While NHL players weren’t allowed to go to the 2022 Olympics because of the ongoing pandemic, the St. Louis Blues was still well-represented at this year’s games with a total of 16 former players representing their countries and in this piece, I look at five of them. Two are still competing for a chance at the gold medal and three have already been eliminated.
1. Tyler Wotherspoon – Canada
Wotherspoon played four full seasons in Portland from 2009 to 2013 and finished his WHL career with 82 points in 239 games played.
Wotherspoon was taken 57th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
After drafting Wotherspoon, the Flames Special Assistant to the General Manager at the time, Craig Conroy, said that Wotherspoon was a player whose qualities often go unnoticed.
Wotherspoon made his NHL debut on March 7, 2014, after an injury to Dennis Wideman late in the season forced the Flames to recall him on an emergency basis. He recorded his first NHL point the next night.
Wotherspoon spent five seasons with the Flames before signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on July 1, 2018.
After spending the 2018-19 season in the minors, Wotherspoon signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on July 1, 2019.
On September 14, 2021, Wotherspoon signed a Professional Tryout Agreement with the New Jersey Devils but was released after the preseason and later signed a one-year AHL contract with the Utica Comets.
2. Jacob De La Rose – Sweden
The career of the 26-year-old forward has included several ups and downs after he was drafted 34th overall in 2013 by the Montreal Canadiens.
De La Rose was also selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the 2013 European Import Draft for the Canadian Hockey League with then Spitfires’ General Manager Warren Rychel fully believing that De La Rose would make the transition to North American major junior hockey, but De La Rose had other plans, he instead chose to remain in his native Sweden and continue playing for Leksands IF.
In the 2014-15 season, De La Rose made the transition to North America and began his pro career with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal’s AHL affiliate at the time.
De La Rose made his NHL debut in early February 2015 and spent four seasons in the Canadiens organization before being claimed off waivers by the Detroit Red Wings on October 17, 2018. He had started the 2018-19 season on injured reserve after suffering a cardiac episode after a preseason game with the Canadiens.
On March 19, 2019, De La Rose spent the night in the hospital after suffering a second cardiac event in a game against the New York Rangers and would later undergo surgery to correct the issue.
De La Rose appeared in 24 games for the Blues after his acquisition and would sign a one-year, $700,000 contract extension with the Blues.
However, following that season, he made the decision to return to Sweden and signed a three-year contract with Färjestad BK on June 1, 2021.
3. Jakub Jerabek – Czech Republic
Jakub Jerabek grew up playing for his hometown team, HC Plzen. After going undrafted, Jerabek chose to remain in the Czech Republic and joined Plzen’s men’s team in the Czech Extraliga for the 2008-09 season.
Over the next three seasons, Jerabek would earn a full-time role on Plzen’s blueline and would be recognized as the league’s top defenseman in the 2015-16 season.
After playing eight seasons for his hometown team, Jerabek made the tough decision to leave his hometown and family to sign a one-year contract with Vityaz of the Kontinental Hockey League on May 5, 2016.
His performance in the KHL attracted the attention of several NHL teams and on May 1, 2017, Jerabek signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Canadiens and would appear in 25 games before being traded to the Washington Capitals on February 21, 2018.
On August 20, 2018, Jerabek signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers but would never appear in a game for them as he was traded to the Blues prior to the start of the 2018-19 season.
After the Blues acquired Jerabek, they placed him on waivers and assigned him to their AHL affiliate after just one game with the team.
Following the season, Jerabek chose to leave the NHL and returned to Vityaz on a one-year contract and is currently playing for HC Spartak Moscow in the KHL.
4. Petteri Lindbohm – Finland
The 2014-15 season would mark Lindbohm’s first season in North America, however, he primarily played for the Chicago Wolves, the Blues AHL affiliate appearing in 53 games for the Wolves.
On September 11, 2017, the Blues re-signed Lindbohm to a one-year, two-way contract and reassigned him to the Wolves at the start of the season to continue his tenure.
After winning gold with Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Championships, Lausanne rewarded Lindbohm with a new one-year contract extension.
Following the 2019-20 season, Lausanne and Lindbohm parted ways but he would remain in the National League after signing with EHC Biel on July 30, 2020.
After three seasons in the NL, Lindbohm left as a free agent and signed with Jokerit of the KHL where he currently plays.
On a side note, Lindbohm and Team Finland will go for the gold on Saturday after defeating Team Slovakia in the Olympic Semifinals last night.
5. Vladimir Sobotka – Czech Republic
Vladimir Sobotka, one of my favorite players, was drafted by the Boston Bruins, 105th overall in 2005 out of Slavia Prague, formerly of the Czech Extraliga but he wouldn’t play his first NHL game until two years later on November 24, 2007, against the Islanders.
Sobotka would score his first NHL goal later that season on February 13, 2008, in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
On June 26, 2010, the Bruins traded Sobotka to the Blues in exchange for the rights to prospect David Warsofsky.
Sobotka would score his first goal for the Blues, ironically, against the Bruins, his former team, on November 6, 2010.
On June 15, 2011, Sobotka signed a three-year contract extension to stay with the Blues, however, when that contract ended, everything changed.
Sobotka became a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 season, meaning that the Blues owned his rights, but he instead chose to sign a three-year contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
Once it became clear that he fully intended to play in the KHL, the Blues filed for salary arbitration with the NHL and on July 24, 2014, Sobotka received a one year, $2.725 million award from the arbitrator with the condition that if he chose to return to the NHL in the future, the Blues would retain his rights and he would become an unrestricted free agent following that season.
After spending three seasons in the KHL, Sobotka returned to the NHL on April 6, 2017, he would finish out the 2016-17 season on the contract awarded to him and then agreed to a three-year extension that was set to begin in the 2017-18 season.
After his contract ended, Sobotka chose to leave the NHL and agreed to an initial one-month contract in Switzerland with SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the NL, on October 9, 2020. He is currently playing for Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga.
While Wotherspoon, Jerabek, and Sobotka have already been eliminated from medal contention. De La Rose and Lindbohm still have the opportunity to earn some hardware for their respective countries.
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