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2023 FlamesNation prospect rankings: #18 Adam Klapka

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Photo credit:Angela Burger/Calgary Wranglers
Ryan Pike
7 months ago
What’s that old saying? You can’t teach size. But fairly often in recent memory, the Calgary Flames have brought some big fellas into their organization that didn’t pan out. Not to pick on specific players, but 2013 third-rounder Keegan Kanzig and 2014 second-rounder were big dudes who had a good amount of success in junior, but just didn’t click at the pro level.
So you can imagine what a pleasant surprise Czech winger Adam Klapka was with the Calgary Wranglers over the past season. The rapidly-improving giant lands at 18th on our annual prospect rankings.
Adam Klapka
Right wing
Born September 14, 2000 (22 years old) in Praha, Czech Republic
6’8″, 236 lbs
Undrafted; signed as a free agent
A product of Praha, also known as Prague, Klapka grew up a big kid and had a lot of success in hockey growing up. If you look at his progression through Czech hockey, he’s moved up the levels continually and had a good deal of success – primarily playing in the HC Sparta Praha system in his hometown.
But his considerable size may have given rise to doubts about his ability to translate his success to higher levels, even as he managed to constantly adapt his game. Let us explain:
In 2015-16, as a 15-year-old, he led his under-16 team in scoring with 32 goals and 59 points in 38 games.
In 2016-17, as a 16-year-old, he was limited to just 15 games on an under-18 team, but had 9 goals and 20 points. (On a per-game basis, he was among his team’s best players.)
In 2017-18, as a 17-year-old, he managed to stay healthy and had 32 goals and 46 points in 36 games on his under-18 team. He was second on his team in scoring and was ranked 83rd among European skaters by Central Scouting. (As a Sept. 14 birthday, he was likely simultaneously both the youngest and the biggest first-time player eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. He wasn’t selected.)
In his 18-year-old season, 2018-19, he moved to Czech under-19 hockey and had 11 goals and 32 points in 39 games, good for fourth on his team. He also made his pro debut, playing 22 games on loan to HC Benatky nad Jizerou in the Czech second division, where he had 4 goals and 6 points.
In his 19-year-old season, 2019-20, he played in the Czech second division again primarily, with five goals and six points in 30 games. Late in the season, with Benatky nad Jizerou out of the playoff picture, he joined the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League. He had four points in eight games to close out that season. He became, at the time, the largest player to ever appear in a USHL game.
The following season, 2020-21, he spent the entire year with Tri-City and had 12 goals and 21 points in 49 games. He was eighth in scoring on a team that included the likes of Matthew Knies, Carter Mazur and Gavin Brindley.
He returned to Czechia as a 21-year-old for the 2021-22 season, where he split the season between the Extraliga’s Billi Tygri Liberec (6 goals, 18 points in 44 games) and the second division with Benatky nad Jizerou (7 goals, 12 points in 15 games).
He was signed by the Flames as a free agent in the spring of 2022 and had 13 goals and 25 points in 60 games with the Calgary Wranglers in his first North American pro season. He built his game quite well and adapted throughout the season:
  • From the beginning of the season until the end of February, he had 5 goals and 12 points in 41 games.
  • In March and April, he had 8 goals and 13 points in 19 games – including a hat-trick in the final regular season home game of the season and two game-winning goals during the Wranglers’ stretch drive.
In the last 20-25 games of the Wranglers’ regular season, and their playoff run, he was among their most consistent, impactful forwards.

Expectations for 2023-24

The point of recounting Klapka’s history to-date is this: there’s been a lot of built-in, logical reasons to doubt his performances to this point in his career. He’s always been one of the biggest players in his league, and so he’s had physical tools that others haven’t – and so you could say “yeah, but he’s bigger than everybody!” to discount his success much of the time.
He also played much of his hockey in Czechia, in leagues that haven’t produced a lot of viable NHL talent to this point. So even if his physical gifts weren’t the reason for his successes, perhaps you could discount his accolades with a “yeah, but he’s dominating a league that’s not full of future NHL stars.” (In Czechia, if you’re not playing regularly in the Extraliga as a teenager, you tend not to get much notice from NHL scouts.)
And yeah, both of those are probably fair criticisms. But aside from Klapka’s strong end to his first AHL season, a big reason for optimism with him is how he’s adapted to being a role player in North America, pro, and North American pro over the past few seasons. Klapka wasn’t a high-end player in the USHL, or in Czech pro hockey, but he found ways to be effective at both of those levels. And it’s not clear if his adaptation to the AHL game has finished, so there may be growth in his game yet to come.
He’s definitely somebody to keep an eye on with the Wranglers in 2023-24. Given his size and ability to use his size effectively, he could find himself wearing a Flaming C before too long.

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