The Czechs of the Calgary Flames

There are a number of avenues to get free agents. The most common is from the NHL’s free agent pool, but teams will occasionally go after undrafted NCAA or CHL players as well. Then there are guys who perform well in the KHL and want to come over, and occasionally, the same can be said for the Swedish and Finnish leagues.

But we don’t hear too much about the Czech league. 

Now, though – three times in roughly a little over a calendar year – the Flames have picked up three players who have spent extensive time playing in the Czech Republic. There was Jakub Nakladal, a little over a year ago; granted, after his six seasons in the Czech league, he went to the KHL and then Finland.

Daniel Pribyl and now David Rittich’s names can be added to the list, though. There’s quite the Czech contingent forming in Calgary.

How many Czechs have played for the Flames?

By my count, I’ve got 14 players who have played at least one NHL game for the Flames:

  • Jiri Hrdina (1987-91) – drafted
  • Frank Musil (1990-95) – traded for
  • Robert Reichel (1990-97) – drafted
  • Ladislav Kohn (1995-96, 1997-98) – drafted
  • Petr Buzek (2001-03) – traded for
  • Roman Turek (2001-04) – traded for
  • Roman Hamrlik (2005-07) – free agent signing
  • Ales Kotalik (2009-11) – traded for
  • Roman Horak (2011-14) – traded for
  • Roman Cervenka (2012-13) – free agent signing
  • Jiri Hudler (2012-16) – free agent signing
  • Ladislav Smid (2013-present) – traded for
  • Michael Frolik (2015-present) – free agent signing
  • Jakub Nakladal (2015-present) – free agent signing

Half of them have played for the Flames this decade, including three still under contract (although Nakladal is an upcoming free agent, with no guarantee he comes back, and Smid has his own host of problems). Whether Pribyl and Rittich will become the 15th and 16th Czechs to suit up in Calgary remains to be seen.

Pribyl and Rittich

Both free agent signings aren’t just near the top of the Czech league – they’re both young, 23 years old.

Pribyl was second in league scoring with 45 points, behind just Cervenka (61), seven years his senior. Petr Vampola was tied with Pribyl’s 45, but with seven more games played – and 11 years older than him.

You have to go down to fifth in league scoring to find anyone close to Pribyl’s age. Jan Buchtele, 25, was his teammate in Prague; he and Jan Holik, 24, scored 41 points through the season – though Buchtele did it in 47 games, and Holik in 52. The only other kid top 10 in scoring this past season was Dominik Kubalik, 20 – he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by the Los Angeles Kings and scored 40 points in 48 games this past season. Everyone else was in their 30s.

So the chances of the Flames going after another skater in the Czech league probably aren’t that great.

Rittich, meanwhile? His .919 save percentage this past season was tied for fourth in the league, although he was the only starter to post that number; while he played 48 games, the two goalies he was tied with played just 18 and 15. 

The three goalies above Rittich in save percentage are all relatively young: Branislav Konrad, 28; Libor Kasik, 24; and Matej Machovsky, 22. None of them have been drafted. Konrad is a bit older – and has primarily played in the Slovakian league – while Kasik and Machovsky have posted better save percentages than Rittich over the years (Machovsky even spent three seasons in the OHL with the Guelph Storm and then-Brampton Battalion).

Without knowing how many of them have aspirations in North America, one possible reason the Flames may have went after Rittich is his size. Elite Prospects lists him as 6’4 and 194 lbs., while Kasik is 5’11 and 174 lbs., and Machovsky, 6’2 and 187 lbs.

So Rittich is young, was one of the better goalies in the Czech league, has NHL size, and was clearly willing to come over to North America this season – not a bad prospect to take a shot on at all, especially for no risk.

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  • beloch

    The Czech Republic might be a small country, but they are truly crazy about hockey and produce a disproportionate number of quality NHL players. If Calgary can earn a reputation for being a good place for Czech players to go, that will pay dividends to the Flames for many years to come. Likewise, developing relationships with the coaches and scouts there is worth doing too.

  • The Fall

    Sigalet made Ramo a much better goalie while with the Flames. Perhaps Rittich can develope while working in a better pro system.

    I’m not on the Pribyl hype train. He was a 6th round pick. AND he’s recovering from pretty major surgery. Up hill battle for sure.

  • freethe flames

    So resign Nakdaddy already. 3 years x$1.3; good value for a possible #4 far value for a 5/6 and easily tradeable or to buy out /bury if he does not work out.

