It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old!
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2018).
Pyrochta hits the list at #16.
Pyrochta will make his return to North American ice this fall as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals. He previously spent two seasons in the QMJHL with the Victoriaville Tigres and the Val d’Or Foreurs from 2014-2016.
Corey Pronman was brief on Pyrochta in his analysis of the organizational pipeline - where he marked Pyrochta as a future depth option:
...as a teenager, I had time for him due to decent mobility and offensive IQ.”
By The Numbers
Pyrochta already has a long stat sheet for someone who is just 22. He began playing U16 junior hockey in the Czech Republic at the age of 13 and worked his way up the Liberec system to his professional debut in 2012-13. The following season, Pyrochta played 38 games in the second-tier Czech league as a 17-year-old before moving over to Quebec.
In his top tier professional career, Pyrochta has 18 points in 85 regular season games in the Czech Republic and 9 points in 21 playoff games over the last two seasons.
Pyrochta displayed an impressive performance on many fronts last season among his peers.
Among U23 defenders who played 500 or more minutes in Czechia last season, Pyrochta ranked fifth with 12 points and fourth with 0.89 points/60. He ranked second in that group in neutral zone starts with 42%; his ice time was evenly shared across all three zones (31% in the o-zone & 26% in the d-zone). Additionally, Pyrochta was first in contributions to team Corsi-For; the Tigers possessed the puck 58% of the time when Pyrochta was on the ice, and he individually had a 8.78% relative Corsi-For. Finally, Pyrochta led the group with 8.67 shots/60, and his team took 54% of total shots when he was on the ice.
Among all defenders of any age in the league, Pyrochta ranked inside the top 15 in all of these categories. You can check out the Czech Extraliga’s fantastic statistics page here and other stat visualizations here.
The above clip is from a 2013 WJC preliminary game against Finland featuring Pyrochta and Juuse Saros among others. In this play, Pyrochta - #16 - doesn’t chase the puck to the opposite corner, keeps strong positioning by the net, and takes an aggressive attack and board pin on an opposing forward allowing his teammates to re-gain possession and clear.
Above Pyrochta takes a solid angle at the puck and pulls off a nice move to evade the forechecker. He gets lucky when it comes to advancing the puck up ice. I like his decision to quickly join the rush, and he makes a smart play to tail off and re-gain position as his teammate crashes the net.
In the clip above, Pyrochta demonstrates his tendency to assume too quickly that his partner will win a puck battle below the goal line. As he shadows his centerman, he drifts more and more out of position and leaves the eventual goal scorer with plenty of time & space.
Pyrochta is entering the first year of his two-year, entry-level contract with a $767.5K cap hit and a $70K salary in the minors per year. Upon expiry, Pyrochta will be a restricted free agent.
A lot of this projection rests on how Pyrochta performs this season. His possession dominance in a professional league might suggest he could push for fill-in NHL time soon, but his game could just not show up too.
I have confidence he can form into a solid bottom-pairing defenseman in a few years.
Check out this interview where Pyrochta reflects on his NHL aspirations, adjustments he made at rookie camp this summer and his plans for September.