The Detroit Red Wings don’t have a second-round pick in the NHL draft later this month because of the David Legwand trade, but the signing of Tomas Nosek should help lessen some of that sting.
The Red Wings inked the 21-year-old center/winger out of Pardubice of the Czech ExtraLiga, where he recently completed a breakthrough campaign with 19 goals and 25 assists for 44 points in 52 games.
Nosek, who was an unrestricted free agent after being passed over four straight times in the NHL draft, ranked ninth in ExtraLiga scoring and was courted by a half-dozen other NHL teams. The Red Wings project him as a solid two-way NHL forward.
“He’s versatile, he can play center, wing, top six, bottom six, whatever the need is,” said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. “He kills penalties, takes faceoffs, plays on the power play. He’s a guy who fits in with teammates on all lines and that’s exciting.”
The 6-foot-2 201-pounder battled a variety of injuries over the years that prevented him from catching the eye of scouts, although he did captain the 2012 Czech Republic entry at the IIHF world junior championship — with Fischer as his assistant coach.
Fischer said Detroit’s Finnish scout, Ari Vuori, and Czech scout, Vladimir Havluj, took note of Nosek’s rapid development over the past year and a half and made sure to keep a close eye on him this season. His point total skyrocketed from 14 to 44 as he seized a prime-time role with Pardubice.
“He led his team in every situation, from PK to PP, five-on-five,” Fischer said. “He’s strong on the puck, he’s a very good playmaker, very smart. He’s good defensively and he doesn’t cheat or cut corners. He’s a distributor of the puck, he can hold onto it down low, but he can also make good plays in traffic. Puck skills are very good.”
Fischer said Nosek will need to continue working on his skating and shot release to have success at the NHL level, in addition to overcoming the usual obstacles of transitioning from Europe to North America. But Nosek’s projection is that of a player in high demand in the NHL these days.
“I hope he’s going to be a strong two-way center that can play against top opposition and handle the big forwards on other teams and take faceoffs in key moments and help on the PP,” Fischer said.
What really impressed the Red Wings was Nosek’s strong play at the international level. Although he was one of the Czech Republic’s final cuts for its IIHF world championship squad, he did play exhibition games on the national team at Christmastime and again in the spring.
His mature, two-way play and ability to handle the pace at that level are indications Nosek will be in the mix for whatever forward jobs are available at training camp in the fall.
“He’s certainly going to get an opportunity — he’s going to be in the mix depending on what the next couple of weeks and free agency bring,” Fischer said. “How he adjusts on the smaller ice, the speed going both ways … that’s to be determined. But I do expect and I really believe he’s going to come in ready and get a shot. We’ll see what the coaching staff and Mike Babcock think.”