There has been a lot of focus put on how good some of Carolina's roster hopefuls are playing for the Charlotte Checkers during the lockout, but the AHL isn't the only league where players on the Hurricanes roster are making some noise. The Canes have five players who are currently playing overseas and the most impressive has been Jiri Tlusty. This may come as a surprise when you consider that Alexander Semin is one of the players in this group, but Tlusty has really made a lasting impression with the Klando HC of the Czech Republic League.
Through the first 14 games, Tlusty has recorded 14 points and is tied for the team lead in goals with 9. Some may write off his performance as Tlusty taking advantage of weaker competition and while no league can compare to how competitive the NHL is, being a point-per-game player in the Czech League is an impressive feat. According to Gabe Desjardins' NHL equivalency translations, the Czech League ranks third among international leagues going by level of difficulty. Tlusty's 14 points in 14 game would translate to about 10 points in that same time span in the NHL, which is definitely nothing to scoff at.
The level of competition in the Czech league is also higher this year than in previous seasons thanks to the lockout since many NHLers are currently playing in this league while the NHLPA & NHL owners settle their differences. Some notable names playing in the Czech League now are Ales Hemsky, Michael Frolik, Roman Polak, Jakub Kindl, David Krejci and Martin Hanzal. However, Kladno HC possesses a slight talent advantage over the rest of the league because in addition to Tlusty, they also have Tomas Plekanec and Jaromir Jagr on their roster. It's also worth mentioning that these three play on the same line regularly and have produced a combined 49 points in 14 games. NHL-er Marek Zidlicky is also on this team. So, while Tlusty is playing well against legitimate professional competition, he is also playing on one of the more talented teams in the league.
Is that a bad thing, though? I can see why someone might write off Tlusty's hot start because he's playing on a good team in a league that is inferior to the NHL but you could also see this as Tlusty gaining some valuable experience by playing with guys like Jagr and Plekanec. Obviously, his numbers are going to drop when he returns to the NHL and isn't given all-star caliber linemates and first-line minutes I think it's a promising sign that Tlusty is thriving against the competition of the Czech league rather than just simply holding his own ground. Remember, Tlusty was on the top-line with Eric Staal for most of last year and is going to be in the running for top-six minutes whenever the NHL resumes.
I think it will be hard for Tlusty to continue this pace for the rest of the year and I doubt he will post numbers like this in the NHL, but it is still good to hear that he is performing well against NHL competition and showing some good chemistry with veterans like Plekanec and Jagr. Tlusty is obviously going to be looking to keep his spot in the top-six in this upcoming season and the experience he is getting from playing overseas in a very competitive league will definitely help him improve as a player. Tlusty is still very young and has a bit of a way to go before he reaches his peak years, so any experience and guidance he gets now will go a long way in helping him develop.
Tlusty's performance in the Czech League should give Hurricanes fans yet another thing to be excited about once the lockout ends.