Tomas Kloucek: Playing Solid On Broadway
Kloucek, a 6’3 220 lbs. defenseman from Prague, Czechoslovakia, was selected by the Rangers in the 5th round (131st overall) of the 1998 draft. The season after being drafted, Kloucek came over to North America and played with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles for the ’98-’99 season, registering 4 goals and 17 assists (21 points) in 59 games, along with 162 penalty minutes. The next season, at 19 years old, Kloucek was playing outstanding as a rookie for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. He had 2 goals, 8 assists and 113 PIM in 73 games during the regular season, while chipping in 4 assists and 18 PIM in 23 playoff contests en route to a Calder Cup winning season for the Hartford Wolf Pack. Kloucek was a dominating presence on the Wolf Pack’s blue line, as he was voted the Wolf Pack’s most outstanding rookie and was also voted to the AHL’s all-rookie team. He came to training camp this season looking to make the team as a 20 year old, but after a long look was sent back down to Hartford to get some playing time. Through 11 games with the Wolf Pack this year, Kloucek had 1 assist and 28 PIMS. On Saturday, November 11th, when Defenseman Mike Mottau was sent down to Hartford for likely the rest of the season, Kloucek was recalled and got his first taste of NHL action.He made his NHL debut the following day against the Phoenix Coyotes, a game in which the Rangers were shutout 2-0. Kloucek played a steady game, while not getting much ice time thanks to Brian Leetch who barely gets off the ice. Kloucek hasn’t made any highlight-reel plays, but that’s not his style. He’s nearly invisible most games, which is very good for a defenseman. He plays a solid, stay-at-home defensive game, and likes to mix it up physically and throw the big check. The stats say he only has 5 hits through 4 games, but from watching all four of his games, I think he definitely had more. He doesn’t have much of an offensive upside, and will likely never put up more than 10-15 points a season in the NHL. He has not had a consistent defensive partner, and has rotated with the other 5 defenseman and has played with about everybody. He hasn’t gotten any power play or penalty killing time, nor has he played a big role, but when called upon to give some other defensemen a rest, he has done his job.Kloucek will likely continue to play for the rest of the season with the Rangers. Vladamir Malakhov is listed as injured for 2 weeks with a partial tear of the ACL, but some say he has fully torn the ligament and will be sidelined for the rest of the season. If that is the case, Kloucek will stay with the Rangers as a 7th defenseman, rotating playing time with Dale Purinton. Their roles will likely continue with the way it happened this week. Purinton got the call on Tuesday night against the Leafs, a game I was in attendance for, because Toronto boasted some tough players such as Tie Domi, Gary Roberts and Shayne Corson. In the meantime, Kloucek got the call Wednesday against the Islanders, a team not nearly as scary physically.We should expect Kloucek to play a lot, but not every game. He will be a healthy scratch some nights, and may even be sent down to Hartford for a few games to get some playing time while the Rangers have some time off, as was the case two weeks ago with Dale Purinton. All in all, play close attention to Kloucek this season as he will be a physical presence on the Rangers blue line for years to come.