When Roman Cervenka came over to the NHL in 2013, Calgary fans were elated.
Cervenka led the KHL in scoring with 31 goals in 2010-11, and then had the most playoff points the year after. Add in an Olympic appearance and a World Championship gold with Czechia and Cervenka did everything he possibly could while playing overseas.
Unfortunately, he never did look too comfortable in Calgary. Entering the league at 26 years old, Cervenka had just nine goals and 17 points in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and was back to the KHL the following year. He never could find his old form again in Russia and has spent the past six seasons in Switzerland.
Prior to the Beijing Olympics, Cervenka had been hands off with the national team since the 2018 World Championship, when he recorded just two assists. Cervenka then laid a beating on the top Swiss league for four seasons before returning for the Olympics in February, leading the team with five points in four games.
So, Cervenka someone Czechia was counting on in this tournament and he delivered. Cervenka finished first in scoring with 17 points in 10 games en route to bronze and the tournament's top forward honor. Cervenka himself as the perfect complement to the formidable top-line duo of David Pastrnak and David Krejci that ultimately proved too dangerous for the United States in the third-place game.
Switzerland's Denis Malgin was a massive reason why his team won the Group A title in the round-robin. Malgin had four goals and 12 points en route to an eventual quarterfinal loss to the United States.
Malgin's NHL tenure began in 2016-17 when he skated in 47 games with Florida. He spent four years there before getting traded to Toronto, where he failed to record a point in eight games before returning to Switzerland in 2020-21 on loan. Last summer, Malgin signed a four-year contract to play with Zurich, and he had a career-high 52 points and led all playoff performers with nine goals.
Malgin is too good to be playing the top league in Switzerland, but is he good enough to get a second shot at the NHL?
Malgin has a deal in Switzerland until 2024-25. There is an agreement allowing teams to sign players out of Switzerland, and Malgin could potentially fight for a bottom-six role with Jason Spezza out of the picture. But that's still asking a lot out of a 5-foot-9 forward who struggled to adjust to the physicality of the NHL.
As long as the Leafs keep tendering him a contract, Malgin will remain Leafs property. So neither side is in a rush, but the steps Malgin took this season to really establish himself as a lethal offensive threat has turned some heads.
But as a bargain option? Malgin is an attractive get, and could even be used as a trade chip to a team that could utilize him better.
Cervenka will never play in the NHL again, but watching him look like his younger self on Czechia's top line was fun to see. Malgin might have a potential second chance at an NHL career, but he won't have a long runway if he gets a shot, wherever that ends up happening.
Regardless, seeing former NHLers thrive on the national stage is always fun, and throwbacks are always a great time.