Just over a year ago, the Calgary Flames signed forward Daniel Pribyl out of the Czech Republic. Following recovery from offseason knee surgery, Pribyl made his North American debut. He struggled with injuries throughout the season and ultimately ended his season a month early as a result, but he showed flashes of what he could be here and there.
Ranked ninth on this list last year, Pribyl is the Flames’ 18th-ranked prospect this year.
A brief history
Pribyl’s journey to North American hockey began way back in 2011, when he was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Draft by Montreal. Pribyl opted to stick around in Europe, so his North American rights lapsed by June 2015 and he was thus available for the Flames to pick up. In the interim, he played a good chunk of hockey in the Czech Republic.
After splitting his draft year between junior and two levels of Czech pro, Pribyl spent the better part of five seasons as a pro – a half-season with HC Berounsti Medvici and four and a half with HC Sparta Praha. His production averaged at around 0.6 points-per-game as a pro, but there was a pretty distinct progression:
His overall pro production in a pretty tough Czech Extraliga is pretty impressive, but his progression from being a 19-year-old figuring out the league into a 23-year-old averaging a point-per-game is arguably more impressive.
He had knee surgery during the spring of 2016, around the same time he signed with the Flames, but he was fully recovered by the time training camp hit and he ended up getting off to a pretty strong start to the American Hockey League schedule in Stockton before injury issues crept up again. From Oct. 15 to Dec. 3, he played 18 games and had 11 points – which would be extrapolated to a 42 point pace over a full (California) AHL schedule.
Unfortunately, Pribyl had three stretches of games missed due to injuries – 11, eight and 16 plus the playoffs – and in between those stretches he had just four points in the remaining 15 games. The hope is with a good summer of training and some luck, he can put his injury troubles behind him. As a big-bodied right shot forward that can play center or right wing, he could be very useful for Stockton (or even Calgary, eventually).
Stockton Heat head coach Ryan Huska noted that Pribyl started to translate some of his success from Europe to North America, and put his offseason knee injury behind him, before his late-season injury.
He was starting to play the game with a little bit more confidence and I think he was starting to learn how he could use his body and his ability to see the ice well at our level in North America. I think he had that confidence when he was in Europe the past few years, but we were starting to see that before he got hurt.
Huska had a brief assessment of the type of player Pribyl can be at the AHL level: “He showed us some glimpses of what he can be capable of becoming here down the road, which is a bigger-bodied guy that protects the puck very well and has the ability to see the ice.”
What comes next?
Pribyl has one year left on his entry-level deal, so he’s headed back to Calgary soon to continue his offseason training and to ready himself for training camp.
He’ll turn 25 in December, so he might be running out of runway in terms of being a prospect, but he’s still got a big opportunity to prove himself as a strong AHL player – especially if the Flames are planning on graduating guys like Mark Jankowski to the NHL pretty soon. If Pribyl can show that last year’s 18-game showcase was how he’s capable of playing, the ice time will likely be available to him going forward.
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