CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – Corpus Christi IceRays goaltender Tomáš Vomáčka was selected 154th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 5th Round of the 2017 NHL Draft this afternoon. Vomáčka becomes the second player in IceRays history to be drafted by a NHL organization.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Vomáčka on his selection. “It’s an amazing feeling. It was my dream since I was a little kid, and it came true. I achieved my first goal, but now everything starts. I’m super excited, and I’m going to work hard to make the NHL. They said they’re excited to have me, and I’m also super excited to be part of a great organization in Nashville. I saw the [Predators] fans in the playoffs, and the city loves hockey. It’s where I want to be, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Vomáčka, 18, was joined at the NHL Draft by his mother, Simona, teammates David Baskerville, Mason Krueger and Brendan Miller, and IceRays staff members including GM Pat Dunn, Head Coach Brad Flynn, and Director of Scouting Mike Mondoux throughout the weekend to support the draftee. As the second day wore on, nerves built up inside Vomáčka as each new player was selected to their potential future NHL organization. Finally, with one of the final selections in the 5th Round, the Predators took the goaltender and relief set in.
“It felt like a huge weight came right off of my chest. It was a great feeling. I was getting nervous, and finally they picked me. It’s hard to describe the feeling but it was amazing. I’m so happy to have the support I had. My mom watched every game we played in Corpus Christi, so I have a lot of thanks to her. It was also great to have my buddies here from the team and the coaching staff. I’m really happy that they were here. We’re going to enjoy the moment, then I’m going to get to work.”
“We’re very excited for Tomáš and proud of him,” said Flynn. “As our team philosophy, we put the ‘we’ before ‘me.’ It was a total team effort this season with eight NCAA Division I commitments and now one NHL draft pick. Combined with our season’s success, we’ve proven that we’re not only a team that wins but both develops and wins. We had three players travel in from out of town to support Tomáš, and I know there are 19 other guys who would have loved to join him. That just shows how close our team and organization is, and we wish Tomáš nothing but the best.”
The Trutnov, Czech Republic native began his journey to live his NHL at six years old when his older brother told him to pursue his dream and use his talents playing hockey. He first gained exposure as a goaltender for the Czech Republic U16 and U17 teams in international competition, finishing with a 14-13 record with a 3.00 goals-against average in both years of competition and a combined save percentage just around .900 through 27 games. He also started junior hockey with his hometown Mountfield HK, playing 28 games while recording a 14-14 record with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage with four shutouts.
His performance in his home country put him on the Corpus Christi radar, and in the 2016 NAHL Draft, the IceRays selected Vomáčka 136th overall in the 6th Round. After helping the Czech Republic to a gold medal in the Hlinka Memorial Cup, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound netminder joined the IceRays for the start of the 2016-17 season. He continued to gain national attention, this time with NHL Central Scouting with a B-rating on their annual Futures List.
As the season developed, so did Vomáčka’s performance, earning a selection to the NAHL Selects roster for the 2017 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. At the event, he helped the NAHL Selects earn an overtime win against the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and solidify his NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking of 13th among North American goaltenders. Shortly after the event, Vomáčka committed to the University of Connecticut, a NCAA Division I program in the Hockey East, for the 2018-19 season and continue his track of getting an education while continuing his hockey career.
By the end of the 2016-17 regular season, Vomáčka was one of the leading goaltenders in the NAHL, finishing with a 19-13-6 record with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage with one shutout through 41 games. In the process, he set a new junior franchise record for consecutive wins as a goaltender (seven), set new junior franchise marks for goals-against average and save percentage, finished in the top-10 in the NAHL for those two categories as well as minutes played, and was named both NAHL South Division Goaltender of the Year and NAHL All-Rookie First Team honors.
On top of that, he finished the year ranked 14th in the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings. His playoff record continued the momentum from the regular season, earning a 5-0-3 record with a 1.43 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage with two shutouts while recording the best goals-against average and save percentage in the Robertson Cup Playoffs and taking on the third-most shots against during the postseason. Though the jump is difficult for a foreign player to join a team in a new country, the move ultimately paid off in the long run.
“We’re all very happy for Tomáš,” said Dunn. “Not only is he a really good goaltender but also has a really bright future. It takes a lot of sacrifice and courage to follow his dream by leaving his home country at 17 years old and going to a foreign place. That’s half the battle, and he prevailed. We wish him the best in his future progression to become the next Nashville Predators goaltender.”
Vomáčka becomes the second player in IceRays history to be drafted by a NHL team, joining goaltender Anthony Stolarz (‘11-’12), who was selected 45th overall (2nd Round) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 NHL Draft. He was also the first NAHL player selected in this year’s NHL Draft and was later joined by Fairbanks IceDogs defenseman Benton Maass (182nd overall, Washington) and Shreveport Mudbugs defenseman Croix Evingson (211th, Winnipeg). That places Vomáčka in high esteem, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I was so excited when I was drafted by the IceRays last year, and I became part of the best organization in the league,” said Vomáčka. “It’s super nice to be the second player drafted from Corpus Christi. It means a lot, but there’s a lot more work ahead of me to get to the NHL.”
Now, Vomáčka heads to Predators Development Camp tomorrow afternoon and starts workouts for his new NHL parent club and the upcoming 2017-18 season. There are still many moving parts before thinking about heading to Nashville or even next season, but Vomáčka knows this season was one of the best both on and off the ice in Corpus Christi.
“I appreciate everything [IceRays fans] did throughout the year. We have the greatest fans in the league, and I really appreciate everything. It was an amazing season that I was able to share with the rest of the guys, and it’s something that I won’t forget.”
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