November 24, 2015

Jiri Latal

Jiri Latal was an offensive minded defenseman. A marvelous skater, Latal loved to jump up into the rush, either as the trailer or the leader. He also was a good point man on the powerplay, although he tended to use his international hockey upbringing of passing too much as opposed to just putting the puck on the net. That's fine, but on the smaller rinks and in the NHL game, Latal sometimes over-passed to a fault.

The major concern about Latal always was whether or not he was able or willing to take the physical punishment of the NHL in order to succeed. He wasn't overly strong, and often had trouble handling bigger forwards in his own zone. He also proved to be extremely injury prone in the North American game. He suffered chronic shoulder and knee injuries early in his career, cutting a once promising career short.

Originally a 1985 draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers acquired Latal in 1989. He began the 1989-90 season apprenticing with the AHL's Hershey Bears but quickly proved he was too talented for the AHL level and was called up permanently after just 22 games. He finished the year strongly with Philly, scoring 6 goals and 19 points in 32 games.

Latal had a tough sophomore season due to his injury problems. He played in 50 games, scoring 5 goals and 21 assists. However that was a great season compared to his 1991-92 campaign when he scored 1 goal and 2 assists in just 10 games.

Latal left the physical NHL following that year. He ended up in, of all places, Norway the following 2 seasons before resurfacing in his native Czech homeland for the 1994-95 season, appearing in one game for his hometown HC Olomouc. That was the last game Latal ever played.

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