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Nakladal Joins Canes in Vancouver

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

VANCOUVER - In a week that's featured a number of new faces in the Carolina Hurricanes' locker room, Jakub Nakladal is the latest added to the mix.

Nakladal, signed as a free agent on Sunday, joined the Hurricanes in Vancouver and skated with the team for the first time in practice at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

"I'm happy to be here," he said after practice. "Today I was practicing, and it was good for me."

Nakladal won't draw into the lineup just yet - even he said it would likely take two or three days to become comfortable with his new team and its systems - but his debut in a Hurricanes sweater isn't too far off.

"He's going to spend some time with Smitty (Steve Smith) this afternoon, and then he's going to watch a little tape of us," head coach Bill Peters said. "He'll get a skate in tomorrow, and then we'll maybe look at playing him in Alberta."

The 28-year-old Czech defenseman played his first season in North America in 2015-16, splitting his time between the Calgary Flames, where he appeared in 27 games, and the Stockton Heat of the American League, where he played 35 games.

"It was great for me," Nakladal said of his first season in North America. "It's a bit different playing in Europe and North America. Here is so much more fun. It's the NHL. It's the best league in the world."

The biggest difference in playing in Europe versus the NHL, Nakladal said, was the speed of the game and the people playing it.

"The rink is smaller, so it's so much faster and more aggressive," he said. "The players in the NHL are absolutely the best in the world. They are smart, fast and very skilled."

Nakladal comes to the Hurricanes having most recently skated for Team Czech Republic in the World Cup of Hockey, something he called "a great experince." After not signing with an NHL team over the summer, Nakladal knew the tournament could be a chance for him to showcase his play and earn a contract.

"Over the summer, we were in touch with a couple of teams," he explained. "It was a good chance for me to show that I could play in the NHL."

Peters, an assistant coach for Team Canada, saw Nakladal in game action at the World Cup.

"I thought he played real well there. He played valuable minutes," Peter said earlier this week. "He comes in and gives us depth. He's a big, puck-moving guy."

Nakladal is also a right shot, a hole the Hurricanes were looking to fill on defense when Ryan Murphy was sidelined 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury. Having a left-handed shot and a right-handed shot in all three defensive pairs is something Peters prefers.

"It allows you to play quicker, and it's harder to forecheck," Peters explained in Winnipeg. "There's definitely an advantage to having a lefty-righty in all three pairs." 

Nakladal, who will wear No. 14 for Carolina, is ready to prove he is an NHL player. That opportunity is coming very soon.

"This season, I know I can be better and better," he said.

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