Player Spotlight: #17 Petr Sykora

Born Nov 19, 1976 in Plzen, Czechoslovakia, Petr Sykora entered the NHL in 1995 being selected 18th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 Draft, and has accumulated 568 points (249G, 319A) to date in 766 career NHL games.  Among his 1995 draft class, only Jarome Iginla has scored more points in their NHL career.  He spent 7 seasons playing for the New Jersey Devils (1995-2002), 2.5 seasons playing for the Anaheim Ducks (2002-2006), 0.5 season with the New York Rangers (2005-2006) and one season with the Edmonton Oilers (2006-2007).  As a free agent over the summer, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 2, 2007. 

Sykora began his NHL career on the prolific New Jersey Devils “A Line” alongside Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott, and scored 42 points (18G, 24A) in 63 games during his first year.  In the next two seasons (96-97/97-98), he split his time between the New Jersey Devils and Albany (AHL), playing 77 NHL games total where he scored 39 points (17G, 22A).  He scored 50 points (24G, 26A) in 45 AHL games for Albany in those two years.  He earned a full time spot on the New Jersey roster during the 1998-1999 season, scoring 72 points (29G, 43A) in 80 games.  He went on to win the Stanley Cup championship with the Devils in 1999-2000, and came within a game from winning a second Cup in 2001.  That year, Sykora scored a career high in goals (35), assists (46), and points (81).  He went on to play one more year with the New Jersey Devils before being traded.

In 2002, Petr Sykora was traded to the (then Mighty) Ducks of Anaheim in exchange for Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky.  In his first year with the Ducks (2002-2003), he contributed 59 points (34G, 25A) in 82 games.  In the following year, he was instrumental in carrying the Ducks to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to his former teammates, the New Jersey Devils. 

During the NHL lockout, Sykora maintained his skills and proficiency by playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League, where he scored 31 points (18G, 13A) in 45 games.  An interesting sidenote, one of his teammates on the Magnitogorsk was a young Evgeni Malkin who scored 32 points (12G, 20A) in 52 games that year.   

Early in the first post NHL lockout season (2005-2006), Sykora contacted New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather looking to move from the Ducks to the Rangers via trade.  The trade was eventually executed on January 9, 2006, with Sykora going to the Rangers for defenseman Maxim Kondratiev and a 4th round draft pick that the Rangers had previously traded to Anaheim.  During the 2005-2006 season, Sykora played 34 games for Anaheim (7G, 13A) and 40 games for the New York Rangers (16G, 15A), for a season total of 51 points (23G, 28A) in 74 games.  On July 7, 2006, it was announced that he would not be rejoining the Rangers for the 2006-2007 season, and on August 11, 2006, he signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers. 

Sykora played a full 82-game slate with the Oilers in 2006-2007, scoring 53 points on the year (22G, 31A), but with a career low +/- rating of -20.  He finished first on the club in goals, tied for first in scoring, and came in thirs in assists.  It was his seventh season scoring 20+ goals.  He complete dthe season and his one-year term deal with the Oilers and became an unrestricted free agent over the summer. 

On July 2, 2007, Sykora signed a 2-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He comes to the team with a record of achievement and signiciant Stanley Cup playoff and finals experience that will be invaluable to the team.  Playing on the wing with the league’s most valuable player could buoy his game to a potential career high season if he can maintain his health and speed.  Scouting reports note his speed and deceptive shot that he can employ from almost anywhere on the ice.  Scouting also suggests that he can get rattled in physical contests, still needs work in his own zone and needs to find a level of consistency in his offensive game.    He is earning a reported $2.9M this season playing for the Penguins, and has contributed 3 points (2G, 1A) in 2 regular season games. 

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