best centre not in the NHL” – one of several foot-in-mouth moments for former General Manager Jay Feaster – to having the misfortune to come over in the lockout season, to not actually being a centre, a lot of things went wrong all at once, and pretty much dashed Cervenka’s NHL hopes.

The Flames also landed Nakladal, who had multiple suitors. He spent the first half of his season in the AHL, playing as one of the Stockton Heat’s top guys. He was recalled a couple of times due to injury and illness scares early in the season, only to sit in the press box.

When Nakladal finally made his NHL debut, it was because three of his younger teammates got into too many shenanigans around Superbowl time, forcing the Flames to dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen. He was the seventh guy, and he only played 1:45. Three games later, with Dennis Wideman suspended and Kris Russell unable to go, he finally got his real chance, and he’s been a regular in the lineup since.

Nakladal had to work his way up through the ranks, yes, but he needed more things to go right for him before he could claim a regular roster spot. And once the opportunity was there – through circumstance, not through merit – he took it. And he’s thrived.

We’ve gone from wondering when he would escape the confines of the press box to watching him score two goals, play on the power play, and start to encroach towards 20 minutes in ice time, all the while seeming genuinely thrilled to be playing for the Flames.

Imagine how differently talks with Pribyl could go if Nakladal was still riding buses in California or sitting in the press box. At least now the Flames can point to his countryman and say, “He’s doing great with us. You can, too.”

  • brodiegio4life

    As long as hartley is here I doubt guys will come over to play for the flames. Only chance of playing is injury or trades. Also the cervenka debacle was once again a feasterism. He also called Berra the best goalie not in the NHL, and pumped jankos tires relentlessly. Good thing he is no longer the gm

    • beloch

      Vollman stopped calculating a NHLE conversion factor for the Czech Extraliga due to sample size. The NHLE calculator posted here a while back has two factors in it: 0.52 and 0.29, but the lower number is for “CZECH2”, so it’s unclear if that’s a second factor for the same league or a lower league.

      In 2008 the IIHF rated the Extraliga as the third highest league in Europe, after the KHL and SM-liiga. Vollman’s most recent conversion factor for the SM-liiga is 0.29, so it’s probably safe to say 0.52 is way too high for the Extraliga.

      So, using a conservative spitballed NHLE of 0.25, 51 points in 50 games (including playoffs) gives a NHLE of just under 21, which is bottom six territory. This is very rough, and it should be noted that Pribyl is significantly older than the average prospect NHLE is most reliable for. i.e. He probably won’t develop as much in a single season as a 20-year-old will. There are also other factors working against Pribyl, such as learning a new language and adjusting to NHL sized ice.

      I wouldn’t pencil Pribyl in beside Monahan and Gaudreau. He’s probably a guy who should spend some time in the AHL first, and he might have bottom six potential. Don’t believe anyone telling you this guy is a franchise saver. He’s probably not. He’s a good depth signing to make given that he’s “free”. Who knows, maybe the chance to play pro in North America will light a fire in this kid’s belly and he’ll overachieve. We can always hope! You can’t win the euro-reclamation lottery if you don’t play.

      • Baalzamon

        Vollman’s most recent conversion factor for the SM-liiga is 0.29

        That’s clearly wrong, though, because he had the Finnish Junior league at something like .32. There is no way, none at all, that the SM Liiga is worse than its own junior league.

        He also had Allsvenskan at .80, but SHL at .60. Like, how could the SHL possibly be worse than its own relegation league?

        Vollman’s numbers are clearly wrong.

      • Brodano12

        Krejci had 27 points in 24 games in the Czech league. Jagr had 57 in 34. Plekanec had 46 in 32. All of this in the lockout season.

        According to all the Czech league data, the NHLe is 0.435.

        Just because the Czech league is lower than Sm-Liiga doesn’t mean the NHLe has to be lower – that depends on the league scoring.

        With that NHLe, 51 points in 50 games translates to 36 points over a full NHL season. That’s middle 6 territory.

        It’s still to be seen if his game translates to the NHL at all, and expecting him to be the top line RW is horrible management, but he is definitely a good prospect with potential.

        • beloch

          I wouldn’t use the lock-out season as a good example. There were so many NHL players back in European leagues that the quality of those leagues probably spiked that year.

