Here’s the transaction wire for Josef Hrabal since this summer:
- May 30, 2008 – Signs a two-year entry level contract with Edmonton
- September 25, 2008 – Assigned to Springfield (AHL)
- October 14, 2008 – Assigned to Stockton (ECHL)
- October 20, 2008 – Assigned to Springfield (AHL)
- November 3, 2008 – Assigned to Stockton (ECHL)
- November 22, 2008 – Assigned to Springfield (AHL)
- January 21, 2008 – Assigned to Stockton (ECHL)
For those of you unfamiliar with Hrabal, he’s an older (23) European defenceman who has had a decent career playing for Cherepovets Severstal of the RSL (now the KHL) and Vsetin HC in the top Czech league. Last season, Hrabal was the top-scoring defenceman for Cherepovets, outscoring players like Phoenix rookie Viktor Tikhonov and former NHLer Dmitri Yushkevich.
He’s been a difficult defenceman for the Oilers to sign; he was a 2003 draft pick, and it took five years before the Oilers could agree with him on an entry level contract.
His debut North American season has been a disappointment. He suffered a shoulder injury in training camp and missed most of the pre-season. He was sent to Springfield early on, but the coaching staff there hadn’t seen him play and didn’t get him into the line-up, so he was sent to Stockton to get his feet wet. He’s bounced between the NHL and the AHL ever since.
After finally getting into the AHL lineup, Hrabal’s offence has been pretty much non-existent (one assist in 17 games). Still, he’s been playing fairly hard competition, and has an even plus/minus on a team with some really ugly numbers (Taylor Chorney’s -21 and Mathieu Roy’s -22 come to mind). He would seem to be a superior player to third-pairing defender Bryan Young, who is also -6 with marginal offence against sub-par competition.
Despite the continued presence in the lineup of Chorney, Roy and Young, Hrabal was assigned to Stockton again on the 21st. He has, however, refused to report to the team. At this point, there still hasn’t been an official reaction from the Oilers, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Hrabal return to Europe.
It’s a shame, because Hrabal had a nice European resume coming into this season, and looked like a legitimate prospect. He was hurt early on, and the Oilers have a wealth of defensive prospects in the system (all told, 10 25-or-younger defencemen have played for Springfield this season), so from the moment that injury occurred he was in some trouble. His failure to generate offense in the AHL was probably the death blow to his NHL hopes.
Still, I don’t think the Oilers organization escapes some blame here. Springfield’s been a disaster this season, with multiple glaring errors made by both the management (Kevin Prendergast being the guy in charge) and the coach. The fact that Mathieu Roy, a train wreck since his training camp injury, gets ice-time over Hrabal is difficult to defend. The fact that Taylor Chorney continues to get ice-time despite getting killed in +/- and not putting up points is defensible only from a player development angle, and there’s an argument to be made that he might benefit from a reduction in his workload. Finally, Bryan Young’s continued inclusion in the line-up boggles the mind; both Hrabal and Bisaillon would seem to bring a more needed skill-set to the team, and yet they’re sent down in favour of a third-pairing AHL defenceman.
I can understand some frustration on Hrabal’s end; he’s played very well on his last two stints in Stockton, and being sent there again when he hasn’t been the worst defenceman on the roster must irk. Still, it isn’t like he was shooting the lights out in Springfield.