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Zohorna Ready To Czech Playing With Penguins Off His List

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Pittsburgh Penguins Radim Zohorna
Photo courtesy of wbspenguins.com

Perhaps they are cliché, but there are a couple givens when it comes to Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Radim Zohorna, who is on the roster and hoping to make his NHL debut.

One is that, as a native of the Czech Republic, he idolizes former Penguins superstar and fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr.

“He’s legend for everyone from Czech Replublic,” Zohorna, 24, said Tuesday after his first practice of the season with the Penguins.

Jagr, who won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, turned 49 last month and, while not a regular, still plays some with the Kladno team he owns in the Czech Republic.

That longevity on top of ranking second to Wayne Gretzky in NHL history with 1,921 points, make Jagr something of legend outside of the Czech Republic, too, but it’s something special for his countrymen such as Zohorna.

“I met him last year because he plays in the Czech League,” said Zohorna, who wears No. 67 but said it is not specifically a salute to Jagr, who wore No. 68.

Zohorna played in the Czech League before he signed with the Penguins at the end of last April, and the first thing that stood out to anyone who took an interest was his size – 6 feet 6, 220 pounds.

Which brings us to the second given about Zohorna: There will always be questions about whether a player, particularly a forward, that big has the skill and skating ability to make it in the NHL.

“For a guy that’s as big as he is, he’s a decent playmaker with the puck,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Tuesday after watching Zohorna at practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, adding that he showed a good pace to his practice.

“This was the best impression we got of him, just to have him be part of a practice,” Sullivan said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been playing so many games that we haven’t had an opportunity to get him in a team practice. I thought he did a real good job. He has good hockey sense. He has real nice hands. He can make plays.”

During drills, Zohorna rotated in on the fourth line and got a little time with the second power play unit.

Zohorna said in anticipation of joining the Penguins he amped up his training last summer. With the NHL shut down last fall, he played 21 games with his Czech team, Mlada Boleslav BK, amassing 12 goals, 22 points. That equaled his point total from the previous season – in 46 games.

He faced a big transition when he arrived in North America, where the hockey ice surface is considerably smaller than in Europe.

He said it helped that he got into 11 games with American Hockey League affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton earlier this season, netting three goals, nine points.

“I had a really big problem with the ice because the players are so nearby me in the (offensive) zone,” Zohorna said. “Now it’s not so bad.”

In a virtual interview with reporters Tuesday, Zohorna a couple times stressed that he is eager to make his NHL debut. That could happen soon, perhaps when the Penguins play back-to-back home games Wednesday and Thursday against Buffalo.

If so, Zohorna will follow many other Czechs who have played for the Penguins as well as Jagr. Players such as Petr Nedved, Jiri

Slegr, Marty Straka, Petr Sykora, Robert Lang and Jan Hrdina.

He already has something over most of those players — a full complement of vowels in his name. But he would settle for equal footing as a Pittsburgh Penguin with NHL experience.

“I’m glad to be here,” Zohorna said. “I’m in the position right now that they have been, so I want to make the team and I want to play in the NHL … like all these guys.”

 

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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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Big B
Big B
6 months ago

Sully does not want to give chances to the kids anymore.

Kurt
Kurt
6 months ago
Reply to  Big B

Don’t think it’s totally in his complete control for 1 and 2nd I’m sure this young man has been gone over with a fine tooth comb and if he gets an opportunity hopefully he realizes his place in hockey and his part for the pens good luck young man and God bless you…

Dan Kingerski
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  Big B

You mean like Drew O’Connor, P.O. Joseph, John Marino, or Anthony Angello? They give the kids who should be there a chance.

Big B
Big B
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

You mean the 3 to 6 minutes he gave Drew.He had to play P.O and as soon as the D got healty P.O was on the taxi squad and then in a Taxi to WBS.Marino was given a chance that the GM promised him to get him to sign and he kicked down the door and Angello is only playing out of utter desperation.

You can be a good coach and still get set in your ways.

Jeff Potter
Jeff Potter
6 months ago
Reply to  Big B

The point of WBS is to give young players time to develop by getting more minutes. Playing top line minutes in the minors is better than playing 8-10 minutes a night on the 4th line. Sullivan is paid to win and make the playoffs, not hand-hold young players. If a player is ready to play, he will get played. Saying Sullivan won’t play young players is crazy. He won’t bury a top talent at the expense of his career.

crazyhorse87
crazyhorse87
6 months ago

Just give him a chance, you won’t know what you have if you don’t give him that chance. Jagr must’ve exceeded expectation big time, maybe he had help with his confidence and boom, he was on his way. Maybe Zohorna may have something to offer that can fill some void on the team. His size and reach can be beneficial once he figures out where he can utilize it.

Jay95
Jay95
6 months ago
Reply to  crazyhorse87

I agree with giving him a chance. For a guy who is just now adjusting to the North American Ice size he’s putting up good numbers in the AHL. But, I don’t understand how Jagr exceeded expectations big time. He was seen as a star the moment he was drafted.

Dan Kingerski
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  crazyhorse87

This is my stock response because i often hear: Give him a chance, let’s see. Don’t confuse your unknowing of a player’s ability and current status with the team’s knowledge. They’re watching him, from multiple levels, every day. They know, even if we don’t.

Big B
Big B
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

I know of his ability because i follow what the coach in the minors has been saying and following what reporters who cover the Wbs Pen’s are saying.I followed Zohorna game to game when he was loaned to BK Mlada Boleslav so i am not picking out random young prospects to say and play.I am doing some homework and this is also why i know that Valtteri Puustinen is becoming a top prospect who Tom Kostopoulos says is ready to compete for a job next year with Pittsburgh, he is also high on Kasper Bjorkqvist.PLUS I BELIEVE WE ALL CAN… Read more »

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