The most prominent trade the Calgary Flames made on the second day of the 2018 NHL Draft was obviously the one with the Carolina Hurricanes. But just before that they added a draft pick when they swapped a 2019 fourth round pick to Montreal for a 2018 fourth round selection, taking Vancouver Giants forward Milos Roman at 122nd overall.
While the Slovakian import only played in 39 games for the Giants, he impressed enough for the Flames to go out of their way to grab him. In what’s a bit of a theme for the Flames’ 2018 draft class, Roman represents a calculated gamble (and a potential value selection).
Originally from Kysucke Nove Mesto in northern Slovakia, Roman played much of his junior hockey in the neighbouring Czech Republic with the HC Trinec organization – his older brother, Michal, was his teammate on several rungs of the Trinec ladder.
The nice thing about European hockey is that the organizations are vertically integrated, so players can jump up a level if they’re good. And Roman turned out to be pretty good at generating points, so he moved up quite frequently.
- At 14, Roman was well over a point-per-game (60 points in 26 games in the Czech U16 league and just under a point-per-game (16 points in 19 games) in the U18 league.
- At 15, he was a point-per-game (42 points in 36 games) in the U18 league.
- At 16, he was a point-per-game (37 points in 35 games) in the U20 league.
- At 17, he was a full-time pro in the Czech secondary league, playing 29 games and generating six points.
It’s worth noting that Roman is two years younger than his brother and outscored him over these four seasons in every instance where they were teammates.
From there Roman rolled the dice and headed to North America, moving to the Vancouver Giants by way of the Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft. He faced some unique challenges as he adapted to differences on and off the ice.
“When I came here I didn’t speak English, so I learned there fast and it helped me a lot,” said Roman at Flames development camp. “And also on the ice about three games into the season so I felt good on the ice, and I used to playing here really fast and it helped me.”
Despite having to adjust to the many differences of the North American game, Roman managed to put together a very solid rookie campaign with 32 points in 39 games. His season was partially derailed, though, by a trip to the World Juniors and a lower-body injury that followed soon after.
“I thought I had a good year over there in Vancouver,” reflected Roman. “I got injured right after World Juniors, in first game, it kinda stopped me a little bit because I thought I had pretty good season so far at the time. I came back after the injury and I felt really good in playoffs. I’m really happy that I jumped back and I felt good there.”
Roman got a big confidence boost from his performances in the WHL playoffs, where he had six points in their seven-game first round loss to Victoria. He got another one from the Flames trading into the fourth round to nab him. He might get another big one this season, as there’s chatter that he may become the Giants’ captain now that Tyler Benson has gone pro.
For his part, Roman’s more focused on team goals.
“We’ll have a good team,” said Roman. “I’m sure I’ll be one of the leaders. I’m ready for it. I want to go further in playoffs. I want to make playoffs and want to go further.”
Short of a trip to Vancouver, though, Flames fans probably won’t get a chance to see him in-person this season. He’ll likely be suiting up for Slovakia at the World Juniors when the Giants are slated to come to town in late December.
But also be on the lookout for something else by late December: a potential NHL contract. Like Juuso Valimaki’s signing last year, Roman’s late birthday means the Flames could get a free year of AHL development if he signs before the end of 2018.
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