Josef Hrabal had a bizarre season. Signed by the Oilers in May of 2008 (they would have lost his rights had he remained unsigned) to a 2-way deal, it was pretty obvious that he would have to prove himself in Springfield to move up the depth chart.
He interested me for a few reasons: Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies always liked him, he played in very good leagues from an early age (and continues to do so) and the Oilers seem to have a way with defenders.
In 2007-08, Hrabal played in the RSL for Cherepovets Severstal. The club scored 10 fewer goals than they allowed and Hrabal looked good when compared to the other defenders:
- Alexander Shinin (23) 56gp, 9-8-17 +2 28pims
- Josef Hrabal (22) 56gp, 3-10-13 +10 73pims
- Petr Caslava (28) 54gp, 2-8-10 +5 69pims
- Yuri Aleksandrov (19) 45gp, 5-5-10 -2 32pims
- Mikhail Kuklev (25) 56gp, 1-6-7 -8 57pims
- Dmitru Krasotkin (36) 44gp, 3-1-4 -6 14pims
- Stanislav Egorshev (20) 21gp, 2-1-3 -1 8pims
So, entering this season he’s 22 years old, coming off a good season in a quality league and things are looking up because the big club has signed him to a deal. Early in training camp with the Oilers, Hrabal was injured. It was reported in early October that he’d suffered a rotator cuff injury that could sideline him for as much as 6 months. Later that month he played for the Springfield Falcons, so the initial injury reports were clearly incorrect. Having said that, he never did get it back, to the point where he was sent to the ECHL for a time and then later in the season refused demotion and ended up in Sweden.
Quoting Jonathan Willis in his excellent article on him, we get an idea about his season: Things have gone badly. Hrabal suffered shoulder injury in training camp that sidelined him for the early part of the season. When he was healthy, Hrabal found himself in Stockton, and didn’t get an AHL opportunity until nearly the end of October. Hrabal was one of very few defensemen to keep his head above water at even strength (although he wasn’t contributing much offensively) while playing second-pairing opposition. Despite the fact that the Falcons’ defence is a bit of a trainwreck, Hrabal was dispatched to the ECHL on three separate occasions, where he excelled (four points in eight games, +2). The third time Hrabal was assigned to the ECHL, he refused to report and has since signed on to play with Modo of Sweden’s Eliteserien for the remainder of the year. Modo features three former NHL defensemen in Matthias Timander, Hans Jonsson and Pierre Hedin, as well as highly touted prospect Victor Hedman.
He failed badly with MoDo. In 6 SEL games he was 0-1-1 -5. Hedman was the best D on the team with a +17 and no player on the roster was bleeding at Hrabal’s rate. Kevin Prendergast said in February that Hrabal would be back in the fall for TC and I suspect he never did fully recover from injury. He’s in no-man’s land as a prospect right now and an NHL career looks like a distant bell.