Acquired via: Free Agency / originally drafted by Columbus (2nd round, 55th overall in 2010)
Current Team/League: Adirondack Phantoms, American Hockey League
Contract: $925,000 per year through 2015-16
The Philadelphia Flyers have become adept at filling their prospect pool via free agency. Undrafted free agents like Matt Read and Michael Raffl were unearthed by Philadelphia scouts relatively late in their overall development, only to turn into immediate contributors at the NHL level.
Petr Straka, on the other hand, was not discovered by the Flyers first. But they hope to be the ones that benefit from his talent.
Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft following a strong rookie season in the QMJHL, Straka regressed in his next two seasons in juniors. After scoring 64 points in 62 games as a rookie for the Rimouski Oceanic, Straka posted 25 points in 41 games and 37 points in 54 games in his next two seasons.
As a result, the Blue Jackets chose not to sign him to an entry-level contract after the 2011-12 season, making him a free agent. After returning to the QMJHL the following year for an overage season, Straka was able to re-establish himself as an NHL prospect, scoring 82 points in 55 games for his new team, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
His production apparently caught the attention of the Flyers' front office, and he signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers on April 11, 2013, choosing Philadelphia over at least 10 other teams. He has spent this season playing in Adirondack, where he has scored seven goals and added 15 assists for 22 points in 42 games.
Straka is primarily an offensive talent. Unlike most of the forward prospects playing with the Phantoms, Straka has little hope of making the NHL in a third line or fourth line role. He's not a grinder, and his defensive acumen, while improving, is not close to shutdown level by any means.
If he makes the NHL, it will be as a top-six forward. And Straka does have the raw skills to get there. Scouts rave in particular about his skating ability, which is certainly an attribute that the Flyers' forward corps could use right now. But as with many young players, inconsistency plagues Straka's game, and prior to joining the Phantoms, his defensive game was often in question.
Straka is now halfway through a season under Terry Murray, well known for his commitment to defense above all else. After being briefly scratched in the early season, Straka recently earned a promotion to the top-six after spending most of the season playing on the team's third line.
Still, Straka will really need to rack up points in the AHL if he wants to earn a spot on the Flyers' roster before the conclusion of his entry-level contract. Luckily, he has two more seasons to do so, as his deal does not expire until the end of the 2015-16 season. But as Jason Akeson can attest, it's very difficult to crack the Philadelphia lineup if the front office views you solely as a top-six forward.
Straka's physical ability outweighs that of Akeson, and most likely, his overall upside does as well. But Akeson is posting better numbers in the AHL and would appear to be first in line for a call-up if a rash of injuries demanded an offense-first winger for the big club. And as with Akeson, there is concern that Straka's major offensive breakout in juniors did not occur until his overage season. Straka needs to prove that he can produce without a major edge on the competition in physical development and overall experience. Until he does so, he'll likely remain in the AHL for more seasoning.
How we voted for Petr Straka:
Who we voted for at No. 16:
|Marcel Noebels||Petr Straka||Taylor Leier||Jason Akeson||Brandon Alderson||Marc-Andre Bourdon||Zac Rinaldo||Taylor Leier|