Not so long ago, a Czech fan was following the NHL scoring table and found names like Tomáš Hertl, David Krejčí, Jakub Voráček, Martin Nečas, in addition to “Pasta”… Now suddenly the rather inconspicuous and somewhat infantile Filip Hronek emerged.
We haven’t had a defender like that in the NHL for a long time. And neither did the Vancouver Canucks. In addition, the 26-year-old Czech collected a goal and 13 assists in 11 games in a row. He fired 31 shots on goal until the middle of last week, blocked 18 shots himself and boasted a respectable rating of +12. The speed of his successful shot at the goal was 172.6 km/h. Good parameters.
Then, although he did not record a point in the 17th game, he added another assist over the weekend against the Seattle Kraken.
Hronek is extremely lucky to have a partner and the fact that the Canucks are now running like a well-oiled machine. He joins an elite defensive pairing with captain Quinn Hughes, a Florida native who is also in great form. The offensive-minded American defender converted a solo escape in the last game against the New Jersey Devils (his brother Jack happens to be playing there) and scored the third point of the evening (1 + 2). Thanks to this, with 26 entries (6 + 20), he leads not only the defenders of the competition, but also tied his partner Elias Pettersson (26 points, 7 + 19) at the top of the productivity of all players.
Next to him, Filip Hronek is the fourth man in the productivity table of NHL defenders. With his point streak, he tied the club record among defensemen. Within the entire competition, only Cale Makar (13) and Erik Karlsson (14) had a longer streak among backs in the last 30 years. And to top it off, he surpassed Doug Halward’s streak in 11 games, who accomplished it in the 1982/83 season, thus recording a historic feat among Canucks defensemen.
It is also respectable that at one point he was only seven points behind the elite striker Pastrňák.
Hronk’s combined record with Quinn Hughes is staggering. They have collected 48 points in 19 games so far. Hughes – 30 points (8 + 22). Grape 18 points (1 + 17).
“He and Quinn are playing fantastic. They give the pucks well, Hronek also skates well. It’s great that we have them,” Swedish Canucks forward Elias Pettersson, who led the NHL in scoring with Hughes at the weekend, praised the pair according to NHL.com.
“Filip is an amazing player. I played with many defenders in my career, but he is perhaps the best of them all,” praised Čech and captain Hughes himself. Hronek immediately returned it: “It’s easy to play with him. He makes a great play and can open up even more space for me.”
But they both didn’t have it automatic at all. “I wasn’t sure if it would work out between them. Why would we let them play together when they are both so good at moving the puck? Originally, we thought we were going to split them,” Canucks assistant coach Adam Foote admitted.
And they have nothing certain about the future. The rest of the Canucks’ defensive backs aren’t doing nearly as well. It would therefore be logical to divide the star duo into two defensive pairs.
But for now, Vancouver is riding the waves of fantasy. Out of the initial 19 starts, the Canucks won 13 times and pushed their way to the top of the Pacific Division and the entire Western Conference, just behind the current leaders and defending Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights.
It’s a big promise for the fans. The Canucks have not made it to the playoffs three times in a row and have only played once in the past eight years in the Stanley Cup. Last year they were crouching somewhere in the middle of the regular season table.
It is certainly worth noting that the team from Vancouver never “had” Czech players very much. Practically only Jiří Bubla worked there for a longer period in the years 1981–86. Other Czechs have always played for a shorter time in the club, most recently Radim Vrbata for two seasons in 2014-16.
It would be interesting to hear how Hronko is now evaluated by the heads of the Detroit Red Wings, who traded him to Vancouver last year after several fairly decent seasons. Hronek signed a three-year, $13.2 million contract with Detroit in September 2021. However, he was eventually traded to Vancouver last March along with a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for a first- and second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Detroit is Detroit, but Hronk was obviously helped by this trade.
This perhaps at first glance somewhat inconspicuous player has shown himself in good form several times in the Czech national jersey. He was already the captain of the Czech Republic at the 2017 Junior World Cup, where he became the team’s leading defender with two goals and two assists in five games. He also represented the Czech Republic at the 2018 and 2019 World Cups. In the latter, Hronek led the ranking of defenders in scoring, was selected for the tournament All Star team and was awarded as the best defender. At the WC in Finland in 2022, he helped win bronze medals.
Hronek started in the HC Hradec Králové team, where he went through the youth selections. In the 2014/15 season, he helped the Králové Hradec Juniors advance to the extra league and at the same time made his debut in the “A” jersey in the highest competition. Then he helped Stadion Litoměřice, first league farm Hradec. In 2016, he was drafted by the aforementioned Detroit Red Wings, with whom he agreed on a three-year rookie contract. He spent the 2016/17 season with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) and the Grand Rapids Griffins, with whom he won the Calder Cup for the AHL winners.
He made his NHL debut in October 2018 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and scored his first point a few days later against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he assisted on Dylan Larkin’s goal.
With Detroit, it was a special fellowship altogether. He didn’t play badly, but they liked to send him to the farm early in the first season for some reason. But the Red Wings are a thing of the past. Now unexpectedly, Hronek is playing for the only team from British Columbia, Canada.
His performances can be a promise for the national team as well. If Vancouver doesn’t make the playoffs, the motivation is big: the championship in Prague in 2024.