As part of the Columbus Blue Jackets 20th anniversary, we’re looking back at the best players from each European hockey power. Previously, we covered the Finns. Today, we head south to the ...
Also known as Czechia, the Czech Republic has been an independent nation in Central Europe since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993. A nation of over 10 million people, it is bordered by its former partner Slovakia as well as Germany, Austria, and Poland.
The Czech national team was at its peak in the 1990s, led by Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek. They won gold at the 1998 Olympics, the first to include NHL players. They added a bronze medal in 2006 but have not medaled since. They won six World Championships between 1996 and 2010, but have not medaled in that competition since 2012. The junior team is in a worse drought, with just one semifinal appearance and no medals since 2005.
The decline in the pipeline has also been reflected in the dwindling representation in the Blue Jackets’ pipeline. Just seven of the 21 Czechs listed below have played in the last decade, with just one after 2013. There are none on the current roster or among the prospects.
Top Three Czechs in Blue Jackets History
Bronze Medal: Rostislav Klesla
Stats: 515 GP, 41 G, 92 A, 133 P, -50, 48.3 CF%, 20:34 TOI
“Rusty” was the franchise’s first draft pick, going fourth in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He was a mainstay of the Jackets lineup for the first decade and still ranks eighth in games played. He never quite lived up to his draft status due to constantly fighting the injury bug. He averaged just 51.5 games played per season. When he was traded at the deadline in 2011, it marked the departure of the last remaining member of the inaugural season roster.
Silver Medal: Jakub Voracek
Stats: 241 GP, 39 G, 95 A, 134 P, +1, 51.9 CF%, 15:05 TOI
The first round draft pick (seventh overall) in 2007, young Jake was just 19 when he made his debut in the playoff season of 2008-09. He made an immediate impression with a goal and assist in his first game. He finished the season with 38 points, then improved in his sophomore season to 50 points (16G, 34A). He followed that up with a 46 point season before being traded to Philadelphia in the J*ff C*rter deal. Since then he has averaged over 60 points a season for the Flyers. Oh well.
Gold Medal: David Vyborny
Stats: 543 GP, 113 G, 204 A, 317 P, -48, 53.5 CF% (2007-08 only), 17:50 TOI
Vyborny is another star of the inaugural team who made his mark over the course of the first decade. He could be relied on to play big minutes (averaged 20 minutes a game from 2003-2007, with at least 80 games played each of those seasons) and rack up points (46, 53, 65, 64 each season from 2002-03 through 2006-07). You can still find his name on the franchise record boards, where he is sixth in games played, tied for fifth in goals, second in assists, and fourth in total points.
The biggest shame of his career is that he couldn’t last one more year in Columbus, to be a part of the first playoff team.
I recall Jan Hejda (302 GP) being a shutdown defenseman, and the first legitimate first pair defender the franchise had.
Vinny Prospal (130 GP) was profiled last month. In addition to being a 40 point forward winger, he was also a locker room leader during a transitional period for the team.
Jaroslav Spacek (153 GP) was a regular on the national team (pictured above) including the Olympic champion in 1998 and the world champions in 1999, 2001, and 2005. He scored 45 points (9G, 36A) in his second season in Columbus, which is the fifth highest scoring season by a Jackets defender.
Lukas Sedlak (164 GP) was part of a productive fourth line on the record-setting 2016-17 team.
The rest, aka remember some guys
Robert Kron (LW, 118 GP from 2000-02), Jiri Novotny (C, 107 GP from 2007-09), Jan Hrdina (C, 75 GP in 2005-06), Jaroslav Balastic (W, 74 GP from 2005-07), Radim Bicanek (D, 69 GP from 2000-02), Frantisek Kucera (D, 48 GP in 2000-01), Tomas Kubalik (RW, 12 GP from 2010-12), Jan Caloun (RW, 11 GP in 2000-01), Martin Spanhel (LW, 10 GP from 2000-02), Martin Prusek (G, 9 GP in 2005-06), Radek Martinek (D, 7 GP in 2011-12), Tomas Kana (RW, 6 GP in 2009-10), Filip Novak (D, 6 GP in 2006-07), Tomas Popperle (G, 2 GP in 2006-07).
Which Czechs were your favorite?
Who is your favorite Czech Blue Jacket?
This poll is closed