          Also, Sm-Liiga could just as easily be a lower scoring league than the Czech league, making my spitballed estimate too high. We simply lack the data to judge.

          All I was trying to do was give a ballpark estimate so people could reign in their unrealistic expectations. It’s astronomically improbable that this kid is a Krejci, Plekanec, or Jagr.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      That is as long as Nakladal hasn’t or doesn’t poison the water for the kid based on how he has been treated as a Flame. Were it not for the Wideman suspension and injury and the Russell trade, do you think Nakladal would be in Calgary? Yeah, maybe as a 7th defenseman. Got the feeling that Nakladal doesn’t return to the Flames next season unless there are no better offers elsewhere. Flames might want to keep Nakladal as far away from Pribyl as possible if they are seriously interested in the kid.

      • EhPierre

        I disagree with you. Sure Naks hasn’t had the best start to his NHL season with his limited ice time in his first game and the reasons you mentioned but seeing Nak play and how his ice time keeps increasing, and how happy he is, especially when he scores his goal, I personally can’t help but feel that he truly enjoys his time in Calgary and enjoys being with the team.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with us this summer.

    • EhPierre

      Cervenka didn’t have Mony and JG as his linemates though.

      To put it into perspective, Panarin is tearing up the league right now but that’s also because he’s playing with Kane. Cervenka, before joining the Flames had been putting up points in the KHL at a pace that was better than Panarin’s but due to Calgary’s lack of elite forwards and the lockout Cervenka did poorly. Panarin on the otherhand benefits from playing with Kane.

      I’m not saying Pribyl is gonna tear up the league but I’d feel he’d do a much better job than Cervenka given he has the opportunity to play with JG and Mony

      • KACaribou

        Who says he has that opportunity to play on the top line? Do you think the Flames game-plan would completely alter because this dude is available?

        Part of Cervenk’s problem was that he was a [email protected]#t and wouldn’t go to any areas where he might get hit.

        Flames put guys like that on waivers.

        I know we all want the Flames to rub a bottle and a genie comes out, but we also have to be realistic.

        One sign: a half dozen teams are “interested”. If the next Gretzky was playing over there I think it would be a little more than “a half dozen.”

        • EhPierre

          Well you tell me, you think Tre is gonna tell the guy “Join our team and you’ll play fourth line with The Great Bollig himself!” Ofc not.

          Our team is lacking a RW. Pribyl is a RW. It only makes sense you put the two together and see if it creates anything positive.

  • Stud Puffin

    This is exactly what I was saying two articles earlier. Now we have bloggers hyping some guy who isn’t leading the 4th or 5th or maybe even 6th best league, and now people are talking about him being the next Panarin and can play with Gaudreau. Good grief!Now the MSM will get involved, everyone’s expectations get raised to a level too high. The kid will do nothing but disappoint. IF we sign him, and IF he is good enough for 3rd line rw, that’s a huge win. Anything more is unrealistic.

    • EhPierre

      No one’s hyping this kid up at all. Ari simply stated his stats and what the fit can be with the Flames, that’s all. Didn’t realize stating relevant information is hyping.

    • supra steve

      “IF we sign him, and IF he is good enough for 3rd line rw, that’s a huge win.”, this is totally true.

      It is also true that several players have had the opportunity to play with Monahan/Gaudreau this season, because the Flames are searching for a good fit. If this kid signs with the Flames, he has to be thinking about that possibility, even if he knows it is entirely possible he could spend the whole season in the AHL.

  • RKD

    He looks like a force to be reckoned with, size and skill. However, it is a toss up. Jagr made Cervenka look good, and not vice versa. Cervenka couldn’t find that touch, wasn’t physical, was a passenger and invisible on too many nights. Pribyl’s ppg production, age, size and skill all intrigue me. He’s got the tools but can he put it all together in the NHL?

  • RickT

    Another thing to note with Cervenka – he was really pretty good.

    The numbers were all there, he was misused (see: Colborne, Joe). He wasn’t what he was hyped as (i.e. the ‘best’ ‘centre’ not in the NHL) – he was good, and he was not a centre.

    If this kid is years younger (4) than Cervenka, and is putting up decent numbers – it’s a low risk, high potential reward deal. Do it every day of the week.