Dominik Kubalik’s Blackhawks success forming a pipeline from his Czech hometown
As a young prospect in the HC Plzen system, Czech striker Jakub Pour has always known Dominik Kubalik but has never played alongside him.
For, nearly four years younger than Kubalik, was still being groomed in the Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 teams, while Kubalik played for the Under-20 team. major leagues of the Czech Extraliga. And just before Pour made its debut in the Extraliga in the fall of 2017, Kubalik left HC Plzen for Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland.
Despite their lack of connection on the ice, Pour followed and watched Kubalik as he exploded in the Swiss league, had his rights vested in the Blackhawks, finished a Calder Trophy finalist as a Hawks rookie in 2019-2020 and continued his NHL success last season.
So when Pour – now a 6-3 forward who turned 22 in April – sparked NHL interest this offseason, it was an easy decision to pick the Hawks. He signed a two-year entry-level contract on June 15.
“Since Dominik Kubalik started playing for the Blackhawks, I have followed the club in detail,” Pour said in a statement at the time. “ The whole organization seems very nice to me: great players, [great] traditions, great triumphs. ”
Pour expressed a similar sentiment in an interview through a translator this week.
“I’m really excited to sign with the Blackhawks,” he said. “It is an honor for me to join this organization. I can’t wait to do my best and help the team. ”
It turns out that Kubalik is just as excited. He has also followed Pour’s career, partly by keeping in touch with the management of HC Plzen and partly through mutual connection. The mother of one of Kubalik’s best friends is Pour’s mother’s sister. And Kubalik has high hopes for Pour in North America, even though he will likely start the next season in the American Hockey League.
“He’s a big kid, that’s for sure,” Kubalik said this week. His shot is pretty good. He can use his body. He can play physical. He can go to the net. He is not scared.
I’m pretty sure the North American style will be really good for him. He’s not like a typical European player who’s going to do more skill stuff. He’s a guy higher and lower, net. I’m very excited for him. ”
Pour joins Kubalik and Matej Chalupa, who signed with the Hawks in May 2020 and scored seven points in 27 AHL games last season, as HC Plzen products in the Hawks’ organization.
Americans mainly know Plzen, the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic, as the birthplace and namesake of pilsner beer. However, his roots in hockey are also strong. Longtime NHL players Petr Sykora and Jaroslav Spacek developed there in the 1990s, and Tuukka Rask spent half a season there during the NHL lockout in 2012.
In recent years, the club has focused its resources on developing young talent and helping players progress to North America or major European clubs.
They are not the richest team in the [Czech] league, then they have to work with the money they have, ”Kubalik explained. Then they have to use these young guys, which is good enough to [the young guys because] they can play big minutes on the front row. ”
Defensemen Vojtech Mozik and Jakub Jerabek and goaltenders Marek Mazanec and Matej Machovsky spent time with Plzen in NHL contracts between 2013 and 2017. They all ended up playing a few NHL games; Jerabek led the field with 37.
Forward Dominik Simon was Plzen’s biggest recent success, having left after just one season to sign with the Penguins in 2015. Now 26, he has 64 points in 184 games with the Penguins and Flames and remains in the NHL.
But Kubalik took things to another level. The 25-year-old sniper quickly emerged as a dangerous top-six forward in the NHL, placing third among the Hawks in goals scored in each of the past two seasons and signing a contract of 7. $ 4 million over two years last summer.
Kubalik has 47 goals and 84 points in 124 NHL games. He might not already be famous in Illinois, but he’s around Plzen.
“It’s pretty cool, you know?” Kubalik said. I can say that I have shown the other guys that it is possible. Some guys were in the middle, [saying], like: “Should I try [going to the NHL]? I may or may not have a chance. They struggled a bit.
It’s pretty good for the team, for Plzen. . . . I didn’t even expect, when I went to Switzerland, that there was going to be more guys coming [to the NHL], especially in Chicago. It’s pretty good because we know each other, so it’s easier for me and easier for them too. ”
The seven-hour time difference between cities makes it difficult for the residents of Plzen to watch Kubalik and the Hawks play live, but sometimes the lack of sleep made it worth it for Pros.
“The matches here take place at night. . . [but] I watched a few games, Pour said. “But mostly I watched the highlights and saw all of Kubalik’s goals.
Kubalik and Pour have yet to speak this summer because Kubalik has been busy. He played for the Czech national team at the world championships, where he finished with six points in seven games but was disappointed with a quarter-final exit. More recently, preparations for her wedding this weekend have taken over.
“Right now I’m a little stressed out, but that’s probably part of it,” he said with a laugh.
But once things calm down, Kubalik and Pour will be around Plzen, skating and training together. Martin Straka, another prominent former NHL player from HC Plzen and now its general manager, allowed Kubalik to skate and train with the team during the offseason.
Kubalik plans to spend two more weeks training off the ice and then accepting his offer. Pourer has already been on ice for five or six weeks. In September, they will travel with Chalupa the Plzen-Chicago pipeline to the Hawks’ training camp.