Building the Herd – Miroslav Vantroba

#?? Miroslav Vantroba

Position: Defence

Born: Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 30th May

After the bad news out of Bisonland yesterday, we wondered how the club would respond in terms of who would be announced today. The answer was somewhat emphatic as Doug Sheppard announced the addition to the Herd of Slovak defenceman Miroslav Vantroba.

33 year old Vantroba is a veteran of the Slovak Extraliga having made his debut for his hometown team Spišská Nová Ves in 1999 where he tallied 7 assists in his first pro season. From there he spent the next three seasons with Kosice where he iced 163 times tallying 59 points before spending a lone year in the Czech Extraliga with Karlovy Vary in 2003/04 scoring 8 points in 48 games.

A return to Kosice beckoned in 2004 where Vantroba spent the next season and a half before switching to MHC Martin in the 2005/06 season where he would spend the next 3 and a half seasons. Vantroba would ice 185 times for Martin scoring 69 points (21+48). Vantroba was part of the team in Martin when the club won the Continental Cup in 2009. A move to HC Banska Bystrica followed for 2009/10 and Miroslav iced 100 times for the Rams scoring 40 points across his two seasons in red and white. Vantroba moved to HKM Zvolen for 2011/12, hometown team of former Bison Viktor Kubenko. Zvolen finished 7th in the Extraliga but made it to the semi finals of the playoffs. Vantroba scored 17 points in 55 regular season games and was scoreless in 10 playoff appearances.

Miro returned home to Spišská Nová Ves, now in the Slovak second tier to start 2012/13 and scored an impressive 33 points (8+25) in 30 games before switching to HK Nitra in the Extraliga to finish off the season. In 14 regular season appearances he scored 1 assist and was scoreless in 9 games in the playoffs as Nitra were ousted at the semi final stage.

Czech and Slovak hockey aficionado Jon Rowson posted the following thoughts on THF earlier which he agreed could be shared here:

The guy could have easily done a job in the EIHL based on his resume and also from first hand experience of seeing him play (albeit that was three seasons ago now).

Was a top pairing defenceman with Banska Bystrica when they went on their ridiculous march to 2nd place in the Extraliga in 2009-10, and although his career has somewhat tailed off towards the end (played on an awful Zvolen team in 2011-12), Vantroba is still easily an Extraliga quality defenceman.

From my experience of watching him play in the Extraliga, he was a pretty quiet, unassuming two way defenceman who was simply good at getting the puck off other players. Wasn’t overly physical but had good mobility and although he didn’t really hit, used his size to his advantage, especially in the corners. His record in the 1.liga this year with SNV shows that he should be able to put up good numbers at a lower level, whereby he’ll be given ample powerplay time. He had 15 more points than the next leading defenceman on Spisska Nova Ves, while playing 17 less games.

Jon also managed to find some clips of Miroslav in action

Miro is seen with the stretch pass at 0:15 and the goal around the 1:13 mark

Watch #79 in red, that’s Miro as he scores the 2nd and 3rd goals for Zvolen (and wait through the adverts)

This looks a very good signing. As suspected, Sheppard appears to have done away with 4 import forwards in favour of the more traditional 1d/3forward import mix. He has good size and mass which is never a bad thing for a defenceman who is going to see a lot of icetime this coming season. The words of Jon above, a man with far more knowledge of Eastern European hockey than I are that this guy looks the real deal at EPL level.

When it was announced by his agents that Vantroba had signed in Britain, the reaction was almost universal in that many believed he’d signed for Edinburgh Capitals. He totally fits the type of players that Richard Hartmann has signed since he became coach at Murrayfield but it appears that the Bison might have swooped in and convinced him to come to Basingstoke instead. It’s certainly pacified some of the negative voices from yesterday at any rate. As always, I’ll comment once I’ve seen him in the flesh.

Sheppard has already made it clear that Miroslav will be quarterbacking the powerplay but at 33 years old perhaps some of that leadership we lost yesterday with Redmond leaving is replaced. Vantroba is a player with a vast amount of experience at a level better than the EPL, has played in big games and won a pretty important trophy along the way. It’s not a direct replacement by any means but it does go about addressing some of the gaps. Signing a player of similar size has worked for Guildford with Branislav Kvetan the last couple of years though Vantroba appears to have more offensive upside and seems to be more in the mould of Mindy Kieras in terms of his playing style.

The proof however will be in the pudding. Sheppard appears to have unearthed a really quality player as he rejigs the defence. It means at least one of last season’s imports is not back but this is the sensible move that Sheppard needed to make. If Reynolds is re-signed and fit and our new Slovak friend settles in, that’s a hell of a top defensive partnership to head into the new season with irrespective of whoever is in net.

Welcome to Basingstoke, Miroslav. Tešíme sa na Vašu návštevu

A massive thanks to Jon Rowson for his help in the writing of this piece. Jon is the English language writer for the website of HK Slovan Bratislava of the Kontinental Hockey League. He also runs his own blog, Velvet Hockey about Czech and Slovak hockey and is on Twitter @JonRowson.


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