Friday, January 14, 2011


Who remembers Jiri Dopita? There was a time when he was the “Best player outside of the NHL”. How many OTHER players have earned that same designation? Some names come to mind like Jonas Gustavsson, Pavel Patera, Igor Larionov, Dominik Hasek and maybe even Anders Hedberg. We as hockey fans always fantasize about the next big superstar that could end up playing for our team and helping them win the cup and GMs are no different. They keep their ears and eyes open for prospects that may have been late bloomers and try to draft them or woo them to sign with their team as a free agent. Pavel Patera is an example as he was drafted at the age of 26 after 5 professional seasons and scoring 231 points in 190 games with Kladno. Gustavsson was the most recent that comes to my mind as numerous teams were attempting to sign “The Monster” to their roster.

Are these stars able to transfer their skills to the NHL? Some have with seemingly no transition period at all, while other struggle like they have never played the game before. In the case of Jiri Dopita the answer was no. Dopita was sought after on more than one occasion as he was drafted by the Bruins at age 23 and then again by the Islanders at age 29. He was a superstar in both the Czech and German leagues by 2001 including some league scoring titles in 97 and 2000 as well as numerous playoff and regular season MVP honours. Dopita was even named top Czech ice hockey player in 2001 beating fellow countrymen like Hasek, Jagr and Cechmanek. So in his prime, he is signed by the Philadelphia Flyers, and the expectations are high to say the least. The result of his rookie NHL season is 52 games resulting in 11 goals and 27 points. The Oilers took a chance on Dopita the next season and he managed just 1 goal in 21 games thus ending his brief NHL career. Was Dopita washed up? Definitely not, he returns to Europe where he proceeds to lead Pardubice in scoring and finished 8th overall in the league scoring. So what went wrong? Why did he fail to make an impact in the NHL? At 6’ 3” and 220 lbs he had the size, skill and drive to be a top notch NHL player but when it came down to it, he was like a fish out of water. He did end up with a knee injury which hampered him slightly but even then he was a third line player with the Flyers prior to the injury. I believe that sometimes the intangibles of the game don’t mesh with a player’s style.

Now Toronto has made a move to get the latest version of “Dopita” by trading the Stars for Fabian Brunnstrom. Brunnstrom has shown a fair bit of potential in his rookie season, but last season seemed to take two steps back. I believe this will be his last chance at North American hockey and I am very curious if the chance of venue will make a difference. I know the millions of members of Leaf Nation will be supporting him and why wouldn’t they? They gave very little for a player who could present a huge upside. What are your thoughts? Will Brunnstrom be the next Dopita bust or could he parlay himself a good career like many other Eurostars such as Larionov or Anders Hedberg?

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