Jakub Nakladal may be set to become an unrestricted free agent, but for the time being, he’s a Flame. And he’s one many rather liked once he made the NHL: he brought a stabilizing presence to the bottom pairing on the defence, not to mention a cannon of a shot from the point that got to be utilized on powerplays.
If the Flames can open up space on their blueline, it would be great to see Nakladal back in Calgary. In the meantime, though, the Czechs must have liked what they saw as well – because Nakladal has been one of the final additions to Team Czech Republic for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
When the initial Czech roster was announced, four defencemen were found on it: Radko Gudas, Michal Kempny, Roman Polak, and Andrej Sustr. Now Nakladal, along with Zbynek Michalek and Michal Jordan, have joined them.
Nakladal, 28, has played internationally for the Czech Republic before; most recently, he put up five assists over 10 games for the Czechs in the 2015 IIHF World Championship, a tournament in which he was his country’s second-highest scoring defenceman en route to a fourth place finish. He has also played extensively in both the Czech league, as well as the KHL.
It was just this past season Nakladal made the trip over to North America. The Calgary Flames won a small bidding war for his services, but he found himself starting his season in the AHL. There, he played 35 games for the Stockton Heat, scoring two goals and putting up 14 total points. Along the way, he was called up a handful of times, but always as a just-in-case option, never getting to play.
Nakladal finally made his real NHL debut on Feb. 15 when a combination of injuries and suspensions forced the Flames’ hand. From that point onwards, he was a regular on the team’s blueline: playing responsible third pairing minutes, and eventually getting powerplay time as well. He scored his first two NHL goals, both on blasts from the point, and added three assists for a total of five points over 27 games.
Nakladal played mostly sheltered minutes, but he definitely looked like an NHLer out there – and it’s awesome to see his country recognize that for the World Cup.
He joins fellow Flame Michael Frolik, who was already named to the initial 16-man roster for the Czechs.