Jan 10, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka (17) during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Is Vladimir Sobotka The Most Underrated Player In The NHL?

Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past four seasons, Vladimir Sobotka has slowly become one of the most important players on the St. Louis Blues. While he’s never put up any serious numbers offensively (33 points in 61 games this year- a career high for him), he is a defensive anchor for St. Louis and a huge reason they finished 4th in the league with 111 points. Sobotka has slowly worked his way up the depth chart and is currently centering the team’s second line alongside Jayden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins (4th round, 106th overall), the Blues acquired him in exchange for the rights to defenseman David Warofsky in 2010. Since then, Sobotka has played 247 games for the Blues, scoring 29 goals and 101 points for the club, as well as being a chief defensive contributor for the team. Warofsky on the other hand has only played 6 games for Boston, putting up a goal and an assist in his NHL career.

Vladimir Sobotka’s numbers have increased in every category since joining the Blues. He went from taking 419 faceoffs in 2010 to taking 813 this year, and in 4 less games than in 2010. Sobotka’s faceoff percentages have also gone up every season from 52% in 2010 to 62% this season. With a career faceoff percentage of 56.3 he has often been called upon in huge moments of games to win a key draw for his club. Another dimension of his defensive game is his ability to protect the puck, despite being only 5’10 and 190 lbs. Registering only 0.13 giveaways per game throughout his career, Sobotka also has a talent for stealing the puck with 0.50 takeaways per game.  Another way Vladimir Sobotka both protects and steals the puck is by playing physical. Registering 8.4 hits per game, Sobotka isn’t afraid to go into the corners and other gritty areas to get the puck.

The Blues have a lot of trust in Vladimir Sobotka, playing him an average of 16:37 per game, which boils down to 20.2 shifts a night. That time is spent all over the ice, as Sobotka’s versatility allows Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock to put him out on both the power play and penalty kill. More of a playmaker than a goalscorer, 71.5% of Sobotka’s 123 career points have been assists, which makes him a perfect fit on a Blues team filled with talented goal scorers.

Vladimir Sobotka is the kind of player you want to have on your team for the playoffs. A selection to this years Olympics for the Czech Republic, Sobotka was unable to attend due to an injury, though his skill set would have been a tremendous help to the Czechs. There is no doubt that Vladimir Sobotka will one day be a Selke trophy finalist as one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. Sobotka is making $1.3 million this year, but his contract is up at the end of the season and he is deserving of a big raise. The Blues are going to try and do all they can to keep Sobotka, the best kept secret in the league, on there club this offseason.

 

Tags: St.Louis Blues Vladimir Sobotka

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