This Week in Flyers History: Week ending January 10

Flyers history

January 8, 2002

The Flyers had acquired the much talked about "best player not in the NHL" in the summer of 2001. The trade with the Florida Panthers, who held his rights, was for a 2001 second-round pick. His name was Jiri Dopita, a 33-year-old center from the Czech Republic.

A star in the Czech league averaging over a point a game for six seasons, the 6’ 4" left-hander had excellent offensive skills and great size to play in the middle of the ice.

For one cold night in January 2002, he actually lived up to the hype. Mind you, it was against the lowly Atlanta Thrashers.

Dopita banged home four goals and added an assist on another for a five-point evening, as the Flyers defeated the visiting Thrashers, 7-4.

Budding 18-year-old superstar Ilya Kovalchuk started the scoring in the first, tallying a power play goal for Atlanta, his 18th at 6:13. Just under two minutes later, the Flyers tied it on a John LeClair goal at 8:06.

The Flyers would take the lead on a Justin Williams goal at 12:19, and Dopita would get his first of the game, his third of the year, at 16:55 as the Flyers took a 3-1 lead after one period.

In the second period, the Thrashers cut the lead in half on a Lubos Bartecko goal to make it 3-2 at 3:39, but the Flyers would get the next two to open the game up. Both goals were by Dopita, set up by LeClair and with the hat trick, the Flyers took a 5-2 lead into the third.

In that third period, Dopita would notch his fourth of the game on the power play, at 8:32 to make it 6-2. Kovalchuk would answer for Atlanta to make it 6-3 just over two minutes later, but the Flyers regained the four-goal cushion with just less than five minutes to go. Ruslan Fedotenko would get his 10th of the year, assisted by Dopita and Donald Brashear to make it 7-3. The Thrashers Patrick Stefan would score an "oh by the way" goal at 18:53 to complete the scoring in the 7-4 Flyers victory.

The five-point evening would be Dopita’s best offensive showing as a Flyer and in the NHL, as he went on to score just 11 goals and 16 assists in 52 games that season. Part of his reason to "try" the NHL was to be reunited with friend and former Czech teammate, Flyers goalie Roman Cechmanek. Although Cechmanek stuck around awhile, Dopita did not, as his rights were traded by the Flyers to Edmonton in June of 2002 for a third-round pick that would be used to select Ryan Potulny.

His stay in Edmonton was even shorter than Philadelphia, as he lasted just 21 games, tallying a goal and five assists before being released on February 3, 2003. That same day, he was signed as a free agent by HC Olomouc in the Czech League.

One of the more interesting notes of his brief career in the NHL, of his other seven goals as a Flyer, Dopita picked out some future Hall of Famers to score on. Dopita managed to score on both Patrick Roy (vs. Avalanche 12/29/01) and Martin Brodeur (vs. Devils 1/10/02).

Video of Dopita's four goals is below.

Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99.