Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Martin Růžička: European Player of the Month for October.

For Eurohockey.com

At the first international break, the Czech Extraliga's leading scorer is not Kladno's Jaromír Jágr or Tomáš Plekanec, despite the fine and high-profile tour they've made around the country, filing arenas everywhere they go, nor is it any of the many other locked NHLers who have flocked to the league. It is Oceláři Třineč's Martin Růžička, who has 36 points in 19 games and racked up an amazing total of 20 points in 10 games in the month of October. He did so in relative obscurity, tucked away in a small industrial town on the Polish border.

Photo: NČR PRESS/Lenka Rybaříková.
Far away, in the capital city of Prague, mention hockey and the name Růžička nearly everybody will think of Vladimír, former star player and now coach of Slavia. Even the name Martin Růžička might lead to some confusion, as the starting goaltender in Pardubice has the exact same name. Yet the career that Martin Růžička the forward has made for himself since arriving in Třinec as a 24-year-old in 2009 is impressive.

To that point, he had bounced between four different clubs in the Extraliga and I.liga, never recording more than 18 points in a season and failing to distinguish himself as top-line player. However, in the 2009-10 season, he recorded 47 points in 50 games, which was enough to earn him a spot on that year's gold-medal winning Czech team at the World Championship.

He followed that up with 50 more points the next year, but he that was just a precursor to the playoff he would have. There, he shattered the league playoff scoring record, recording 33 points in 18 games, leading Oceláři to their first, and so far only, national championship.

After a year with Amur Khabarovsk of the KHL, he's back in Třinec this season, and what a season it's been so far. He has failed to register a point in only two of the 19 games he has played. His most dominant performance came October 5, when he was in on all 5 of the game's goals in his team's 5-0 shutout victory over visiting Česke Budějovice, thanks to a hat trick and 2 assists. He finished his amazing month with a 4-point effort against local rival Vítkovice on October 28.

Apparently, a month like that will get you attention no matter where you play -- not only national but all across Europe. Eurohockey.com readers voted him Europe's best hockey player for the month of October. Not only was he competing against Jágr and Plekanec for that honour, but other names like Henrik Zetterberg, Alexander RadulovIlya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin.

Unfortunately, European hockey fans won't get the chance to see him in action this week at the Karjala Cup -- he's being kept out with back trouble. However, it seems to be only precautionary, and he's expected to be back in the lineup when Třinec returns to the ice next week.

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