What are realistic expectations for Daniel Pribyl?


With Calgary’s soon to be confirmed signing of Czech product Daniel Pribyl, many of us have become very curious about the 23-year-old winger. Just what are the Flames getting in the former sixth round pick of the Habs? At this point, no one knows for sure how Pribyl might translate to the NHL, but we do have some recent examples to compare him to. As I see it, this could go one of three ways.

For those unfamiliar with the story, multiple sources (first reported by Elliotte Friedman) have Calgary signing Pribyl to a two-way contract when his season with Sparta Praha of the Czech League comes to an end. Pribyl will finish his sixth year of pro hockey at the end of this season and he’s seen a steady increase in his numbers during that time.

Pribyl stats

So what three ways could this go? Let’s break it down using some recent examples from the Flames and from around the league.

The solid signing: Jakub Nakladal

This outcome is a desired one and also a somewhat realistic one. There are numerous examples of European signings like this across the league, but let’s use a really recent one for the Flames as our example.

The Flames signed Nakladal to a one-year, two-way contract last summer and it turned into a pretty solid addition by the end of the campaign. After going through the expected adjustment to North American hockey, Nakladal turned into a very useful piece of the AHL’s Stockton Heat before getting his full time shot with Calgary near the end of the season. His numbers below, both counting and underlying, ended up being fairly solid.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 12.36.18 AM

Among players who played 25 games or more this season, Nakladal had the team’s top possession rate at 53.1%. His zone starts were skewed to the offensive side of things, but he was still useful in his role. For a player the team didn’t have to expend any assets on, they got really good return on their investment.

Nakladal is an example of a good value signing. He was effective in a third pairing role, came at a very affordable price (and likely will going forward), and the Flames didn’t give up anything to bring him over. Sure, Calgary didn’t get a franchise piece in Nakladal, but they got an effective player who can continue to give them solid value, assuming they re-sign him this summer.

I know they play different positions, but if Pribyl’s case can turn out similar to Nakladal’s, then this will be another good signing by the Flames. Contracts like these are what you see from high end teams time and time again; they don’t hit too hard on the cap but they still fill a depth role effectively. We all know where Calgary’s cap situation is going, so more cases like Nakladal are absolutely a good thing.

The home run: Artemi Panarin

A case like Panarin’s in Chicago qualifies as a best case scenario when bringing in a free agent from Europe. The Blackhawks signed Panarin as an undrafted free agent out of the KHL last summer and he’s now the frontrunner for this year’s Calder Trophy. Players in Panarin’s situation don’t come along often, but when they do, their impact is massive.

To hold Pribyl to Panarin’s standard would be very much unfair, though. I’m not saying Pribyl couldn’t make an impact in the NHL next year, because the reality is I don’t know. I’ve barely seen him play and even if I had watched him a ton, it’s always difficult to project how success in one league will translate at the highest level. Just going by history, though, it would be unlikely to see Pribyl reach heights like Panarin did this season.

It is an interesting comparison, though. Pribyl will enter the league next season at essentially the same age Panarin started at this year. The latter turned 24 in late October while Pribyl will turn 24 in the middle of December. Both players had a ton of European professional experience entering their first year in the NHL, too.

On the flip side, the two come from different levels of pro hockey. Panarin put up strong numbers in his last two years in the KHL. Along with the AHL and Sweden’s top tier league, the KHL is one of the top non-NHL levels of hockey in the world. Pribyl, on the other hand, was a point per game last year in the Czech domestic league, which is slightly different. While still a solid circuit, the Extraliga isn’t on the same level as leagues mentioned earlier. That has to be taken into account when looking at Pribyl’s numbers.

I’m not banking on Pribyl to end up in the same category as Panarin, mostly because the odds are against it. The Flames could absolutely hit a home run here and that would be great. But if Pribyl ends up falling into the category above this one, that’s perfectly fine too.

Thanks but no thanks: Roman Cervenka

Originally I was going to use the term “bust” as the title of this category, but then I realized how inaccurate a portrayal that would be. Signing Cervenka in the summer of 2012 wasn’t a bust because they didn’t invest much to bring him in. Sure, it didn’t work out, but because there was so little risk in signing him, it was much easier to swallow.

Lots of times a European signing just doesn’t pan out. Even though his lone NHL season with the Flames wasn’t a stellar one, it’s tough to argue the merits of giving him a shot. Cervenka was, and still is, an extremely skilled player. His style, though, didn’t translate to the NHL’s smaller and more suffocating confines. He put up okay numbers, but it was clear to both parties at the end of the season that Europe was probably the best fit. And that’s fine.

Signings like Cervenka’s then, and Pribyl’s now, are necessary in this day and age. The market for finding players is so competitive that a “no stone unturned” mantra is crucial. The Flames struck out on Cervenka, and their David Wolf signing a few years later didn’t bear a ton of fruit either. But every team misses on European signings, because that’s the nature of the business.

