The first name on the Pittsburgh Penguins all-time Czech Republic team will be easy. With the fifth pick in the 1990 NHL Draft, the Penguins snagged all-time great Jaromir Jagr. At 48-years old, Jagr is still playing for the Czech team that his NHL success afforded him the ability to purchase. The ageless wonder thrilled fans for 11 years in Pittsburgh before team finances forced him to become a mercenary for several teams, including the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
Jagr finished his 24-year NHL career in 2018, with 1921 points (766g, 1155a), behind only all-time leading NHL scorer Wayne Gretzky.
Yeah, Jagr will make the list of the Penguins all-time Czech team, and someday his number should hang in the rafters, too. Or at least in the Penguins ring of honor.
In fact, five of the top-10 highest-scoring Czechs in NHL history played for the Penguins. So, there is more competition than you may realize.
The Pittsburgh Penguins All-Time Czech Team:
LW: Martin Straka
Straka wasn’t an immediate hit with the Penguins. He was the Penguins first-round pick (19th overall) in 1992. However, after a hot start in which Straka banked 30 goals on the 1993-94 star-laden team, he scored only four goals in 31 games during the strike-shortened 1994-95 season. Penguins GM Craig Patrick traded Straka to Ottawa for Norm MacIver and Troy Murray.
Straka didn’t find much success in the NHL during stints with Ottawa, the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers. Fortunately, his second go-round with the Penguins, which began in 1997, was far more fruitful.
Straka often centered Jagr, which propelled Jagr to four scoring titles, one Hart Trophy and two Ted Lindsay awards during that time. Straka scored 19, 35, 20, and 27 goals in the first four seasons of his Penguins return, respectively.
Later, Straka formed the Penguins dominant scoring line with Robert Lang at center and Alexei Kovalev on the right-wing.
In total, Straka scored 442 points (165g, 277a) in 10 seasons with the Penguins.
C: Petr Nedved
If we’re building a lineup, we could experiment with Nedved or Straka at center as both played the middle and left side. Nedved scored one of the most famous goals in Pittsburgh Penguins history. Near the end of the fourth overtime, in the wee hours of the morning, Nedved scored the game-winning goal to defeat the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their 1996 Round One series.
Nedved had a short two-year stint with Penguins, beginning in 1995-96. On Aug 31, the Penguins traded Ulf Samuelson and Luc Robitaille to the New York Rangers for Sergei Zubov and Nedved, in part because Nedved made substantial contract demands which New York was unwilling to meet. Two years later, the Penguins shipped Nedved back to New York for Alexei Kovalev, in part because Nedved again made aggressive contract demands.
The 6-foot-3, nearly 200-pound center with creativity and speed played 154 games for the Penguins and scored 170 points (78g, 92a).
RW: Jaromir Jagr
Thousands of words still cannot describe Jagr’s 11-year Penguins career. It began at the 1990 NHL Draft when he sandbagged the teams ahead of the Penguins by telling others he wouldn’t play in the NHL so that he could play with Mario Lemieux and the Penguins.
Jagr became an integral part of the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992 with jaw-dropping goals and dominant play. With the Penguins, Jagr won five Art Ross trophies, two Ted Lindsay awards, and one Hart Trophy. And probably should have won more.
His heroics in the 1998 playoffs in which he seemingly singlehandedly beat the New Jersey Devils on one leg will forever be one of the great performances in sports, and it kept the Sheriff’s padlocks off the Penguins doors (and the team in existence) long enough for Lemieux to rescue the Penguins in bankruptcy.
Things were that bleak.
Jagr played 806 games for the Penguins and scored 1079 points, including 439 goals. Patrick was forced to trade Jagr to the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2001 for three forgettable prospects and at least one duffle bag with millions of dollars. And there have always been whispers the NHL allowed a second cash payment, but we’ll keep those rumors on the urban legend pile.
LHD: Jiri Slegr
The bulky Slegr joined countrymen Straka and Jagr for three-plus seasons with the Penguins beginning in 1997-98. He is 10th in career scoring among Czech defensemen with 249 points (56g, 193a).
With fellow Czechs, Straka and Jagr, three-and-a-half seasons with the Penguins were the most productive of his career. In 252 games, the defensive-minded Slegr scored 86 points (24g, 62a), and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game.
RHD: Michal Rozsival
In fairness, the competition wasn’t that great for this spot. However, Rozsival was a fixture on the Penguins blueline from 1999 until his offseason trade to New York in 2003. The Penguins 1996 fourth-round pick played 237 games with the Penguins and scored 18 goals, 47 assists.
Late in his career, Rozsival did his best work with the Chicago Blackhawks. He bolstered the troubled Chicago Blackhawks blueline (just enough) to help Chicago win a pair of Stanley Cups (2013, 2015).
G: Tomas Vokoun
Fortunately, Vokoun finished his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012-13, or we wouldn’t have a goalie for the list. As the maturing Penguins championship core of 2009 fought in vain for another run at the Stanley Cup, Vokoun proved to be a valuable backup to starter Marc-Andre Fleury. Vokoun became the Penguins No. 1 goalie in the playoffs after Fleury mightily struggled.
Vokoun was a backup for hire at the end of his 16-year-career. He starred for the expansion Nashville Predators for eight seasons before brief stops in Florida and Washington.
Vokoun started only 20 regular-season games for the Penguins in 2012-13 but made 11 playoff appearances. Unfortunately, Vokoun needed surgery for blood clots following the season and never played again.