Radko Gudas, a 2010 draft selection from the Everett Silvertips, will make his professional debut this season somewhere within the Lightning organization. (Frank Deines III / Everett Silvertips)
He dominated the blue line for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL last season, delivering so many bone-crunching hits, they were regularly selected as "Central Body Works' Hit of the Night" at Comcast Arena. The 6', 205lb defenseman also put up some respective numbers (7 goals, 30 assists for 37 points) and a team-high +/- rating of +45 during his one and only season with the Silvertips.
The Tampa Bay Lightning recognized Radko's potential, taking him 66th overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles in June, and then signing him to a 3 year, entry level contract in August. On September 11 - 15, he and other Tampa Bay prospects will take part in the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
Radko took a few minutes to chat with Raw Charge about all the developments of the past few months.
How has your summer been?
The summer home was so nice, seeing all of my friends and family. But I am excited about going back to the US.
Have you seen any new movies this summer?
I have seen just "Prince of Persia." I've seen other movies in the US, but right now I'm watching Czech movies mostly.
You chose to play in North America this season with guys around your own age instead of playing fewer minutes for a club team in Europe. What made you decide that playing in Everett was a better choice?
I decided to play in the WHL when the Los Angeles Kings told me that they wanted me in development camp. That was a lucky choice, because playing for the (Everett) Silvertips was my best year.
Do you feel that the move was positive for your development as a player in general? Do you think you could have progressed and improved in the same way if you had stayed in Europe?
I think because I played one year in Everett, that's why I was drafted. I developed myself in one year (in the US), more than in three years in Europe, so I think it was one of the best choices I made in my hockey life.
Are you more comfortable now playing the North American game with a smaller ice surface? Or does it still feel odd?
Actually, I don't like ice in Europe now. (Laughs) It is more comfortable for me to play on smaller ice.
When you were with Everett last season, you were living with a billet family. You'll be living a much more independent life this season as a pro. Is that intimidating for you at all?
I don't know what I can expect right now, but it's probably going to be a lot harder. My billets in Everett helped me in every direction and I felt like part of their family.
What is one of the lasting lessons that you were taught during the Development Camp in Tampa in July? Did the team tell you anything to work on afterward?
I need to work on everything if I want to play pro hockey at the biggest level, so I am working on everything.
Knowing you're making the jump from juniors to the pros this season, have you undertaken any extra personal training this off-season? Did the Lightning assign you any extra training or nutritional regiments after training camp?
Yes. During the summer practice time, I did some more practicing and I think I am prepared to play the pro game.
What aspect of your game do you feel you have to improve?
I want to have more points than last season (37), but I am a "home stand" defenseman, so the main thing for me is to play good defensively.
You just signed your entry-level contract with the Lightning. Has the team given you any indication where they want you to play this season?
I hope that if they signed me that they want me to play on their teams (Lightning, Norfolk Admirals, Florida Everblades). (Laugh) I don't know yet which team.
Since camp ended, have you been in contact with any of the other players you met?
Yes I am. They are both good players.
What are your thoughts on fellow countryman and Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina? Have you guys had a chance to talk?
Not yet, but I hope it will change. I have seen him play but have not met him yet.
Some people have been comparing you to former NHL defenseman Darius Kasparaitus. What do you think of that comparison?
I didn't see him play but I know that he played physical hockey. I am happy about comparing me to a player like Darius. But I want to be Radko Gudas.
The Red Line Report, one of the scouting services, described you as an "ultra-competitive prick to play against." Do you take that as a compliment?
Yes. That is a big compliment to me. (Laughs)
Whether he ends up in Norfolk, Estero, or in Tampa Bay, fans can expect one thing from Radko Gudas on the ice: 100% effort.
And bone-crushing hits (Okay, that's two things, but it's worth noting regardless!).
Off the ice, they can expect a young man who exudes so much down to earth friendliness, there's already a fan club for him on Facebook. And it won't take long for Lightning fans to sign up in droves.
(special thanks to Su Ring for orchestrating, conducting and transcribing the interview. This post is hers, with minor edits, And thanks also to Bolt Prospects for chipping in with the questioning)