There’s a decent chance Calgary could miss on Pribyl and he could end up back in the Czech Republic in two years’ time. If that’s the case then it’s too bad, but hey, it’s also no harm, no foul. If the Flames hit on Pribyl by having him fall into one of the two prior categories then it’s a good signing. If they don’t, then move on and try it all over again next time. In the end, there has to keep on being next times.

  • PrairieStew

    Cervanka wasn’t here long enough to do a decent evaluation. It was the lockout shortened year, and getting used to the smaller ice surface takes a bit of time. With only 13 minutes of ice time, the fact that he put up 17 points in 39 games was pretty decent. I think it is too bad he did not return , there was potential there.

    • Cfan in Vic

      I also seem to remember that Cervanka was pretty out of shape when he came to the Flames. He was even winded on short shifts, and his ice time got cut right down accordingly. Would have been interesting to see him in ideal shape, with a whole season to adjust.

      • T&A4Flames

        Not to mention the dude didn’t speak a word of english when he came over. That would certainly make practice and everyday living difficult and uncomfortable.

      • MattyFranchise

        Cervenka was out of shape due to blood clotting issues during the summer straight through to training camp.

        He was in Hartley’s doghouse from word one and never got out of it.

      • PrairieStew

        Yes – I saw him play. I would have liked to see more from him, but also more of him. I think he improved as the season went along and would have been 20 goals and 40 points with not alot of PP time in a full year. Nothing to sneeze at for a low cost FA signing.

  • wot96

    So really, a potential bottom 9 winger with middle six upside would be very solid. Flames already have a few of those but Pribyl is cheaper and may be bigger and that puts downward salary pressure on any controlled player looking to re-sign. That right there is a win.

    Anything approaching Panarin is a grand slam.

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    I heard that Pribyl will put up the goals of a young Jerome Iginla and play the 200 foot game like Patrice Bergeron

    And he knows a special magic spell that will make Conner McDavid have gastroenteritis every time he says it

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Interesting: We are quick to call Cervenka a bust, yet if you pro-rate his 39 games over 82 games he actually has a similar season in points that Backlund just had.

    The career best season Backlund just had…


  • BurningSensation

    Im of the mind that Cervenka got the short end of the stick in his time here, starting with being oversold to us as a future 1-2 C.

    But if Cervenka is the worst case scenario, well, then that is still pretty good.

    He wont be a Panarin, but what if we just replaced the production of David Jones and at no cost but his contract?


    More of these low cost/high reward moves please

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    The Cervenkinator (is that a thing?) got a raw deal as the blood clot thing screwed up his training, then Hartley disliked him. Too bad! But the Pribyl seems low risk because:

    A) Two-way contract for cap and roster flexibility

    B) Probably not large $ I assume?

    C) Even 10 goals and 15 assists in 65 games would be OK if he is playing 3rd line but expectations are of course much higher if he is with Johnny and Mony or playing all the games.

  • everton fc

    Our current cast, on RW, looks “thus”:

    F. Hamilton

    Of this list, I see no #1 RW, unless Shinkaruk becomes `miraculous` in camp. Frolik could fill that role, but separating he and Backlund is not wise.


    We clearly need a legitimate, proven 1st line RW (which is why I wasn`t adverse to Kessel, when he was available)

    Of the remaining group, Frolik’s a keeper, as is Shinkaruk. Prybil’s been signed, and I don’t see him playing in the “A”, though his “numbers” don’t blow my mind. Poirier needs another year in the minors to prove he’s not a minor league player, max. Jooris is Jooris – he’s good to have, and mighty expendable.

    Of all that list… Freddie Hamilton interests me most.

    1st line – ?? (Frolik? Shinkaruk??)
    2nd line – Frolik/Shinkaruk/Prybil
    3rd line – Frolik/Shinkaruk/Prybil
    4th line – Jooris/Hathaway/Hamilton

    Shore is never going to play regular shifts in Calgary. Jooris is Jooris – can Hathaway produce the same offencive production as Jooris? Perhaps… Poirier would be a nice, incredible nice surprise, if he blew the doors off in camp. Shinkaruk, to this fan, looks NHL-ready.

    We need a 1st line RW. Who is available, via free agency?

  • KACaribou

    What I have learned on FN today:

    1) Roman Cervenka was pretty good after all. Despite his soft play and no board play, backchecking or hustle his nearly 1/2 point a game makes FN wonder why he wasn’t played more, or left at all!

    2) Daniel Prybil may get 30G this next season automatically elevated to the top line RW.

    3) Cervenka got a raw deal in Calgary.

    4) Prybil is a smark Colborne even though he has never played even one NHL game.

    Considering how people were blasting on Feaster for bringing over the best player not in the NHL, and what an idiot he is to have done so, I consider the pro-Cervenkists as having long-term memory loss.