Adam Ruzicka is a promising young centre who just barely missed the cut to make our top-10.
Perhaps we’ve underrated him. After all, Ruzicka did just lead the Stockton Heat with 11 goals and 21 points in 28 games, earning his first three NHL contests with the Calgary Flames along the way.
Three Win Column writers (John, Mike, and Joshua) placed Ruzicka 10th on their respective lists. He ultimately slid down by one spot, exactly where Karim had him slotted and one notch ahead of Khalid’s placement.
Ruzicka’s strengths and weaknesses
Ruzicka is a big guy. He stands 6’4″ and weighs 202 pounds, placing him in the upper echelon of the Flames’ size hierarchy.
While he certainly boasts a powerful shot, Ruzicka is far from being a thunderously physical player and often uses his size and long reach more for tactical gain. He is undeniably effective at locating dangerous areas in the offensive zone and establishing his territory.
Certain players move quicker with their legs than with their hands. Matthew Lombardi, a Flame from 2003 to 2009, is an example of somebody who could easily generate high-danger opportunities with his blazing speed but often had trouble moving the puck with the same prowess and frequently failed to capitalize on breakaways.
Conversely, Ruzicka seldom creates breakaway opportunities with his footspeed but possesses the puckhandling and shooting ability to fool almost any defender or goaltender at the AHL level. He’s a pure sniper who took 75 shots in 28 games last season, slinging at a far better rate than his 110 shots in 54 contests during the 2019–20 campaign. In particular, Ruzicka is more than willing to fire hard and accurate one-timers.
While Ruzicka can’t quite replicate some of the things Matthew Phillips—his frequent linemate in 2020–21—does with his hands, he still routinely makes his opponents look silly with crafty little plays. Ruzicka often makes the most of his long stick to pull the puck around both defensemen and goalies. He’s also a fearsome weapon in shootouts.
Ruzicka’s on-ice results
Ruzicka has long been considered a hot-and-cold player, one who can be counted on for white-hot stretches before fading into the background.
Shortly after the Flames drafted Ruzicka in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, DobberProspects’ Joel Henderson described the centre’s draft year—in 2016–17, with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting—as having been “filled with flash and inconsistency.”
Two years later, after Sarnia traded Ruzicka to the Sudbury Wolves halfway through the 2018–19 campaign, Henderson posted two more updates about Ruzicka’s performance.
Ruzicka has been traded from Sarnia to Sudbury in the OHL. He will slide into their top 6. Truth be told, a team system shakeup might be good for him. A fresh team and perspective can only be a positive for a player who has continued to find inconsistent efforts.Joel Henderson, DobberProspects, Jan. 2019
A four goal night. Seven points in two games. The trade to Sudbury has been quality for Ruzicka. He’s playing with confidence and chemistry. His level of skating still leaves issues of consistency but his efforts have been steady. You can expect Calgary might offer Ruzicka his ELC after the OHL playoffs are completed.Joel Henderson, DobberProspects, Mar. 2019
He managed to slightly curtail his trend of inconsistency with Stockton in 2020–21, only recording two pointless streaks of three or more games (the longest lasting for the six games between Mar. 13 and 26).
After scoring 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 54 games as a rookie with the Heat in 2019–20, Ruzicka took a massive step forward as a sophomore and scored six fewer points (and one more goal) in 26 fewer games.
He spent the majority of the year as Stockton’s number-one centre—forming great chemistry with Phillips in the process—and earned high-leverage deployments on both special teams.
Ruzicka also set a Heat club record with a four-game streak of three-point efforts. Between Feb. 26 and Mar. 5, he scored a total of seven goals and notched exactly three points in four consecutive contests. Ruzicka took 17 shots in those four games, including an eight-shot outburst at home against Toronto on Feb. 26.
In his three games with the Flames, Ruzicka averaged 10:45 of total ice-time and mustered one assist.
Ruzicka’s next steps
Shortened schedules or not, Ruzicka has two full AHL seasons under his belt and earned his first taste of NHL action late in 2020–21.
His next step should be to earn a full-time role as a depth player with the Flames. Ruzicka certainly boasts NHL-ready size and could likely help out as a triggerman on the second power play unit.
It’s possible Ruzicka and Phillips could thrive playing together on a line in the NHL after starring on Stockton’s top unit last season. The partnership certainly serves as an effective offensive catalyst and, from a stylistic perspective, slightly resembles that of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
As always, Ruzicka needs to keep working at creating and maintaining a regular rhythm in his performances. Darryl Sutter has shown time and again to be a demanding coach who expects consistent efforts from his players.
Ruzicka certainly has the tools to become an effective two-way middle-six forward in the NHL. If he can keep his switch flipped towards “on,” he could quickly endear himself to the Flames’ new-look coaching staff.