As we noted yesterday, the Nashville Predators have announced the signing of Czech defenseman Filip Pyrochta to a two-year, entry-level contract.
The 21-year-old defenseman has spent the past two seasons in the top two leagues in the Czech Republic. Prior to that, he spent two seasons in the QMJHL with the Victoriaville Tigres and the Val-d’Or Foreurs. Undrafted, Pyrochta grew up in the Liberec system from U16 and on. He made his professional debut in 2013-14 playing 38 games for HC Benatky nad Jizerou of the Czech2 league as a 17-year-old. The next season he jumped to North America before heading back and molding himself into a top Czech defenseman.
In 85 games in the top Czech league, he has 5 goals and 18 points. Additionally, he has represented the Czech Republic in 105 games including 12 games at the World Junior Championships.
Pyrochta is penciled in to start the season in Milwaukee. He’s a good player who has proven himself at a professional level but is still somewhat of a project at 21-years-old. In Milwaukee, he’ll join a young corps featuring Jack Dougherty, Joonas Lyytinen, Alexandre Carrier, and Frederic Allard.
Before we get to the breakdown, I have two notes to share. First, it’s believed that both the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights were serious contenders for Pyrochta among other teams who made offers.
Also, Pyrochta’s coach in Liberec will soon be a buzzing name in hockey circles. Filip Pesan has coached Liberec for the past four seasons as well as the Czech Junior Team. At this year’s World Junior Championship, he took the Czech team to a 3-1-0 round-robin record and a fourth-place finish - their best since 2005. He’s developed a reputation as an excellent coach with young talent and maybe drawing NHL interest soon; he was reportedly invited to the Rangers’ development camp this past summer.
By the Numbers
I went over the numbers a bit earlier, but I’ll say a few things just to rehash. You’ll notice he hasn’t put up stunning offensive numbers - not in the Czech Extraliga or in the QMJHL. But, there is some context to that.
This past season he was fifth amongst U23 defensemen in the top Czech league and only two points behind number one. Another number that stands out to me is his impressive 20 penalty minutes this past season; that’s incredible discipline.
Additionally, he posted 8 assists in 10 playoff games and took only one penalty this postseason. At 21 years of age, I like where he’s at offensively.
Now the best part: some game tape! Pyrochta has a solid build standing at 6’2” and 192 lbs. He excels at skating and has above-average speed and vision. At this point, his biggest impediment is adding strength and adjusting to the NHL game. With that, he’ll have a decent shot at becoming a full-time NHL player.
In this first clip, Liberec has all sorts of defensive miscues. Pyrochta, #24 in white, does a good job of maintaining solid gap control with his man throughout the play. He’s mostly hung out to dry by his center and defensive partner, but I generally like the awareness here.
Another goal allowed here, but Pyrochta plays the 2-on-1 soundly. And the very active stick is something noticeable about his game.
On the penalty kill here, Pyrochta plays the box well and then recognizes the open man at the back door. He makes an excellent adjustment to tie him up. In theory, I don’t like him turning his back to the play, but he wouldn’t have prevented that one-timer anyway.
Here Pyrochta floats down as a forward, keeps his feet moving to find the open ice, and buries a goal with a wicked shot. Notice how effortlessly he keeps moving with excellent edge work.
It’s a two-year deal for Pyrochta as noted above. He’ll come in with a $925K average annual value, a $767.5K cap hit, a $70K salary in the AHL, and $315K available in performance bonuses over two years.
Check out the breakdown here.
I anticipate the Preds’ defense looking much the same next season, but can Pyrochta and another Admiral push one of the bottom pairing players in Nashville out in 2019?