Saturday, August 29, 2015

Radek Bonk Jersey Card

Ah, Radek Bonk.

Sure, when he was chosen third overall at the 1994 NHL draft, expectations were high on the Czech center. Chosen after Ed Jovanovski (1st) and Oleg Tverdovsky (2nd) and ahead of the likes of Jason Bonsignore (4th), Jeff O'Neill (5th), Ryan Smyth (6th), Jamie Storr (7th), Brett Lindros (9th), Jeff Friesen (11th), Mattias Ohlund (13th), Ethan Moreau (14th), Éric Fichaud (16th), Wayne Primeau (17th), Dan Cloutier (26th), Stanislav Neckar (29th), José Theodore (44th), Mathieu Dandenault (49th), Patrik Elias (51st), Fredrik Modin (64th), Sheldon Souray (71st), Chris Drury (72nd), Milan Hejduk (87th), Vaclav Varada (89th), Marty Turco (124th), Daniel Alfredsson (133rd), Roman Vopat (172nd), Shane Hnidy (173rd), Frédéric Cassivi (210th), Tim Thomas (217th), Evgeni Nabokov (219th), Tomas Vokoun (226th), Steve Sullivan (233rd), Richard Zednik (249th), Mike Peluso (253rd), Sergei Berezin (256th), Tomas Holmstrom (257th), Dick Tarnstrom (272nd), and Kim Johnsson (286th).

Among those chosen in the top-5, it's hard to argue he shouldn't have been in the top-3. In retrospect, when considering the players drafted in every round, he's still a definite first-rounder, and still a top-10 pick for me, as my order would probably be:

1. Alfredsson
2. Hejduk
3. Smyth
4. Elias
5. Theodore
6. Tverdovsky
7. Thomas
8. Vokoun
9. Drury
10. Bonk
11. Jovanovski
12. Souray
13. Ohlund
14. O'Neill
15. Nabokov

And he may not have become a leading scorer (though he did have a 70-point season as well as a couple where he put up 60 and 59, part of a streak of four consecutive 20-goal seasons), but playing alongside Marian Hossa on the Ottawa Senators for seven seasons really cemented his abilities as a two-way center, which led to his earning Selke Trophy consideration five times, including twice with nearly the same number of votes as Hossa.

However, there came a point where the expectations of high production in Ottawa became too lofty, and he was part of a three-way trade that sent him to the Montréal Canadiens, where head coach Claude Julien was quick to cast him into a defense-first role where 10 to 15 goals and 25 to 30 points were going to be acceptable, and for a couple of seasons he thrived in Montréal. So much so that he eventually signed a free agent contract with the Nashville Predators, before a one-year stint in the KHL and a return to the Czech Republic.

Here he is wearing the Habs' white (now-away) uniform, from Fleer's 2006-07 Fleer Ultra set by Upper Deck, card #U-RB of the Ultra Uniformity sub-set, featuring a red game-worn jersey swatch:
You might remember him from his mullet in his early years, but this is him as he is ingrained in my brain.

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