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Patrik Rybar Could Get Another Shot at the NHL

After an incredible run with Slovakia in Beijing, former Detroit Red Wings prospect Patrik Rybar deserves another look at an NHL job.
Patrik Rybar

On the opening day of the men's Olympic tournament, Patrik Rybar was the team's backup goalie. And when Branislav Konrad was sat for the second game, Matej Tomek took over.

Over a week later, he finished the tournament with the best stats in the tournament and shut out Sweden to win Slovakia's first-ever bronze.

If Rybar's name is familiar to you, he was signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 2018 and spent one year in the AHL before heading back to Europe. But after his play in Beijing, some wonder if he'll get a second chance at the NHL.

His North American experience didn't go that well, sharing the net with fellow Olympic standout Harri Sateri. Rybar's numbers were better, but Sateri was the team's starter in the playoffs and Rybar didn't see a future with the organization. The Wings qualified him as an RFA in 2019, but he ultimately signed in Finland

Short tournaments can be a dangerous sample size and an easy opportunity to overvalue someone. Especially when the player has had so-so stats in domestic league play.

That's the situation Rybar finds himself in. But with the tournament he had, dismiss him at your own peril. Rybar was named to the Olympic all-star team after posting a 0.86 GAA and .966 SP in six games. He had two shutouts, including in the bronze medal game against Sweden to deliver the team an unlikely piece of hardware. 

Since the NHL-era began at the Olympics, only Carey Price (.972 in 2014) had a better SP after five games played, and he becomes the fourth to do so all-time behind Finland's Jarmo Myllys (1994) and the Soviet's Vladislav Tretiak (1984). In Price's case, he played on a dominant Canadian team that could have won with just about any goalie. Tretiak? You already know the deal.

So while the competition wasn't at an all-time high in Beijing, Rybar was the best of the best, and his play has sparked talk about whether an NHL team would give him a shot again one day.

Rybar's KHL contract with Dinamo Minsk ends after this season, so he'll be able to sign an NHL deal once the KHL playoffs come to an end. And that's where things get interesting.

Rybar is 28 with a decade of pro hockey experience under his belt. He's not some young prospect you need to spend years developing. If a team needs instant goaltending depth, Rybar can be that man. Pavel Francouz was 27 when he signed with the Colorado Avalanche following a solid Olympic tournament and has emerged as a valuable backup over the past few seasons. Francouz spent a year in the AHL to adjust to North American ice, but Rybar already has that experience under his belt.

One scout that talked to TheHockeyNews.com said there was definite interest in Rybar, whose previous North American experience was short-lived. 

"He's got NHL size, the technical skill is there, and his recent Olympic performance was eye-opening," a scout said. "I expect he'll be an NHL backup again at some point."

You can't base someone's future on a short international tournament, especially one devoid of high-quality talent. Looking at his KHL play, Minsk finished the regular season in second last in the Tarasov Division. Most of Rybar's career has been trying to carry teams that allow a ton of shots, and it's in those intense matchups that he really shines.

An NHL team needing goalie depth could do much worse than Rybar. His numbers weren't great in the AHL, but they were better than Sateri's. But it's all up to whether teams saw enough in that short span to really determine if he's worth getting another shot. Many scouts and other experts think a team could benefit from taking a flier on Rybar once more. 

Regardless, Rybar is a big reason why Slovakia won its biggest medal in hockey history, and he'll never be forgotten for that.

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