With a new season upon us, there is a new class of Predators prospects whose exclusive negotiating rights with the team expire at the end of the year. I am doing a four-part installment assessing the likelihood of these players receiving entry-level contracts.
The first three installments can be read below:
In the final segment, I’ll be detailing goaltender Milan Kloucek.
What’s New Since Draft Day?
Kloucek was drafted in the final year of his eligibility last summer at 20 years old. The seventh-round pick split his 2018-19 season between the top Czech league and the second-tier Czech league.
In the top league, Kloucek started 20 games for HC Dynamo Pardubice—one of the worst clubs league-wide last season. Despite outperforming his peer Ondrej Kacetl (-7.1 goals-saved above average versus -21), Kloucek was relegated to the back-up position.
He excelled in 11 appearances for HC Prerov earlier in the season in the Czech-2 league.
Expectations for 2019-20
Kloucek was initially expected to compete with Kacetl again this season for Pardubice after they avoided relegation in 2018-19.
However, on July 1, Dynamo finalized a one-year contract with veteran goaltender Jakub Stepanek, who spent 2018-19 in the KHL with Bratislava. As a result, the club made the decision to loan Kloucek to the Czech-2 league for better development and a harder workload.
Jaromir Kverka, Dynamo’s manager, noted that the move was mutually agreed upon and that Kloucek was previously aware of the club’s intentions to sign Stepanek.
What Does History Tell Us?
I once again enlisted the help of Bryan Bastin to visualize the path to entry-level contracts that Kloucek’s peers have taken. Having trouble on mobile? Click here.
(Note: Bryan would like me to remind you all that he is still upset Tom McCollum was slotted above Miroslav Svoboda last season and that the latter was destined to be a decent NHL goalie.)
As you can see in the visualization above, we don’t have a good sample size to draw any conclusions about Czech goalies. Kvaca and Kloucek are both on the verge on not earning an entry-level contract, whereas the three goalies drafted in the top three rounds were locked up early and have proven their worth to date.
Despite being beneficial for his game in the long-run, Kloucek’s relegation for the upcoming season is another impediment in his track to an NHL contract—especially since he wasn’t selected until his final year of eligibility.
All stats are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.