Knights’ free agent Hyka not so ‘quiet’

Knights rookie’s of­fen­sive piz­zazz piques in­ter­ests

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By David Schoen Con­tact David Schoen at dschoen@re­viewjour­nal.com or 702387-5203. Fol­low @David SchoenLVRJ on Twit­ter.

To­mas Hyka of the Czech Repub­lic is mak­ing noise among Golden Knights rook­ies en­ter­ing Sun­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion opener against the Canucks.

Of all the free-agent sign­ings made by the Golden Knights this sum­mer, To­mas Hyka’s may have gar­nered the least at­ten­tion.

But it’s start­ing to look like a shrewd move by gen­eral man­ager George McPhee.

“It’s a quiet sign­ing,” McPhee said Satur­day at City Na­tional Arena, “but he’s done very, very well.”

Hyka scored the first goal in Golden Knights his­tory — granted, it was in a rookie game — and added his se­cond in as many games against Los An­ge­les on Wed­nes­day.

The 24-year-old from the Czech Repub­lic will be one of sev­eral young­sters suiting up for the Knights on Sun­day when they open the NHL pre­sea­son at 2 p.m. on the road against the Van­cou­ver Canucks.

“I like what I see from the guy,” Knights coach Gerard Gal­lant said. “We’re go­ing to watch him through camp be­cause he con­tin­ues to get bet­ter, from de­vel­op­ment camp right till now. He’s been re­ally good.”

Hyka (pro­nounced HEE-kuh) went un­drafted in 2011 and was in­vited to train­ing camp with Philadel­phia. He scored a goal in his lone pre­sea­son game, com­plete with a Hulk Ho­gan-style, hand-to-the-ear cel­e­bra­tion, be­fore the Fly­ers learned they could not sign him be­cause of a rule in the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment.

Hyka went back to his ju­nior team in the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League and was drafted by the Kings in the sixth round (No. 171 over­all) in 2012, but he didn’t sign and even­tu­ally re­turned to Europe.

After one sea­son in Swe­den, Hyka spent the past three sea­sons with BK Mlada Boleslav in the Czech league, pro­duc­ing 36 goals and 42 as­sists in 117 games.

He signed a one-year, en­try-level deal with the Golden Knights in June, be­com­ing the team’s third player, and the 5-foot-11-inch, 160-pound right wing im­pressed dur­ing de­vel­op­ment camp this sum­mer.

“The last four years … it’s shown me that I’m im­proved in hockey things, that I’m more skilled,” Hyka said. “I’m more pow­er­ful now, a lot stronger, faster, so that’s why I de­cided to come back here and try it again and show my­self that I can play with the best in the world.”

Added McPhee: “Re­ally happy with that sign­ing. He’s a real good guy. I like his per­son­al­ity and like the way he plays the game. He

played very well in L.A. and has had a cou­ple of good days here.”

Hyka scored a nifty back­hand goal on the Knights’ first shot against Los An­ge­les in the first rookie game Tues­day.

He opened the scor­ing early in Wed­nes­day’s 4-0 vic­tory with a power-play goal after a nice cross-ice feed from first-round draft pick Cody Glass.

“I’m just go­ing out there hav­ing fun, work­ing hard and play­ing for the team, play­ing for the win,” Hyka said. “I’m try­ing to use my speed. That’s prob­a­bly the best part of my hockey, and that’s what I’m try­ing to use all the time.”

Hyka spent the first two days of train­ing camp skat­ing on an all-Euro­pean line with Rus­sian cen­ter Vadim Shipachyov and Swedish wing Os­car Lind­berg.

Hyka will be with new line­mates Sun­day against the Canucks, as nei­ther Shipachyov nor Lind­berg trav­eled to Van­cou­ver.

“I can’t wait to play,” Hyka said. “It’s go­ing to be my first away game, pre­sea­son game, in the NHL, so I’m re­ally ex­cited for every­thing.”

Richard Brian Las Ve­gas Re­view-Journal @ve­g­as­pho­to­graph

In his se­cond shot at the North Amer­i­can style of play, Knights rookie To­mas Hyka says he’s a lot stronger and faster, which he hopes will trans­fer into NHL suc­cess.

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