Patrik Elias is on pace for 35 goals and 93 points. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
In this week’s THN.com Top 10 we’re adding some international flavor by counting down the Czech Republic NHLers we’d most like to have on our roster right now.
Two factors were taken into account: current performance and career projection.
10. Michael Frolik, Center, Florida
If this list was made two months ago Frolik wouldn’t have made it. But an 11-point splurge in December moved him into the top 15 amongst Czech scorers and included flashes of brilliance, showing why the Panthers chose him 10th overall in 2006.
9. Marek Zidlicky, Defense, Minnesota
The 31-year-old is on pace to best his career-high 14 goals. Of his nine to date, all have come on the power play. Makes us wonder what his totals would look like if he wasn’t playing in Jacques Lemaire’s offensively-stifling system.
8. Martin Hanzal, Center, Phoenix
Hanzal has been compared to Bobby Holik, but with more offensive upside. The 6-foot-5, 208-pound, 21-year-old sophomore plays in every situation for the Coyotes and is already one of their top penalty killers.
7. Jakub Voracek, Right Wing, Columbus
The Blue Jackets selected Voracek seventh overall in 2007 after he put up 86 points as a Quebec League rookie and averaged two points per-game in the playoffs. More of a set-up guy than a scorer, the 19-year-old rookie is most often compared to countryman Ales Hemsky.
6. Jiri Hudler, Center, Detroit
The fourth-highest scoring Czech in the NHL this year, Hudler is on a career trajectory similar to those of Red Wings teammates Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Hudler may not reach their lofty heights, but the 5-foot-10 dynamo will reach 25 goals and 65 points this season, just his third full year in the league.
5. Tomas Kaberle, Defense, Toronto
No other Czech defenseman has as many assists or points as the Maple Leafs blueliner and no Czech player averages more ice time than Kaberle’s 24:02 per game. The 30-year-old, 10-year veteran has played in four All-Star Games, winning the shooting accuracy event in 2008, and will be a much sought-after commodity as the trade deadline approaches.
4. Ales Hemsky, Right Wing, Edmonton
Hemsky is having the best season of his career in terms of points-per-game average (1.1). If the super-skilled Hemsky could stay healthy – he’s averaged less than 70 games-played per year over his career – he’d be higher on this list.
3. Tomas Vokoun, Goaltender, Florida
After a rough start to this season, including a serious push from backup Craig Anderson, Vokoun has picked-up his play and is cruising. He won’t reach the 30-win plateau this year, but is on pace to match or surpass his career-bests in shutouts and save percentage as the Panthers fight for their first playoff berth since 1999-2000.
2. David Krejci, Center, Boston
Krejci has exploded into the upper-echelon of NHL scorers this season. The Bruins’ second-line center is currently tied for 10th in league scoring and is fourth in plus-minus. The 22-year-old is providing top-notch second-tier scoring for the Bruins behind No. 1 center Marc Savard and should have been an all-star this year. If he keeps playing this way, it won’t be long before he tops this list.
1. Patrik Elias, Left Wing, New Jersey
Elias is having a resurgent season. He hasn’t looked better since contracting Hepatitis-A while playing in Russia during the lockout. On pace for a 35-goal, 93-point season, he’s set to score almost 40 more points than last year. Those numbers will better any he’s had except for his 40-goal, 96-point 2000-01 season. As it stands right now, there is no other Czech player in the NHL we’d rather have on our team.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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