PITTSBURGH — Jiri Sekac has played for 10 teams in six leagues in four countries over the past seven seasons.
Here are the leagues: Ontario Hockey League, United States Hockey League, Kontinental Hockey League, Czech Extraliga, American Hockey League and National Hockey League.
Here are the teams: Peterborough Petes (OHL), Youngstown Phantoms (USHL), Poprad Lev (KHL), Sparta Praha (Czech), Prague Lev (KHL), Montreal Canadiens (NHL), Anaheim Ducks (NHL), San Diego Gulls (AHL), Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) and now the Arizona Coyotes, who claimed him off waivers from Chicago on Saturday.
If nothing else, the new Coyotes forward has a bevy of perspective-altering travel experiences.
“I’ve seen a couple places already,” Sekac said, laughing after his first day of practice with the Coyotes on Sunday at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. “It’s mentally tough. It’s tough to just stick with it, but I’m still playing; still in the NHL so that’s good. I’ve got to take the positives and that’s all you can do.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward was never drafted and signed with the Canadiens on July 1, 2014 after spending three seasons playing for Lev Praha. At the time, Sekac had at least 12 NHL teams trying to sign him but chose the Canadiens because of what he called a gut feeling.
In his rookie NHL season of 2014-15, split between Montreal and Anaheim, Sekac had nine goals and 23 points, which would suggest the 23-year-old forward has some offensive upside.
On the flip side, in less than two NHL seasons, he has been with four NHL clubs. The Canadiens traded the rookie to the Ducks for forward Devante Smith-Pelly in February 2015.
At the time, Ducks GM Bob Murray told reporters: “He has good upside offensively. He can skate; he can shoot. He’s one of those late bloomers.”
Less than a year later, Murray’s opinion had changed and he traded Sekac to Chicago for forward Ryan Garbutt because Sekac’s speed and skill hadn’t translated into production.
“We kind of hoped Jiri would fit into the top-six grouping, and it wasn’t quite working properly,” Murray told the Orange Country Register. “It looked like it was best for us to move on.”
About a month after acquiring him, the Blackhawks came to the same conclusion and waived him.
Sekac thought things were going well for him in Anaheim until he suffered a high-ankle sprain Nov. 1 against Nashville.
“We were not doing very well but I was still moving around the top six players,” he said.
By the time he returned in mid-December, Anaheim was starting to gel and the lines had settled into place “so it was tough for me to find that spot.”
Sekac had a little more than a cup of coffee in his month-plus in Chicago, but he did absorb some knowledge.
“I was actually happy to see the organization,” he said. “They’ve won some Stanley Cups. You see how their practices were run. It was a great experience.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett knew little about Sekac when the Coyotes claimed him on Saturday, but he watched tape of a few games Saturday night and also had Sekac at practice on Sunday.
“He’s worth a look. He’s a fairly big guy; strong on the puck,” Tippett said. “The game is quick now. If you can play quick, it’s an asset.”
Tippett said he asked fellow Czechs Zbynek Michalek and Martin Hanzal about Sekac and got positive reviews (Sekac also played with Coyotes defenseman Jarred Tinordi in Montreal). There were also visible qualities on tape that Tippett liked.
“He looked like he was good around the net, lots of wraparounds down low, protect the puck, things like that in the offensive zone,” Tippett said.
Sekac is a left shot but can play either side. Tippett had him skating on the left wing with center Kyle Chipchura and right wing Tyler Gaudet on Sunday, but he said that could change.
Sekac was due for a crash course in the Coyotes’ style of play with the staff after Sunday’s practice, but after arriving in Pittsburgh on Saturday night to join the team, he took some time after his media session had ended Sunday to sit and chat with Michalek in his native tongue.
“It’s been a lot of movement lately,” Sekac said. “It’s kind of tough but there’s nothing you can do about it. I got picked up off waivers. It’s obviously better to be with an NHL team than (with) the farm team.”
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