In my last dispatch from the Central European Stock Watch series, I mentioned that we’re getting down to crunch time in many of Europe’s best hockey leagues. Teams have been duking it out for playoff positioning, players battling it out on the ice for every last point they can, and now all that work has paid off in the form of playoff berths.
The stakes don’t end there, though. This is when the NHL sharpens its focus on this part of the hockey world, looking for undrafted free agents and seeing how draft-eligible skaters perform when the games start to matter in a professional setting.
In this Stock Watch, I’m going to highlight some of these younger players putting in good work of late, with one expectation for a legend in the Czech Extraliga.
Oscar Flynn, F, Bílí Tygři Liberec (Extraliga)
Oscar Flynn is having an exceptionally good year. He’s already set a new career high in points with 38 in 51 as of this writing, well north of the 24-point mark he set in the 2020-21 season. Those 51 points were good for fifth in scoring across the entire Extraliga. You really notice Flynn on the ice with his speed and offensive skill. His advanced age means that he hasn’t quite drawn the NHL attention you’d expect with those numbers, but they may have to rethink that if he performs well in the playoffs. If not the NHL, then Flynn will likely move on to another European professional setting shortly.
Martin Růžička, F, Oceláři Třinec (Extraliga)
We’re going to highlight the performance of a few Extraliga legends in this article, and I wanted to start with forward Martin Růžička out of Třinec. He just won the Extraliga scoring title for the second time in his career, with 52 points in 52 games, following in the footsteps of former Ottawa Senators property Filip Chlapík‘s 70 points a season prior.
The 37-year-old Růžička last won that title back in the 2012-12 season with 83 (!) points, good for an Extraliga record. That he’s managed to reach the top of the league leaderboard at this age is a testament to the truism that age is just a number. The Czech forward will once again lead his team into the playoffs as a goalscorer and power play threat, something he’s done a few times in his storied career.
Milan Gulaš, F, České Budějovice (Extraliga)
Milan Gulaš currently plays in the city where he was born. Naturally, a lot is expected of him, even with his relatively advanced age. This year was not a successful season for České Budějovice, but Gulaš held up his end of the bargain. As captain, he potted 42 points in 47 games. This year he helped his club stay in the Extraliga for next season, at which point new, exciting names are slated to join their ranks. Gulaš is a versatile player, but if he has quality teammates he can regularly play games where he scores more than one point. Whatever the outcome of next season, Gulaš is one of the legends who will forever go down in the history of Czechia’s top professional men’s league.
Andrej Nestrašil, F, Oceláři Třinec (Extraliga)
Many people may remember Andrej Nestrašil, the Detroit Red Wings’ 75th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He played 128 games in the NHL and if it wasn’t for one unfortunate moment, who knows what direction Nestrašil’s career would have taken. After a fight in the corner of the rink, he left the ice with two broken vertebrae. Such a diagnosis could have easily sent him into retirement. Instead, he fought back and returned to hockey. He is currently a playmaker for Třinec and all of the completed passes helped him to finish third in the assists standings.
Lukáš Pech, F, České Budějovice (Extraliga)
The leader in assists in this Czech Extraliga season? His name is Lukáš Pech, a well-known player in Czechia. Pech was a legend of Karlovy Vary and Sparta in Prague and now he is fulfilling his role in České Budějovice. The player who successfully performed Peter Forsberg‘s trademark shootout manoeuvre this year will slowly say goodbye to his hockey career. He is expected to play next season and then he will most likely say goodbye to his active hockey career. České Budějovice will be hungry next year to make up for this year’s botched season. Will Pech be as active again and can he find teammates with his passing? Anything can happen, but with his mentality and the kind of player he is, we can only expect more great performances.