Talk about getting kicked while you’re down.
The Halifax Mooseheads, coming off a last-place finish and one of the worst seasons in franchise history, are reeling after confirming the departure of sniper Jan Stransky on Tuesday.
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The 19-year-old right-winger — Halifax’s scoring leader the second half of last season — has signed a two-year contract with Plzen, his hometown team in the Czech Republic.
He arrived from the Gatineau Olympiques in a mid-season trade and had 15 goals among 31 points in 28 games.
“It’s an offensive key to our team that we’re losing, and that’s something that we need,” Mooseheads head coach and general manager Cam Russell said. “But at the same time, it gives us a chance to look for a younger European.”
Russell confirmed the news Tuesday afternoon through Stransky’s billet family, who received the details from Stransky via e-mail. But as of last night, Russell still hadn’t had a chance to speak to Stransky’s agent, Petr Svoboda.
Teams are permitted to have two European players. The other, Tomas Knotek, also a 19-year-old Czech and the Mooseheads’ reigning most valuable player, is expected to return.
The Mooseheads traded their top pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft — No. 1 overall, as it turned out. Although that stings now, Russell is looking for a young player to build around with his top pick at No. 28.
“We knew we were going to lose both (Stransky and Knotek after 2009-10), and we’d have to replace both at the same time, which would be difficult,” Russell explained. “We’ll take the opportunity to bring in a new guy, a younger guy.”
Stransky’s departure may also alter Halifax’s strategy at the QMJHL draft. Russell initially wanted to focus on defence, but a scorer might pique his interest now.
“You’ve always got Plans A, B and C,” Russell said. “We’ll take that into consideration at the draft … Who we’re trying to bring in with the picks that we have. It also gives opportunities to some of our other guys to play on top lines.”