The RDC Kings will have an international flavour next season.
Czech Republic native David Vondracek will be with the Kings for the 2014-15 Alberta Colleges Men’s Hockey League season. He’s one of three defencemen to commit this week, joining Red Deer native Joel Topping and Nick Bell of Innisfail.
The 24-year-old Vondracek is no stranger to North American hockey. After playing two years with the Czech U18 program and four with the U20 team, he played one season with the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League in the States. He played 17 games with the Whalers and had only one assist, but was a plus-six.
The six-foot, 190-pound Vondracek returned home last season, playing in the Czech third division where he had eight goals, nine assists and 71 minutes in penalties, in 31 games.
“He wanted to come back to North American and a friend and former teammate, who played four years with Concordia in our league, said we would be a good fit for him. With the help of his friend I was able to e-mail David and we were able to work it out,” explained Kings head coach Trevor Keeper.
RDC has international scholarship money available which helps pay the difference between what Canadian and foreign students pay.
“It makes it so financially it’s about the same,” said Keeper, who watched video of Vondracek.
“From what I could see he’s skilled, a quick skater and is gritty. He’ll be a nice fit, as will the other two.”
Keeper was hoping to attract European players to the program, and this is a good start, he said.
“I’ve been talking to some scouts there and this will open the door.”
Topping started last season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, before leaving at Christmas to attend RDC, but he didn’t play.
The 19-year-old helped the Red Deer Optimist midgets win the Telus Cup in 2012 before joining the Hurricanes full time in 2011. He played 63 games his rookie season, scoring once and adding 12 assists. Last season he played 25 games, recording seven helpers.
The 24-year-old Bell comes to the Kings after two years with the Mount Royal University Cougars. He played the 2012-13 season in the ACAC, recording a goal and 14 assists in 22 games. Last year, the Cougars first in the CIS, he played seven games and had a goal and two assists.
Prior to joining the Cougars Bell, played with the Red deer midget AAA squad before joining the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL,
He then spent one year with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, before returning to Okotoks.
He played 32 games with the Rebels, scoring once and adding 12 assists.
His first year with Okotoks he had eight goals and 29 assists while recording eight goals and 13 assists in 25 games his second time with the Oilers.
The Kings now have eight defencemen on their roster, including returnees Blair Mulder, Shamus Graham, Davis Claffey, Brett Wold and Alex Marcinew. Kirsten Odendaal will be at RDC, but isn’t expected to play.
“Kirsten switched to engineering and has a tough program, so he’ll practice once a week with us and will play if we run into a string of injuries,” explained Keeper.
“So really it’s like he’s red shirting. He wants to be around the team, but will only play if really needed and he’s fine with that.
“It’s nice to have that insurance.”
Keeper may also add one more defencemen, but that’s not for sure yet.
“We have room for one more, and if need be one or two of the guys can also play up front,” said Keeper, who was looking to add size, along with skill.
“The guys we have back give us a good core, but we needed a bit more size and all three of the new guys give us that,” he said.
He’s also looking for a bit more size, and scoring, up front.
“We have nine or ten guys back, so that’s a good nucleus, but we have three or four spots open and if we get the guys we’re talking to, we’ll be fine.”
Two of the newcomers, he’s looking at, are still playing in their league playoffs.
“We didn’t want to put any pressure on them while they’re playing, so once they’re done they’ll make a decision. One other guy has been here a couple of times and we expect a decision shortly.”
• Both goaltenders — Mike Salmon and Kraymer Barnstable — will be back next season . . . In other ACAC men’s hockey news, former Red Deer midget, Ty Clay, has committed to SAIT.