A difficult and winding developmental path will now take Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matej Tomek back to his native Slovakia. The 22-year-old goaltender, a third-round pick in 2015, has had a tough go of it in North America. Initially selected out of the NAHL, after dominating the second-tier U.S. junior league in his first season, Tomek has since struggled to find his place. Tomek first spent two seasons at the University of North Dakota, but made zero appearances as a freshman and had just two poor outings as a sophomore. He opted to leave the program in search of more opportunity, spending the following season with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks, where he regained some confidence but still left scouts wanting more. Tomek made his return to the college ranks this past season, playing for the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Yet, again Tomek fell into a backup role and disappointed with an .845 save percentage and 4.73 GAA in five games. Likely the smart move, Tomek has decided to take a break from North American hockey for a while and HK Dukla Trencin of the Slovak Extraliga has announced a one-year contract with the young, local product. Although 22 already, Tomek’s rights belong to the Flyers until August of 2021, so one or two good seasons in Slovakia could keep his NHL hopes alive despite his recent struggles.
- The Swedish Hockey League regular season champs are watching as their core is dismantled this off-season by NHL signings. Farjestad BK, who surprisingly lost in the semifinals despite dominating the regular season, have already seen their top two scoring forwards, Oskar Steen and Joakim Nygard, sign with Boston and Edmonton respectively, prospect Fabian Zetterlund join New Jersey, and goaltender Adam Werner inked with Colorado. Now, a fifth name could also depart for North America. Hockey News SE reports that two-way center Linus Johansson has been drawing NHL attention and at least one unnamed team has made a concrete offer. The big 26-year-old forward is expected to make his decision in the coming days. Johansson is actually not a stranger to North America, having played a season in the NAHL back in 2011-12. The late-blooming forward was never considered an NHL prospect coming up through junior hockey and only debuted in the SHL in 2016. However, he has impressed in three seasons as a well-rounded player and physical force and now must decide if he wants to try taking his game to the highest level.
- Give the KHL’s Avangard Omsk some credit; the team is not short on confidence as they approach this off-season. Insider Igor Eronko writes for Sport-Express that free agent targets include veteran UFA Jason Spezza, as well as RFA’s Sven Andrighetto, Teddy Blueger, and Zemgus Girgensons, and recent Calder Cup winner, Tomas Jurco. While there has been some speculation that the Colorado Avalanche may not qualify Andrighetto, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be able to find an NHL opportunity if that is his priority. There has been nothing to imply that either Blueger or Girgensons are looking to leave their respective teams. Spezza, while coming off a disappointing stint with the Dallas Stars, is a former standout NHL center who easily remains top-50 free agent this summer. Jurco may be the only realistic name on the list, but kudos to Omsk for putting those names out there and being aggressive on the NHL free agent market. We’ll soon see how that works out for them.