Five years ago, Matej Pekar ranked among the Buffalo Sabres’ top forward prospects.
Days after they drafted the Czech in 2018, he illustrated how much he relished being an agitator by hitting center Casey Mittelstadt, the eighth overall pick in 2017, in the head during a three-on-three development camp tournament.
Pekar did not stop there. He kept pestering Mittelstadt. At one point, the youngsters shoved and it appeared they might fight.
“It’s way more fun when you see Casey getting pissed at you,” Pekar, a fourth-round pick, 94th overall, said that day.
It seemed like being an ultra-aggressive pest would help Pekar crack the NHL someday.
He quickly earned his entry-level contract from the Buffalo’s last regime. He stood out in junior, piling up points. The Sabres even awarded him preseason action.
But Pekar never made an impact with the Rochester Americans. He underwent surgery on both shoulders in 2022. When he was healthy, he played sparingly and spent time with the Cincinnati Cyclones, the Sabres’ old ECHL affiliate.
On Monday, the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers’ top affiliate, signed Pekar to a one-year AHL contract. Following the season, the Sabres did not give him a qualifying offer, making him a free agent.
Pekar, 23, could be bound for Cincinnati, the Rangers’ new ECHL affiliate. He played 28 games for the Cyclones last season, compiling 13 goals and 24 points.
In 86 games with the Amerks, he registered four goals, 16 points and 110 penalty minutes.