The San Jose Sharks have a crowded blueline. Dylan DeMelo, Tim Heed, and Joakim Ryan will all be in the mix for San Jose’s sixth and seventh defensive spots next month at training camp. The odds would seem long for a defensemen entering his first professional season to compete with the trio, but count out smooth-skating Radim Simek at your own peril.
The Czech defenseman, who San Jose signed in May, led all blueliners in the Czech Extraliga in goal-scoring in two of the last three seasons (10 goals in 2014-15, 11 in 2016-17). In 2015-16, he finished third, two goals shy of a tie for the league lead among defensemen. Instead, he won an Extraliga championship and the postseason MVP award, scoring 10 points in 14 playoff games.
Simek, who stands at a stocky 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, uses his frame to play a physical game. When Simek was linked to the New York Rangers in May, Josh Khalfin of Blue Seat Blogs noted that the 24-year-old “loves to play a strong physical game and beating him along the boards on the rush has been quite hard for his opposition in the Czech league.”
David Schlemko’s departure in the Expansion Draft left a hole in San Jose’s bottom pairing and its second power play unit. DeMelo, Heed, and Ryan are incumbents with strong pedigrees of their own, but Simek’s offensive ability is difficult to ignore. If his skill translates and he can adjust quickly to the North American game, Simek could be a dark horse to make the team out of camp. The Sharks seem to think it’s at least a possibility, as Simek’s one year, entry-level contract contains up to $425,000 in performance bonuses, according to Cap Friendly.
Heed’s performance last season with the Barracuda, as one of the AHL’s best defensemen, is probably a more reasonable ceiling for Simek than a role in the NHL straight out of camp. But if the competition for the sixth and seventh defensive spots is as open as the Sharks have claimed, Simek’s performance in his native Czech Republic suggests he’ll be under strong consideration.
Name: Radim Simek
Age (as of 9/9/17): 24
Last Year’s Ranking: N/A
2015-16 Team: Bili Tygri Liberec
Where he’ll (probably) be next year: San Jose Barracuda
What we like
Physicality, skating, and offensive ability.
What to improve on
Successfully acclimating to the North American style of play.
Whether on the Barracuda’s power play or the Sharks, that slap shot will be a welcome site at SAP Center this season.