June 23, 2024

The Florida Panthers have reached an agreement with right-shot defenseman Mikulas Hovorka on a two-year entry-level contract set to commence next season, as announced by the team. Hovorka, aged 22, had garnered attention from several teams during the season and fulfills his desire to join the Eastern Conference.

Having spent the past two seasons with Motor Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Extraliga, the undrafted player from Prague boasts 90 appearances at the highest level, tallying eight goals, 14 assists, with a +2 rating and 66 penalty minutes. Standing at an imposing 6 feet 6 inches and weighing 229 pounds, Hovorka’s notable attribute is his size, potentially making him one of the more physically imposing defenders in the league should he secure a spot on Florida’s roster over the next two years.

While Hovorka was contracted with Motor until 2026, the agreement between the ELH and NHL enables the Panthers to buy out his overseas contract, although the specifics of his entry-level deal were not disclosed.

This marks the second consecutive year that Panthers’ GM Bill Zito has looked to the ELH for defensive reinforcements, following the acquisition of Latvian defenseman Uvis Balinskis from Bili Tygri Liberec in April of the previous year, a move that has largely paid off. Balinskis has contributed significantly in 23 NHL games this season, performed well with AHL Charlotte, and secured a two-year extension to remain in Florida.

Given Hovorka’s less mature skill set compared to Balinskis, he is likely to begin next season with Charlotte, presenting a low-risk, medium-upside investment for the Panthers, who retain his rights and have the option to qualify him as a restricted free agent when his contract expires in 2026.

Panthers agree to contract terms with defenseman prospect

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