Between Marek Hrivik, Robert Dome, and Ronald Petrovicky, the Flames have had Slovakians play 111 games for them, 107 belonging to Petrovicky. Mostly due to Slovakia playing little brother to their former countrymen in the Czech Republic, the Flames have just opted for more Czechs (13 have played for the Flames) than Slovaks (three). One is just a superior hockey country than the other, and it’s reflected in their distribution throughout Flames history.
The Flames’ 2017 fourth draft pick Adam Ruzicka could potentially push those numbers more towards to the Slovak side (though certainly not all by himself – if he does though, that’d be something). The 6’4″, 203 lb. lefty centreman has been earmarked as a budding prospect from the resurgent Slovak system, but has yet to put it all together. He comes in at #13 in our yearly rankings, a slight jump from #16 last season.
How did we get here?
Ruzicka has been proclaimed an up-and-comer since he became a teenager, labelled as a potential kickstarter for the rebuilding Slovak hockey program. His early performances confirmed some of these labels: as a 15-year-old, he scored 28 points in 10 Czech U16 league games, 22 in 22 U18 games, and six in 11 U20 games in addition to similar performances with Slovakia’s U16 and U17 teams. He hit a point per game in the Czech U20 league the year after that, and was selected 107th overall by the Sarnia Sting in the CHL import draft.
His first OHL season was rough. Many expected Ruzicka to be a first round pick, but inconsistency and underperforming deflated his draft stock despite a strong U18 WJC appearance (five points in five games) and Ivan Hlinka tournament (four points in four games, captaincy). He slipped all the way to the fourth round of the 2017 draft where the Flames picked him up at 109th overall.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
Ruzicka’s points production, while solid as a whole, fell victim to the various ebbs and flows of his season. He picked up 27 points through his first 15 games, but failed to maintain that furious pace, only scoring 10 in the next 15. From there, he bounced between scoring droughts and scoring bursts. His World Juniors was unimpressive, not that anyone on Slovakia really stood out.
Ruzicka’s a strong generator of primary offence, as indicated by his numbers. He only picked up 11 secondary assists all year, and only five at 5v5. If there’s one knock on him, it’s that he’s extremely reliant on special teams time to bring up the point totals.
|Games played||Points||Primary points||5v5 points||5v5 primary points|
For a more detailed look, revisit this write-up.
Those in the know
Brock Otten of OHLprospects gives his well-informed take on Ruzicka’s latest season and what lessons he’ll hopefully take into next season:
He’s really starting to embrace the style of play that he needs to employ here in North America, using his size to dominate in possession and below the hash marks. His board play and ability to keep plays alive improved a lot, as he now has the confidence to remain patient and wait for openings to create scoring chances. Ruzicka was a lot more engaged without the puck too, looking to find the front of the net, using his size to gain inside position for rebounds, tips, etc. Another thing worth noting was his improved percentage on the faceoff dot. Massive improvement there which is huge if he wants to stay down the middle moving forward. Next year, Sarnia will lose a lot of key players so they’ll need Ruzicka to step up even more and be a dominant player.
On the horizon
As Otten alluded to, Sarnia is losing a lot of talent next season, particularly among the forward ranks. The burden will be on Ruzicka’s shoulders, and he’s not going to have much help to lean on. The real Adam Ruzicka will be revealed this upcoming season.
Can he handle it? Ruzicka could potentially be a 40/40 player next season or not that at all. Although he took some strides this season, a lot of his supposed true potential has not yet been realized, as demonstrated through inconsistent play. Given that he has to shoulder the weight of a significantly depleted team while also taking yet another step forward developmentally, it could be a tough season for Ruzicka. But there’s certainly the possibility that he comes ready to play and has a wire-to-wire dominant year.
He’s also still eligible for the World Juniors, where he’ll likely take a leadership role for Slovakia (Flames prospect Milos Roman will also be somewhere in the mix) in his third go-around.
|#20 – Martin Pospisil||#19 – Demetrios Koumontzis|
|#18 – Emilio Pettersen||#17 – Filip Sveningsson|
|#16 – Milos Roman||#15 – Dmitry Zavgorodniy|
|#14 – D’Artagnan Joly|