The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Radim Zohorna to a one-year, two-way contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
The 6-foot-6, 233-pound Zohorna, who is celebrating his 24th birthday today, has played the last six seasons in the Czech Republic’s top professional league, the Czech Extraliga, split between BK Mlada Boleslav and HC Kometa Brno. He made his debut as an 18-year old back in 2014-15.
“Radim is a smart player with good hockey sense that uses his big size to his advantage,” said Rutherford. “His ability to play all three forward positions will help provide depth to our forward group.”
This past season, Zohorna appeared in 56 games for BK Mlada Boleslav, setting career highs in goals (10), assists (12) and points (22). His 22 points were sixth-best on a Mlada Boleslav squad that finished the season tied for third in the league with 92 points.
And here’s his resume from Elite Prospects:
It does look like he’s a player on the rise, elevating his game and getting some action with the Czech national team in the last two years, and having his best season (by a large margin) in the Czech league last year scoring 10G+12A.
He’s also 24 years old and a big unknown. Sometimes European free agents end up like Oula Palve, a forward the Pens signed last year out of Finland. He played 37 games in Wilkes-Barre last season, and scored one goal before getting traded in a minor league deal. Sergei Plotnikov and Janne Pesonen are other examples of free agents that didn’t leave lasting impacts.
Then again, Artemi Panarin was another free agent that the Pens sought after, though he elected to sign with Chicago. Success like Panarin’s is why NHL teams will keep reaching into Europe to see if they can pluck a very high-end late-blooming player out to help the NHL team. Entry level contracts are based on age, and since Zohorna is very old for signing a first NHL contract, it’s only a one year deal. That’s a good amount of risk for an NHL team to take and bring him over and see what he’s got. Chances are he’ll be a lot more like Palve than Panarin, but you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.