When it comes to NHL odds, you can bet that the Czech Republic is one of the world’s top producers of hockey talent. As a result, the native players have a disproportionate impact on major pro leagues around the globe, including the NHL, especially for a country with a population of only 10.6 million people.
It’s most likely because of the long winters there, which force the youth to discover ways to pass the time. It’s been that way since Jaroslav Jirik debuted for the St. Louis Blues in the 1969-70 season, becoming the first Eastern-bloc player to play in the NHL. Twenty years later came Jaromír Jágr, one of the finest players in the game’s history. Today, we will look at the best Czech players to have graced the NHL and celebrate their achievements.
Jaromír Jágr is the greatest Czech Republic NHL player of all time. He was the first Czechoslovak player to be drafted without first having to defect, with the Pittsburgh Penguins selecting him fifth overall in the 1990 draught. The Penguins quickly signed him and he had a fantastic rookie season, scoring 27 goals and 57 points. He assisted Mario Lemieux in leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. At 19, he became the youngest player ever to score in the Stanley Cup finals.
Jágr finished his NHL career with 646 goals and 1599 points, ranking him 13th and ninth all-time. At the end of his career, he also had the seventh-highest point per game average in NHL history. Jaromír Jágr is the all-time leading scorer among European players and the greatest Czech of all time.
Without Martin Brodeur, this man, Patrik Eliás, would be the face of the New Jersey Devils. After bouncing around the AHL, Eliás was picked by the Devils in 1994 and became a full-time NHL player in 1997. In 2000-01, he had his best offensive season, scoring 40 goals and 96 points, a point total that is currently a Devils record. In addition, Eliás assisted on Brian Gionta’s game-winning goal on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2009, to become the New Jersey Devils’ all-time top scorer and, therefore, helped create franchise history.
Bobby Holik was born to play hockey. Jaroslav Holik, a world champion in hockey in 1972 and who led the Czech world junior team to successive gold medals in 2000 and 2001, is his father. Bobby was picked 10th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1989 and had a very successful rookie season in the 1990-91 season, collecting 21 goals and 44 points. After a comparable season in 1991-92, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils, where his career would take shape.
Despite his parents’ wishes, Nedved decamped to Canada with $20 and the assistance of another Czech, whom he will not name. Later that year, he went to a Calgary police station to register his defection before joining the IHL’s Seattle Thunderbird. He was picked second overall by the Vancouver Canucks after a season where he dominated with 65 goals and 145 points.
Nedved quickly became a fan favorite after being traded to Pittsburgh, achieving career highs in goals and points with 45 and 99, respectively. In the longest NHL playoff game in 60 years, he also scored a quadruple overtime goal to eliminate the Washington Capitals.
Unlike some of these other players, Robert Lang was not a highly regarded prospect when he was picked 133rd overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1990. He didn’t make his NHL debut until 1992-93; he appeared in 11 games for the Kings and contributed five assists. During the 1995 season, he returned to the NHL and eventually became an everyday player for the Los Angeles Kings, but not yet a star.
Lang ultimately broke into the NHL during the 1998-99 season. He scored 21 goals and 44 points, showing that he could be a legitimate scorer in this league. Lang further improved the following season with increased responsibilities, posting 23 and 65 points. He demonstrated he could be a point per game player the next season, scoring 32 goals and 80 points. He departed the Penguins after the next season to join the Washington Capitals.