GM: Peter Ott (5th GM in team’s history – Took over 1 game into Season 6)
Coach: Patick Roy (replaced Dave Tippett)
Last season: 16th overall (lost to Berlin in Round 1)
Ins and Outs (Season 5 to Season 6)
Out: Jason Spezza (free agent), Ryan Miller (free agent), Jeff Woywitka (free agent)
In: Calvin Pickard (draft), Chris Tierney (draft), Zachary Senyshyn (draft)
1. Will Sparta make the playoffs? In Season 5, Prague made the playoffs as the 8th seed in the Southern Conference and then they were quickly bounced out by powerful Berlin. Under Axel Bode, Prague showed slow and steady progress and there is not much to indicate they won’t creep up another couple of positions in the standings. Their young lineup is collectively a little older and a little better than it was in Season 5. But between seasons, the team lost veterans Jason Spezza and Ryan Miller through free agency and Bode made no acquisitions other than three draft selections. Bode and Coach Patrick Roy made it clear to Prague fans and press that the current roster is who they are going with in a long-term plan. During Season 5, Roy made few changes in lines, keeping players together through thick and thin. Sparta is growing together, relying on and helping each other, and experiencing life in the EURO League together for the long term. If they can stay together for several seasons, they should be an extremely tight-knit group. *Bode gave up the team after one game of the season, being replaced by Peter Ott.
2. How do you explain the wild swings the team has experienced? At times during Season 5, Prague was knocking around every team it came across, putting together long stretches of wins. At other times, they went through extended sputtering spells. If you look at their statistics from last season, you will notice some players had great plus/minus ratings while others seemed to have really hurt the team. Marcel Hossa and Bryan Little, for example, played night in and night out on the top line – with Spezza most of the time – and their stats were pretty bad. The wingers both give the puck away more often than they stole pucks and they were -55 (Hossa) and -68 (Little) by the time the regular season ended. Martin Ruzicka and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, on the other hand, were the team’s top two scorers, were plus 9 and plus 6, but they were never promoted to the top line. Such was the Bode/Roy way. The philosophy paid off in a big way for some younger players who were allowed time to develop naturally. Nail Yakupov, 23, saw his goals total jump from 8 in Season 4 to 24 last season, and his point total improved from 29 to 51 in the same time. In Season 6, it looks like Coach Roy will be mixing things up. Early indications are that Hossa and Little will be separated, with Alexander Galchenyuk moving up to the top line and Hossa being demoted to the third. Yakupov, if things stay as they are, will see his numbers go down again as he has been penciled in on the fourth line. With Spezza gone, veteran Ryan Getzlaf will see more ice time at center and Cory Conacher, who filled in when Spezza was injured last season, will work with Yakupov and Tomas Jurco on the fourth line during the season.
3. Aren’t they kind of young in the back? Prague is going with two 22-year-olds in goal. Perennial Prague starter Ryan Miller’s time with the team is done. Niko Hovinen (3.41 goals against average and 89.2 save percentage) will open as the starter with rookie Calvin Pickard backing him up. On defense, the top 6 are also pretty young and that is by design. For three drafts in a row, Prague went with defensemen with their high first round picks. Justin Schultz,25, has scored in double figures in goals all three seasons in the league and for the last two, he has had more takeaways than giveaways. He doesn’t play a physical game and not many of his teammates do either. Dmitry Kulikov, 26; Torey Krug, 24; Roman Josi, 26; Andrej Sekera, 30; and Vladimir Roth, 21, all think offense first. The fact all 6 defensemen are classified as offensive defensemen, coupled with the fact the goalies are so young, could cause some problems in the back. It seems the team needs a veteran stay-at-home player or two if they want to win more games this year. But it just might be that Bode is content to let the young players take their lumps and gain experience for the team’s bright future.
Season Place PTS PP % PK % SPG SAPG GPG GAPG PIM
Season 5 16 81 21.6 72.9 31.37 30.41 3.40 3.68 5.52
Season 4 19 72 18.5 77.3 29.63 30.82 3.22 4.01 9.16
Season 3 23 61 13.4 79.6 26.28 32.96 2.89 4.18 11.18
Season 2 22 70 19.4 79.6 28.60 31.20 3.33 3.77 10.49
Season 1 6 103 19.9 78.4 31.63 29.35 3.89 3.21 8.24
Top Draft picks
Season 1: Zach Parise, LW, current age 32. Games played: 404; points: 445; -56
Season 2: Nail Yakupov, LW, age 23. GP 313, Pts. 151, +32
Season 3: Justin Schultz, D, age 25. GP 131, Pts 88, -93
Season 4: Torey Krug, D, age 24. GP 161, Pts 70, -18
Season 5: Vladimir Roth, D, 21. GP 26, Pts 6, +3
Season 6: Calvin Pickard, G, age 22.
Traded Nicklas Kronwall to Athens for Michal Rozsival and 2014 Round 1 pick (used to pick Justin Schultz)
Traded Nicklas Grossman and 2015 Round 3 pick to Minsk for Andrej Sekera
Traded P-A Parenteau to Oslo for Thomas Vanek
Traded Thomas Vanek and Mike Weaver to Geneva for Justin Williams, Ryan Malone and Jeff Woywitka
Traded Jared Spurgeon to Frankfurt for Josh Gorges
Traded Michal Rozsival and Kyle Palmeiri to Athens for Jared Spurgeon and Nick Johnson
Traded Michael Ryder to Athens for Marcel Hossa
Traded Chad Larose and 2015 Round 2 pick to Milan for Saku Koivu
Traded Joel Armia to Athens for Mark Scheifele
Traded Zach Parise to Minsk for Alexander Galchenyuk and Romas Josi
After Season 6 started: Traded Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Berlin for David Pastrnak and 2018 Round 1 pick.
Traded Bryan Little to Stockholm for Marcus Johansson
Traded Tomas Jurco to Stockholm for J.T. Miller and Connor Bleackley
Signed Tomas Plekanec (free agent)
Traded Calvin Pickard to Berlin for Aleksander Barkov