    • Baalzamon

      The Flames have 7 defensemen on 1 way contracts. Not only that, as things stand right now they’re absolutely guaranteed to be over the cap before they reach a 23 man roster (unless they go ridiculously cheap in goal, which they won’t).

      At the moment, Wideman is in Nakladal’s way. If the Flames can’t get rid of Wideman, Nakladal’s gone. There’s pretty much no way around that.

      • freethe flames

        I agree that both Wides and Eng’s are in his way but I also believe we will buy out some guys and move one of Eng’s or Wides. My opinion after watching Nakdaddy play at the end of the year is that he is better than either of them. As for the goalie hunt who knows; if we go stop gap it might be a cheap goalie(some have advocated that we should do nothing and while that is not my personal stand it has merit- we could draft higher next year). Just read in Flames from 80 that Haynes thinks Kuemper in Minny might be worth gamble; less expensive to acquire and less expensive to sign than say Andersen.

        Again I would still sign Nakdaddy even if it just so we might include him in a trade. He is only an asset if he is signed.

    • freethe flames

      Many of agree with this, however the guy who needs to decide this may have different ideas, If he is declared healthy enough to play then IMO he needs to be bought out. Raymond needs to bought out as well. Savings $4.7m, that would solve the cap issue. Trade one of Wides or Eng’s w/o taking much salary back and then we can look for a RW who fits the bill. Trade Bouma and things get even better. This things are all possible w/o hurting the integrity of the rebuild. We can live with one of the Wide’s/Eng’s deals but not both. Maybe someone wants a veteran center come playoffs and stajan can be moved.

  • freethe flames

    So how can the Flames get better next year and be cap compliant. The only way this can be done is to buy out at least two contracts(Smid and Raymond) and trade 1/2 of the Wides’ contract or the Eng’s contract. I believe these can be done but the cost will be some draft assets. Parking Bollig in the AHL will help. Making some shrewd trades would also help. In all likelyhood they will have to go after a plan B goalie as I think both Reimer and Andersen will be too expensive for our cap.(Johnson, Enroth, Kuemper, Pickard all would be upgrades form last years group)

  • freethe flames

    What do people think the cost of acquiring Andersen will be? Personally I think it will be the 35th pick + another 2nd rounder and likely a later round pick. The cost of signing him will then also be $4m+. Props if I am in the ball park, Trashes if you think I’m to high.

        • EhPierre

          Yes the Flames can afford him, but should we? I don’t think so. I disagree with all the people saying we need a bonafide goalie for this year. I personally think we should go goalie hunting after this year when the expansion draft is coming up because then we’d see who really is on the market and the prices for those goalies will be a lot more attainable.

          Getting Anderson now is gonna cost us a lot simply because he’s young and we’re division rivals. Our 6th is going to be in place for sure, and that’s a bare minimum. That’s a price I’m not willing to pay because we’ll be missing out on Keller/Nylander who are gonna be amazing players.

          I think going after a stopgap this year, a.k.a Ortio and Riemer or some other FA goalie is all we need until we can clear away all the dead space (Wideman, Raymond, Engs, etc) It’s not like we’re expected to contend this coming season so why make rushed decisions?

          Patch up our forwards this year and then next year we patch up our goalie situation. It lines up perfectly for when we expect to contend by the 2017-2018 season.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            If we go into next year with Reimer and Ortio, then we are accepting another year of not making the playoffs. To go through an entire off season and not address the biggest organizational need would be il-advised.

            It would be a big mistake not signing Nackladal, he was our best defender in Stockton and top 5 on the Flames at the end of the season. As much as I liked Hartley as a person, he played with some players confidence like Nakladal, Spoon, and Jooris. I would be disappointed if the organization walks away from Grant as well.

          • freethe flames

            If the ask for Andersen is our first I think we walk away. I think we can get a solid goalie or two on the UFA Market, Reimer is one, Johnson and even Enroth could work as stop gap options. However I think that both Kuemper or Pickard can be gotten and signed for a lot less and give us quality goaltending. If we had NHL average goaltending in October and November last year we would have been the playoff hunt until the trade deadline. If we went this route I think we could upgrade or forwards a little bit this year via trade; but in saying that we still need to buyout 2 contracts and hope to move at least 1. We can wait out at least one contract but not all of them.

  • The Fall

    Yes, I’m optimistic the Flames can make the goalie a viable number four, as a backup on the farm. But a 6th round draft forward who is doing well in a Leauge below the NHL, AHL, KHL, Swede, and Swiss Leauges… Let’s say, I’m not drafting him to my fantasy team as a flyer…