Hyka won't get skipped in draft this time around
Tomas Hyka has learned that every cloud truly does have a silver lining.
But after the year he's had, everything is looking pretty sunny in his world right now.
In his first season in North America, the Czech-born forward had 20 goals and 44 assists in 50 games with the Gatineau Olympiques. He was third in assists among all first-year Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players, and his team-best 64 points were fifth.
The 19-year-old impressed scouts enough that after going unselected in the 2011 draft, he's No. 45 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, to be held June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.
"His skating is excellent, plus he has great puck skills and hockey sense," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com. "He has adapted well to the North American style of hockey."
"Any time I saw him he was always involved," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards added. "High-energy guy, good skill set, good set of hands. Solid guy. He's a guy that certainly got better from the beginning of the year to the end."
It's been an interesting year for Hyka, who spent his hockey career until this past season playing for his hometown team, BK Mlada Boleslav. He had 31 points in 38 games with Mlada Boleslav's under-20 team and even got into 13 games in the top Czech league in 2010-11, but NHL teams initially weren't interested.
To change that, he knew he needed to step outside his comfort zone, which meant coming to North America.
"I wasn't drafted last year and it's the reason I came to play hockey in Canada," Hyka told NHL.com. "Everything is so much better in Canada than the Czech Republic. I have more space on the ice and more opportunities. That's why I came to play hockey in Canada."
Hyka was taken with the eighth pick of the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft by the Olympiques. He got positive reviews on Gatineau from Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata, who comes from the same hometown. Vrbata played for the team when it was located in nearby Hull, Que.
"He told me everything about Gatineau," Hyka said of Vrbata. "This is the reason I played for the Gatineau Olympiques."
Hyka got a bit of a late start to his first QMJHL season, however, but he had a good reason: Days after the draft, he got an invitation to attend training camp with the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I wasn't drafted so I didn't know if I was going to be in some [team's] camp," he said. "When Philadelphia sent me the email inviting me to camp, I was so happy. I played two games there and it was really nice to be there."
He played in two preseason games and scored a goal. The Flyers considered offering him a contract, but that ended when the club was informed Hyka still had draft eligibility remaining.
Hyka said he was disappointed in not getting the offer, but the memories he took from his time in Flyers camp were priceless.
"I talked to all the guys who played for Gatineau Olympiques, like Max Talbot, Claude Giroux," he said. "I talked to [Jaromir] Jagr and [Jakub] Voracek, all the guys. I was nervous. The guys helped me a lot there. It was nice to be there."
Meeting Jagr, a Czech legend, almost was overwhelming.
"Jagr is still like a star in the Czech Republic," Hyka said. "When I stared to play hockey, he was my favorite player. I talked to him and he was really nice. He helped me a lot with what I had to do. I was a little bit afraid [to talk to him], but after was good."
Hyka said he learned a lot from his time with the Flyers, especially how hard the players work off the ice. Hyka's size -- he's listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds -- was one reason he went unselected last year.
"My weight and my size isn't really good for hockey," he said. "I need to be stronger on the ice and that's what I'm working on now."
Once he gets bigger and stronger, with his skill, he's hoping he sees his friends from the Flyers again soon.
"It was really nice to be there," Hyka said. "I wish I'm going to one day play with those guys again because they showed me everything. They helped me and it was really nice to be there. Hope it happens one day."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor