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February 06, 2016

Vaclav Varada

Vaclav Varada earned a reputation as a gritty Czech winger. The abrasive pest's somehow always played his best in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Varada's best seasons came with five years for the Buffalo Sabres. He was actually drafted by San Jose (89th overall in 1994) but traded to Buffalo a year later in the Doug Bodger trade. Varada also played parts of three seasons with the Ottawa Senators.

After being drafted Varada came to Canada to play junior hockey in the tough Western Hockey League. He established himself as a goal scorer with the Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets while fitting right in on the physical side of things. The Sabres had to have liked what they saw in their prospect.

Varada would fulfill his promise and be an impact NHLer in a career spanning 493 games.

Varada was mean and nasty, always willing to battle in the high traffic areas. He excelled in the corners and became know for his explosive bodychecks. He was thick and powerful, and played with reckless abandon. He definitely was not the opposition's favorite player to play against. Just ask the likes of Mario Lemieux, Doug Gilmour and Eric Lindros. He also seemed to often bump goaltenders.

His offensive totals never reflected his potential. He was a superb stickhandler, able to make plays in tight. He protected the puck well with his size and excellent balance on his skates. He wasn't the fastest player but with good positioning he was reliable. Maybe he lacked vision and maybe he stayed too high too much, which allowed him to be ready defensively but hurt his offensive totals.

Many had hoped Varada could develop into a power forward, but instead he became an aggressive defensive forward. He had the size, temperament and hands. In the words of coach-turned-broadcaster Harry Neale, he had all the tools but not the tool box. He never scored more than 10 goals in a season, and only had 58 in his entire career.

Varada left the NHL in 2006 but continued to play in Switzerland and Czech Republic until 2014.

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