There's no question the European country has produced a steady stream of young and talented prospects over the years -- David Krejci of Boston, Martin Hanzal of Phoenix and Michael Frolik of Florida come to mind. Today, NHL.com takes a stab at listing the top 10 Czechs in the game.
1. Patrik Elias, F, New Jersey: Elias became the New Jersey Devils' all-time leading scorer when he collected his 702nd regular-season point last season. The two-time Olympian led all fellow countrymen in the League last season with 31 goals and 78 points in 77 games and has produced 706 points in 822 career contests.
2. David Krejci, F, Boston: Krejci, 23, established career highs in goals (22), assists (51) and points (73) in 2008-09 -- his third NHL season -- and finished with a League-leading plus-37 rating. He received the Bruins Seventh Player Award, given to the player who performs above and beyond expectations, and had 8 points in 11 postseason games.
3. Tomas Vokoun, G, Florida: Vokoun is the best Czech Republic goalie in the League and is the likely candidate to man the cage for his country in Vancouver. He finished 26-23-6 with a 2.49 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and 6 shutouts in 2008-09. Vokoun has won 217 games and sports a 2.56 GAA and .915 save percentage in 512 career games.
4. Tomas Kaberle, D, Toronto: Despite struggling with injuries last season, Kaberle still averaged 23:27 of ice time and 28 shifts with the Maple Leafs. He had 4 goals and 31 points in 57 games, the first time he's finished a season with fewer than 53 points in four seasons. He has 433 points in 738 career games.
5. Ales Hemsky, F, Edmonton: Hemsky, who turns 26 on Aug. 13, finished tied for the team lead in goals (23) and was tops in assists (43) and points (66) in his sixth NHL season. He skated for the Czech Republic at the 2006 Olympics, helping his country defeat Team Russia in the bronze-medal game.
6. Milan Hejduk, F, Colorado: Hejduk, who averages just under 20 minutes of ice time a game, remains as productive now as he was when he first broke into the League in 1998-99. He finished fifth among Czechs last season with 59 points, including 27 goals, and has posted 657 points in 783 career games -- all with the Avs. The three-time NHL All-Star had a goal and two assists in last year's All-Star contest in Montreal.
7. Martin Havlat, F, Minnesota: Havlat, who signed a six-year deal with the Wild in July, led the Blackhawks with a career high 48 assists and 77 points. He also ranked second on the club with 29 goals and a personal-best plus-29 rating and notched 15 points in 16 Stanley Cup playoff games.
8. Michael Frolik, F, Florida: Frolik, the 10th choice in the '06 Entry Draft, was sixth in the League among rookies and 10th among fellow Czechs with 45 points (21 goals) in 79 games for the Panthers in 2008-09. Frolik, often referred to as "Baby Jagr," also exhibited a defensive side to his game by compiling 46 hits, 36 takeaways and a plus-10 rating.
9. Milan Michalek, F, San Jose: Michalek has proven to be consistent in his four full seasons with the Sharks, registering no fewer than 55 points in three campaigns. He collected 23 goals, 57 points, a plus-11 rating and 92 hits in 77 contests in 2008-09. His point total was seventh highest among Czech Republic players.
10. Pavel Kubina, D, Atlanta: Kubina, acquired by the Thrashers in a trade with Toronto in the offseason, equaled his career high with 40 points, including a personal best nine power-play goals, in 2008-09. The 6-foot-4 defender also had 91 hits and 133 blocked shots while averaging just over 22 minutes last season. He's a veteran of eight international competitions, including the 2002 and '06 Olympics.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com