According to the team, Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect Matej Tomek will play the 2019-20 season with HK Dukla Trencin in Slovakia’s Tipsport Liga, the nation’s highest level of ice hockey. This will be the goalie’s second time leaving an NCAA program in an attempt to garner more playing time since the Orange and Black selected him 90th overall back in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Philly has until August 15, 2021 to sign Tomek to an entry-level deal.
Realizing that a North American pro hockey future was not in the cards (in Philly or elsewhere), Matej Tomek will forgo senior college season to turn pro in his native Slovakia. https://t.co/HsPXYljpCf— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) June 12, 2019
With perhaps some guidance from former head coach Dave Hakstol, former general manager Ron Hextall drafted Tomek in the third round of the 2015 draft following a 33-game campaign in the NAHL with the Topeka Roadrunners where he posted a .928 save percentage and 1.83 goals against average. Tomek then spent the next two seasons at the University of North Dakota, where he failed to play a single game in the 2015-16 season and appeared in just two games (with a .692 save percentage) during the 2016-17 season as he struggled to get starts behind Cam Johnson (who is now in the New Jersey Devils’ system) and Matt Hrynkiw. In a search for more playing time, Tomek left UND and joined the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL providing a .907 save percentage and 2.39 GAA in 30 regular season games in 2017-18. He then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Omaha for this past season and is leaving the school after he had an .845 save percentage in just five games.
Obviously this development is not ideal. Much like the Jay O’Brien news last week Tomek’s departure from his original NCAA program wasn’t encouraging news, but it didn’t necessarily mean his chances of becoming a professional goalie in the Flyers’ system were completely dead. This season was Tomek’s chance to prove whatever was the cause of his lack of starts at UND wasn’t entirely his fault, but going to a different school to do almost exactly the same thing (fail to earn starts and lack patience to take a run at being the starting goalie the following season) isn’t the best look. Evan Weninger is an undrafted 22-year-old goalie who deservedly was the starter for Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet, as he was in his fourth season with the Mavericks. With the coaching staff knowing Weninger pretty well and Tomek just transferring to the school it’s hard to guess how much time the Flyers’ prospect could have realistically expected to play this season, but he would have definitely been in the running to be Omaha’s starter next season.
In general, drafting in the NHL is more or less a crapshoot. Some organizations have it down to a science, but every team misses on a good chunk of their picks and even have misses near the top of the draft. Goaltending is probably the most difficult position in hockey to forecast future success, so the news of Tomek most likely never playing a game for the Flyers is more an expected loss than a shock.