The River Rats will have to do without leading scorer Jakub Petruzalek and staple defenseman Mark Flood next season. Both players, who spent the past three years in Albany, have signed to play elsewhere in 2009-10. Petruzalek is heading off to Finland for SM-Liiga, regarded as one of the top European leagues, while Flood has been picked up by the New York Islanders to add depth in Bridgeport.
In 2008-09, Petruzalek scored 54 points (19 G, 35) in 77 games for the Rats, tying teammate Jerome Samson for the title of top scorer. Petruzalek was called up to Carolina mid-season, playing his first two NHL games and tallying his first big-league point.
The young player from the Czech Republic was just one of several skilled forwards fighting for a spot with the Canes. He was ultimately overshadowed by the likes of Brandon Sutter, Michael Ryan and Pat Dwyer.
Petruzalek was originally drafted by the New York Rangers in 2004. The Hurricanes acquired him in 2006 along with a conditional fifth-round pick in exchange for forward Brad Isbister.
Petruzalek will now join the ranks of several talented prospects opting to play in Europe instead of North America. Many are leaving for better salaries overseas.
Mark Flood, a reliable defenseman now destined for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, was obtained by Carolina in 2006 in a move that sent D-man Derrick Walser to Columbus.
During his two-and-a-half-year stint in Albany, Flood developed into a solid two-way player, finishing last season with 31 points (6 G, 25 A) in 76 games.
Flood was considered a team- and fan-favorite. He earned an "A" on his sweater towards the end of last season and wrote a blog, Flood the Ice, for the team's website. Soon to be 25-years-old, he stands a better chance of moving up with the Islanders than he did with the Hurricanes. The Sound Tigers will be lucky to have him. The move is good for everybody except the Rats.
Next year's defense is looking a bit thin. According to the website Hockey's Future, which monitors young prospects, D-man Bryan Rodney was assured a spot on the Hurricanes' roster next season. The Canes may also call up defensemen Brett Carson and/or Casey Borer. Add the loss of Mark Flood and the likely possibility of a few injuries, and the Rats could be struggling in their own end.
There is still plenty of time before the start of the season. We won't know until October what the Rats' roster will truly look like. There should be plenty of new faces. Rookie prospect Jamie McBain, for instance, will be available to pick up at least some of the defensive slack.
Best of luck to both Jakub and Mark...except when Bridgeport plays Albany.