watched the 2008 and '09 Entry Drafts from his home in Prague. He didn't hear his name called during either weekend, but it was another phone call that changed his career direction.
The call came from the Los Angeles Kings
, who invited him to their training camp in September. He liked the experience so much that he decided to stay in North America.
The Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League were the beneficiary of Gudas' decision, one that almost certainly will see him land with an NHL team this time around.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound defenseman has 7 goals and 37 points in 65 games, as well as team-highs of a plus-45 rating (fourth in the WHL) and 151 penalty minutes (second among WHL rookies). He also had 2 assists, 14 penalty minutes and a team-best plus-2 rating for the Czech Republic at the 2010 World Junior Championship. Gudas also played at the 2009 WJC, finishing with 2 goals and 3 points.
"I like him and his style, and I don't think there is a scout that doesn't," NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald, who specializes in Western Canadian prospects, told NHL.com. "He has adjusted to the North American style nicely and is one of the best open-ice hitters in the (WHL). He's strong and plays bigger than his size. Shows smart puck movement and is a sharp passer. Has a great snap wrister from the point on the power play, so yes, he does have an offensive side to his game. He's an all-round real solid player that can play in any situation. I think teams are sorry they didn't grab him last year."
Gudas isn't spending time worrying about what didn't happen last year. He's having too much fun playing in Everett, which selected him with the 20th pick of the CHL Import Draft last the summer. He had spent the two previous seasons playing mostly in the Czech junior leagues, while also getting short stints with HC Kladno in the Czech Extraliga.
"I think there's a better chance to go from Western Hockey League (to the NHL) than from the Czech league or any European league," Gudas told NHL.com.
Gudas has worked closely with Silvertips coach Craig Hartsburg
, who spent 10 NHL seasons on the Minnesota North Stars' blue line.
"He knows what he's doing. He's real straight and I like his coaching," said Gudas. "He's helping me a lot. He talks to us a lot."
Hartsburg likes Gudas just as much.
"I think the first thing you notice with him is his competitiveness," Hartsburg told NHL.com. "There's not too many nights or too many shifts that he doesn't give you what he has in the compete game. He isn't the biggest kid, but he doesn't pick his spots. Skilled players, tough players -- he plays them all the same."
"I don't think he's under the radar for NHL teams. The people we've talked to, they know what he can do."
-- Craig Hartsburg, Everett Silvertips coach
An important factor in dealing with European-born players is integrating them into the lineup, but Hartsburg said that hasn't been a factor with Gudas, who very quickly showed a strong grasp of the English language.
"When he came over he spoke great English," Hartsburg said. "You could hardly tell he was from the Czech Republic. I think that allowed him to pick up things quickly and there was no confusion in the communication part of it.
"This has been an easy transition for him and his teammates because right away they could communicate, and when you can communicate you can build trust and they knew he'd be a good teammate for them."
Gudas is ranked a deceivingly-low No. 91 by Central Scouting in its final ranking of North American skaters -- but part of that comes from him going unselected twice previously in the draft. He also was passed over for an invitation to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, but those invitations generally go to only the best players in their first year of draft eligibility.
"I don't think he's under the radar for NHL teams," Hartsburg said. "The people we've talked to, they know what he can do."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com