Radoslav Vavřina is a member of our All Habs team located in the Czech Republic providing readers with first-hand reports on prospects. His regular feature at our magazine is titled Czech List.
By Radoslav Vavřina, Czech Correspondent for All Habs Hockey Magazine
PRAGUE, CZE — Last month it was revealed by the Journal l’Express that former Canadiens’ fourth rounder Olivier Archambault would be re-entering the draft as he failed to receive a contract from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin. An under-reported story was that fellow Habs prospect Daniel Přibyl suffered the same fate.
Přibyl, the 1992-born native of Písek, Czech Republic was drafted by the Canadiens in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (168th overall.) Back then, already with some pro experience, he attended his first rookie camp and impressed. He was referred to as a steal and the very next season had many thinking that he might turn out to actually get a contract from Montréal.
The young forward spent almost entire 2011-12 season among professionals, scoring two goals in 17 games for Sparta Prague in the Czech Extraliga. That, however, wasn’t enough so he spent majority of the season in the top minor league of the Czech Republic, playing for Beroun. It was good to see that at the age of nineteen, he was able to become one of the leaders of a team that included players who were more than twenty years older than him.
His performance showed us all that this talented Czech has a knack for certain things, being a leader is just one of them. Přibyl resembles Aleš Hemský when he’s charged with the responsibility of scoring goals or Vladimír Sobotka when he plays on the third or fourth line. In this past season, he was more of a Sobotka while playing in the Extraliga for Sparta Prague in 42 regular season games and six playoff games. Twelve goals and ten assists put him at number eight in team point-scoring — not too bad for a twenty-year-old.
Despite the fact that he really stepped up his game in this past season, the Canadiens decided to give up on him. By June 1, he reportedly was no longer a part of the team’s system, but a week or two later, he apparently still didn’t know about it. After such a good season, I decided to meet him after an off-season practice in Prague and ask him if he had been approached by the team yet. At that time, he was still hopeful that the Habs would contact him with a contract offer.
In my opinion, I think the Canadiens are making a big mistake. Not only should they have contacted him about relinquishing the rights on him, but they shouldn’t have done that in first place. I don’t have a crystal ball so I don’t really know if Přibyl gets to the NHL one day or not. But, after he had this breakout season, it seems that the upcoming one is his last in the country if he repeats the success. KHL team Lev Prague, which is owned by the same corporation that owns Sparta, is one of the most likely options since a lot of Czech youngsters go there these days. Of course, he could go overseas, too, but why?
Still, hands down, the chances that he makes it to the NHL are pretty small. It’s possible but if you’re careful you don’t want to risk losing a year or two in the American Hockey League if you’ve got the opportunity to play at home and for better money. So, unless he gets an offer from an NHL team, I believe he’s not leaving this continent. Nonetheless, I bet he’s having a good time playing for Sparta. They’re about to give him a bigger role now.
I met Přibyl in mid-June while I was in Prague.
Daniel, what can you tell me about the situation regarding your contract with the Canadiens? Is it right that if they don’t sign you, they’re going to lose the rights?
Yes, but just in case the NHL and the IIHF shake hands on the new deal.
And have they contacted you about it yet?
It’s currently being dealt with, but I don’t know anything yet.
Do you think that the fact that you had a good season this year will help you?
I would love that, that’s for sure.
Looking at the Habs roster, Tomáš Plekanec is the only Czech on the team right now. I can imagine you’d like to play with him.
I would love to, but it’s not just him, it doesn’t matter who’s on the roster. It would be amazing to just play in the NHL.
And have you two met yet?
Only when he played here during the lockout. We played against each other, but we’re not friends, at least not yet.
You attended rookie camps in the last two years. How much experience did that give you?
A lot of experience. Everything is approached differently than here, skating and shooting techniques are very important there while here, we don’t really pay attention to it.
You were drafted in the sixth round back two years ago, do you think that these days, Czech players will be limited to late-round choices?
To be honest, I can’t really tell. I haven’t really watched the drafts so I don’t know how thinks work there.
If you received a contract offer, would you try to negotiate in an option for you to stay here in Prague or would you rather just go to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs?
I think that’s their call. If I get signed, it’s the team who will dictate the terms.
Doesn’t really sound like he knew about not being a Habs prospect anymore, does it?
Anyways, the team drafted another Central-European player this year, Slovak forward Martin Reway who is a Prague native and a product of Slavia Prague. And guess what, he played for Sparta’s Under-20 team a year ago, just like Přibyl. They both had six points in five regular-season games. Přibyl had more goals though, but I think Reway looks good indeed. I first saw him play at a tournament in my hometown of Liberec two years ago and he was a true leader for Slovakia’s national team. Then I saw him with Sparta’s Under-18 team a year later in the playoffs where they eliminated my hometown’s team. And I believe I saw him this year as well, preparing for the Under-18 World Championships in Bratislava. He’s a big-time player.