February 06, 2016

Kristian Kudroc

At six-foot-seven and 235 pounds, Slovakian Kristian Kudroc was a mountain of a defenseman.

The New York Islanders drafted Kudroc in the first round (28th overall) in 1999. That next season he left Slovakia to play with the Quebec Ramparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. 

It could not have been easy for the giant to come to Canada and have to face the many physical Canadians looking to test the big newcomer. Kudroc stood his ground and quickly earned their respect. He could be an especially devastating body checker.

He also showed he could play. He had surprising mobility not usually seen in such big men. He had a heavy point shot and could move the puck if given a bit of time. 

The Islanders view Kudroc as more of a project than a prospect, and traded him to Tampa Bay in a swap of several picks and prospects.

Kudroc would play in 22 NHL games in his professional rookie season, but as the Lightning's fortunes improved, Kudroc's playing time decreased. He would only play in four more NHL games, two with Tampa and two with the Florida Panthers. He otherwise toiled in the minor leagues, surviving a scary concussion that at one point cost him many games away from the rink.

Kudroc would be one of many fringe players to disappear after the NHL's lockout season. He had spent part of the labour stoppage playing in Sweden. When the NHL returned, Kudroc did not. He opted to stay in Europe, playing in Finland, Sweden and Russia until his retirement in 2014.

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