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The Flyers’ World Cup of Hockey: Czech Republic

You should Czech this out! (I’ll see myself out now)

Philadelphia Flyers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Teams: Sweden, Finland

The third team up the the inaugural Flyers’ World Cup of Hockey is the Czech Republic. Always a strong force in the world of hockey, the Czechs won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympic games in Nagano, and usually deliver strong performances in international competition at the junior and senior level.

As for Czech representation in Flyers’ history, like Sweden and Finland a sizable number of Czech talent have plied their trade in Philadelphia, including some NHL icons, likely hall-of-fame candidates, and one crazy goaltender who unfortunately doesn’t make the team. Sorry Roman.

G - Michal Neuvirth

I hinted at Roman Cechmanek in the opening, but I don’t think I could pass on Michal Neuvirth. Though he spends more time on the injury treatment table than in-between the pipes, Neuvirth is a respectable goaltender who, if not for his injury history, would likely have an NHL contract.

The 32-year-old is a middling to back end starting option and an excellent backup and tandem goaltender when healthy, and for a tournament format where there’s less time to feature to be injured, I’d take Neuvirth in net. In 77 games started in Philadelphia, Neuvirth compiled a 0.908% save percentage, with 2.66 goals against on average and 39 wins.

LD - Petr Svoboda

I was between Svoboda and Miroslav Dvorak for the left defense spot, and while Dvorak may have been the better player by reputation and career output, he didn’t leave much on an NHL impact. He had to wait until he was 31 to play an NHL game, due to strict laws in then Czechoslovakia preventing him from doing so. Perhaps in an alternate history, Dvorak makes this team, but I felt Svoboda was the better choice.

Starting his career in 1984-85 with Montreal, Svoboda would make his way to Philadelphia during the mid-late 1990’s, where he ultimately played in 232 games over 5 seasons, scoring 70 points.

RD - Radko Gudas

The man, the myth, the legend himself is back.

There isn’t a single Flyers fan among us who doesn’t have something to say about Radko. The baby-faced, stick chopping, occasionally suspended defenseman was a black hole when it came to puck movement, but occasionally he’d shoot from mid-ice and score because why not. Also the thumbnail for this video below has both Chris VandeVelde and Brandon Manning in it. Oh the horror.

Gudas was a staple on the blue line during the Flyers’ more mediocre run of form in the middle of the last decade, and while he was imperfect and many of us are glad to see him gone, I’ll always have an appreciation for the man, to some degree. Over four seasons, Gudas played in 290 games, scoring 73 points.

LW - Jakub Voracek

Voracek is the best Flyer on this list, having spent the longest time on the club out of any Czech player who has ever featured. Having been acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Jeff Carter trade (along with the pick that would become Sean Couturier), Voracek has blossomed into a fantastic power-playmaking winger, and is among the league’s elite when he is in form. Though he can sometimes be frustrating when he is slumping, Voracek is still easily a top six winger, and currently holds the record for most points scored in franchise history by a European player.

Over nine seasons, Voracek has scored 561 points in 674 games as a Flyer.

C - Vaclav “Vinny” Prospal

Like Finland, there aren’t many great options for centers when picking Flyers from the Czech Republic. Prospal was easily the best of the options, despite his lack of history with the organization. Prospal was traded in a package for Alexandre Daigle, which worked out about as well as one could expect (poorly) only after having played 59 games with the Flyers. He then went on to develop into a very useful center for Ottawa and Tampa Bay, before returning via trade to the Flyers in 2007-08. After that season, however, he went back to Tampa where he spent most of his career.

In 77 total games as a Flyer, Prospal scored 47 points.

RW - Jaromir Jagr

There isn’t much new to say about Jaromir Jagr that I haven’t already said, and I think this paragraph from a prior article I had written says it all:

Almost certainly the most legendary player on this list, Jagr can be remembered for both his dominant prime in the NHL throughout the 1990’s and early/mid 2000’s (to the Flyers’ dismay), and for his longevity to continue playing in the NHL all the way through to the 2017-18 season. Heck, he scored 66 points as a 43 year old in 2015-16, and just played the 2019-20 season in the Czech Extraliga (29 points in 38 games).

...At a base level, the 39 year old helped younger players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek as a mentor, and it is well noted how dedicated he was and continues to be to hockey. However, we will be getting Jagr at 39...yet at that age, still an effective 1st line player with all of the hockey smarts in the world to make up for the lost mobility that comes naturally with age.

I personally consider Jagr’s career to be constructed in three parts: the first from when he’s drafted and is a rising star, the second from his mid-late years in Pittsburgh through to 2007-08 with the Rangers, when he was a bonafide elite talent, and the third being from his return to the NHL with the Flyers to 2017-18 with the Calgary Flames. Even if we are getting him at the start of the third portion of his NHL career, like I said, he’s still one of the best options out there, and even when he was a Penguin, is still one of my favorite hockey players of all time. Oh, and the other day he was practicing on the ice again with Kladno.

The man doesn’t know the word “quit”.

Honorable Mentions: Roman Cechmanek, Miroslav Dvorak, Petr Nedved