This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
No. 15 Vladimir Sobotka
So far in the rankings, we've looked at a lot of guys who can't score a lot of goals. Or aren't expected to. We get to Vladimir Sobotka and that doesn't change a bit. But the little dude can skate and he's big with the ladies. They're my rankings. Deal with it or start your own blog. Everybody's doing it.
Sobotka is young and energetic. The 24-year-old Czech Republic native is quick to jump into space and has a good understanding of the flow of the game. His value is in disrupting the other team's puck movement and getting under their skin. He can play with a physical edge. He's like Tyson Nash with quicker feet and better looks.
Game Time commenter Sarah Connors is a Boston fan who has started following the Blues because of Sobotka. I asked her on Twitter why she loves Sobotka so much.
I love him because he is a little ball of hate and destruction. His Czech coach calls him "little wrecking ball." Also he was my favorite in Providence.
Anybody who gets compared to Pat Verbeek's nickname is ok in my book. Now about that goal scoring...
Last season in 65 games he scored seven goals. And that was an improvement. He had four in 61 games the year before in Boston. He's totaled 13 goals in 199 games. For him to score 500 goals in the NHL, at this pace he'd have to play until Gordie Howe's age. And add about 50 years. Minimum.
So let's look past the goals and talk hits. In those 65 games with the Blues last year he racked up 137 hits - the second most on the team. He blocked 37 shots. The one area defensively that you can track where he could improve is in the takeaway category. With his speed, he should have more than 19 over the course of a season.
When hockey broadcasters are searching for things to talk about, they often talk about role players and the importance of grinders and pests. The key is speed. If a role player is a plodder on the ice, he's just another guy. Mike Glumac comes to mind. Guy had a role to play and didn't have the athleticism to really make an impact. Sobotka can make an impact.
If only his good looks could score more goals. Something tells me his fan following will only grow. Mostly among the ladies.