Czechoslovaks in a Flyers uniform – Jan Hlavac

Filip Strych is our Czech correspondent who contributes to philadelphiaflyers.cz, the following is an article from that site.

This week we are going to continue our Czechoslovakian blog with Jan Hlavac, another Kladno-born player who played for the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite his short tenure with the team he will be remembered as a part of the Lindros trade to the Rangers.

Jan was born on September 20, 1976 in Prague where he started his career with one of the best teams HC Sparta Prague during the 1993/1994 season. The following year, the New York Islanders chose Hlavac in the second round, 28th overall. However high Islanders’ expectations were, he couldn’t make the team and Hlavac returned back to the Czech Republic. Because of a bought with dysentery he played in only a few games that year.

At that time Hlavac switched from the left wing to center and his rights were moved from the Islanders, to the Calgary Flames, and ultimately the New York Rangers. In 1999 he made his NHL debut for the Islanders’ rival; the Rangers. During 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 season the Rangers had three other Czech players in addition to Hlavac: Petr Nedved, Radek Dvorak, Michal Grosek. (in 1999-2000 Milan Hnilicka also became a member of the Rangers but played just two games with 3.49 GAA and 0.886 save percentage).

Hlavac played on a line with Petr Nedved and Radek Dvorak, referred to as the Czech line which made a big impression in New York. In 1999-2000 Petr Nedved recorded team best in points (68 pts, 24 goals, 44 assists), Hlavac finished 4th with 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists).

His best year with the Rangers and also in the NHL came a year later – 64 points (28 goals, 36 assists) was only three short from Mark Messier and Radek Dvorak (both had 67 points). In the 2001 (20th August) offseason Hlavac was traded in one of the biggest Flyers trades in history. Hlavac was sent to Philadelphia along with Kim Johnson and Pavel Brendl in exchange for Eric Lindros.

Both Brendl and Hlavac failed to meet the high expectations. Hlavac collected only 10 points in 31 games (7 goals and 3 assists) and Brendl was even worse – 8 games and he scored just one goal (most of the season Brendl played with Phantoms – 64 games, 15 goals and 27 assists).

On December 17th, 2001 the Philadelphia Flyers traded Jan Hlavc along with 3rd round pick (Brett Skinner) to the Vancouver Canucks for Donald Brashear and 2002 6th round pick which eventually turned into another Czech player Jaroslav Balastik who shortly played for Columbus Blue Jackets and then returned to the Czech Extraliga.

Brashear had a successful tenure with Philly. On the contrary Hlavac recorded 23 points in 55 games with the Canucks and he was later traded to Carolina. Before the 2005 he returned to the Rangers and would later play for Tampa and Nashville.

After the 2007/2008 season he came to the Swedish Elitserien team Linkopings HC. In 2012-2013 Hlavac signed with Kladno where he recorded 21 points (10 goals and 11 assists) in 37 games. On January 24th Hlavac left Kladno for Vaxjo team in Sweden.

It’s interesting that the Flyers were indirectly involved in the last trade of Hlavac, too. Nashville sent Hlavac to Tampa for 7th round pick of the 2008 NHL Draft. This pick turned into Joacim Eriksson (196th overall) which the Flyers got in exchange for Vaclav Prospal on February 25th, 2008. Tampa re-acquired Prospal from the Flyers on June 18th, 2008.

Jan Hlavac played an important role for the Czech national team during late 90′s and early 00′s. He won two gold (1999, 2005), one silver (2006) and one bronze medal (1998). In the 1998-1999 season Hlavac became the best goal scorer in the Czech Extraliga (33 goals in 52 games).