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