From the time he was signed, David Sklenicka and his teammate and countrymate Martin Moravcik were invariably linked. They signed together, they had played together with their Czech team and at the World Championships, and they both took part in the team’s development and rookie camps which is rare for free agent signings with professional experience.
At the beginning, they were talked about together almost all of the time, but when they took to the ice at the camps, it was Sklenicka that caught my eye. He was a good skater, he was able to move the puck and in scrimmages, those things stick out.
By the end of the season, it was Sklenicka, the younger and smaller of the two Czechs who ended up being trusted by Joël Bouchard while Moravcik had his contract bought out after a short stint in the ECHL.
Sklenicka ended the season playing 68 games, scoring three goals and adding six assists. His 68 games was third on the team among defenders behind only Brett Lernout and Maxim Lamarche, and considering the depth that the Rocket had, especially down the stretch, it says a lot that the Czech was a trusted member of that rotation.
It did take him some time to establish a spot, but he became comfortable and helped the team at both ends of the ice.
Sklenicka was one of the better Rocket defenders in terms of goals against, and while he left a little to be desired in terms of goals when he was on the ice, that part of his game should come around. He took 81 shots on the season, which is something he used more as the season went on. He didn’t drive offence as much as Lamarche, but that’s the difference between an AHL veteran, and a player adjusting to the North American game.
His shot is able to be tipped, and it was able to beat goaltenders. You can see the makings of a formidable offensive game. It didn’t show up in the statistics, but we should see him more aggressive in his second season.
David Sklenicka with a wicked slap shot to open the scoring with just two seconds left in the period. pic.twitter.com/F4Kqhv2F8S— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2019
His first career goal was actually a shorthanded goal when he drove the net on a rush by Michael McCarron, so it was an aspect of his game that was evident from the start.
Sklenicka’s also not one to shy away from the physical game, either and had what may have been the hit of the year in Laval this season.
David Sklenicka with the flawless hip check on Jayce Hawryluk pic.twitter.com/RnZnBEZc2h— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 20, 2018
He also got into some altercations as the season went on. This hit in particular was after Zach Stortini hit him with a questionable hit earlier in the game. Don’t focus on what happens after the hit as the player who came in obviously wanted to fight and Sklenicka wanted nothing to do with it, which is normal after a hit he shouldn’t have had to answer for.
David Sklenicka exacts a measure of revenge on Zack Stortini, he then squares off with Steven Lorentz pic.twitter.com/wRvMYkXzTb— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 29, 2018
There’s a lot to like about Sklenicka’s game and his emergence may be one of the reasons the team decided to not sign Scott Walford and Jarret Tyszka before June 1. Getting young players with professional experience like Sklenicka (and Otto Leskinen, who was signed this year) is an alternative method to build depth without needing to lock players up to three year contracts. These players are older and more developed as well.
It will once again be a very deep defence corps in Laval, and Sklenicka deserves a long look. With the addition of Josh Brook for a full season, the return of Xavier Ouellet, among others, plus Leskinen making his debut, there isn’t a lot of playing time to go around.
I don’t know if Sklenicka has an NHL future, but he only turns 23 in September and has time to develop his skill even more. He will definitely get a longer look at training camp, and it will be interesting to see what his role will be at the start of the Rocket season.
One thing is for sure: if his progression from this season continues into next year when he’ll surely be more comfortable, the Canadiens may have themselves a nice find.