The New York Rangers have a rich history with players from the Czech Republic. In addition to having Filip Chytil, one of the most promising young Czech players in the world on the current roster, six of the eight highest-scoring Czech players in NHL history played for the Rangers at one point during their careers. Patrik Elias, the second-highest scoring Czech player, was also a longtime adversary of the Rangers.
Now, let’s open up the history books and watch some highlights from the days before crisp, HD hockey and sink our teeth into the top five players from the Czech Republic to ever play for the Rangers.
To be honest, it was a toss-up between Dvorak and Bobby Holik for this spot. Holik was named the team’s MVP in the 2003-04 season, but Dvorak played 120 more games for the Rangers and was a more productive player. His name also doesn’t illicit groans from Rangers fans. So, he’s got that going for him.
Dvorak, the 10th overall pick of the 1995 Draft, became a Ranger on Dec. 30, 1999. The Blueshirts sent Todd Harvey and a 4th round pick to the San Jose Sharks to bring in a player who provided depth scoring across four seasons before going on to be a journeyman. Before he hung up his skates, Dvorak played 18 seasons of NHL hockey for eight teams. Although he spent most of his career with the Panthers, he had his best season — 67 points in 2000-01 — on Broadway. That year, at the age of 23, he scored 31 goals. Unfortunately for the winger, he never eclipsed the 20-goal mark again.
In 256 games with the Rangers, Dvorak scored 164 points, which makes him the fifth-highest scoring Czech skater in franchise history. A true two-way player, he scored six of his 65 goals with the Rangers while the team was shorthanded. As one-third of the triumvirate that Brobby Granger affectionately called the “Czech Posse”, Dvorak had instant chemistry with Petr Nedved and Jan Hlavac.
On Mar. 11, 2003, the Rangers sent Dvorak to the Edmonton Oilers as the centerpiece of the deal that brought Anson Carter to New York.
The diminutive Straka, generously listed at 5-foot-9, spent the last three years of his 15-year NHL career in Rangers’ blue before heading to the Czech Republic to play for Plzen. The longtime Pittsburgh Penguin signed with the Rangers as a free agent after the 2004-05 lockout, instantly becoming a key figure in a resurgent Rangers team led by Jaromir Jagr and up-and-coming goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
A crafty, creative player capable of playing wing and center, Straka finished third on the Rangers in scoring in 2005-06 and 2006-07 putting up back-to-back 70-point campaigns. Playing primarily with Michael Nylander and reunited with Jagr, Straka piled up 187 of his 717 career points with the Rangers.
In 2007-08, his final season with the team, he missed significant time due to injury but came through with 10 points in 10 games in the 2008 NHL Playoffs.
Rozsival is undoubtedly the best Czech defender to ever play for the Rangers. He joined New York as a free agent on Aug. 29, 2005 after spending the first four years of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Czech defender’s play declined towards the tail end of his tenure in New York, which made him a popular scapegoat for the fans and the media, especially after he signed a four-year, $20 million contract with a modified NTC on July 1, 2008. But Rozsival earned that big payday by playing an average of at least 22:27 TOI/GP and scoring 40 points in the 2007-08 season. On a distinctly European Rangers team, “Rozi” was the team’s top defender playing frequently with fellow Czech Marek Malik.
The Rangers and Rozsival parted ways when he was dealt to the then Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 10, 2011 in exchange for Wojtek Wolski.
Nedved, who had two separate stints with the Blueshirts, is the highest-scoring Czech Ranger of all time. Although Nedved represented Canada at the 1994 Olympics, he later represented the Czech Republic at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 1998 Olympics, and other international tournaments. He was born in Liberec, Czechoslovakia, in 1971 and was the 2nd pick of the 1990 Draft.
The 6-foot-3 center played 478 of his 982 NHL games with the Rangers. He piled up 351 of his 717 career points on Broadway. Nedved became a Ranger on Jul. 24, 1994 when the St. Louis Blues sent him east for Esa Tikkanen and Doug Lidster. Thirteen months later, he was packaged with Sergei Zubov in a deal that brought Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson over from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nedved began his second tour of duty with the Rangers on Nov. 25, 1998 in a blockbuster deal that sent Alex Kovalev back to the Penguins. During the lean years of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nedved was one of the few bright spots on the team despite frequently being criticized for inconsistent scoring. After scoring 78 points in 79 games in 2000-01, his production crashed down to 46 points in 78 games the next season. It was during those lean years that Nedved centered the popular Czech Posse line with Jan Hlavac and Radek Dvorak on his wings.
Jagr is the best Czech player in NHL history and many consider him to be one of the best players of all time. For some, he’s the third greatest ever, behind only Wayne and Mario. He finished his NHL career with 1921 points in 1733 games, second only to Gretzky.
He won the Ted Lindsay in 2006 and represented the Blueshirts in the 2004 All-Star Game. For fans born after the 1994 Cup win, the Jagr years represented a long-awaited return to greatness for the franchise. After seeming to lose his way in Washington, he re-established himself as one of the greatest to ever play the game in New York.
In 277 games with the Rangers, Jagr thrilled the Garden Faithful with 319 points, 123 of which were scored in the 2005-06 season — a franchise record. The man with the best mullet in sports became a Ranger on Jan. 23, 2004 when the Blueshirts sent Anson Carter to the Washington Capitals. Over 15 years later, that trade still has Rangers fans smiling.
Honorable Mentions: Bobby Holik, Martin Rucinsky, Vaclav Prospal, Jan Hlavac, Petr Prucha