When you think of David Volek, you can not help but think of the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs. It was Volek's game winning slap shot at 5:16 of overtime in Game 7 of the second round that saw the Islanders upset Mario Lemieux and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins.
For a franchise once rich in great moments, Volek's goal provided are memorable moment for the generation of fans after the great dynasty years in the 1980s.
While Volek will always be remembered for that one moment in time, he was a decent player for the Islanders for 7 seasons. Twice he scored over 20 goals, and three times he topped 55 points. In 396 games he scored 95 goals, and 249 points.
Volek was a 10th round draft choice of the Islanders, 208th overall, in 1984. But when they used the late round pick on him they had no idea if the Czech would ever play for the Islanders. Of course back then players from Eastern Bloc countries were rare in the NHL, unless they defected from their communist homeland. That's exactly what Volek did in July of 1988.
Volek would be a productive forward in his first four seasons in the NHL. He made the All-Rookie Team in 1988-89 on the strength of 25 goals and 34 assists. He followed up with seasons of 39, 56, and 60 points while spending time on both wings.
Quickness, in both his hands and his feet, was his defining quality in his prime. He had a quick release on his wrist shot, and knew how to use the defenseman as a screen. He had an absolutely lethal backhand, which caught a few goalies by surprising, especially when he sped in on them. He had lightning quick skates, darting and out of holes with speed. He also had strong legs and balance, making for increased agility and making it hard to knock him off the puck.
Defensively he was average at best. He was known to make low percentage passes out of own zone, which backfired on him on more than a few occasions. He was a wiry build but with surprising strength. He was not intimidated by North American physicality.
Many thought Volek would become a 30 goal scorer in the NHL. That did not happen, partly because the Islanders depth at forward grew, with Volek not able to crack the top two lines and play quality offensive minutes. At one point he even asked for a trade.
The trade never materialized, partly because Volek soon fell victim to a chronic bad back. He would be forced into retirement before he turned 28.