The top-scorer from Slovakia’s professional league has signed with the Kraken and will start next season with the team’s new American Hockey League affiliate in Coachella Valley, California.

Samuel Bucek, 23, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound winger, who led all ExtraLiga scorers with 41 goals and point getters with 64 while playing for HK Nitra last season, had told Slovakian television Sunday that negotiations with the Kraken were ongoing and he was optimistic of landing a deal. Kraken general manager Ron Francis, who is in Finland attending the IIHF World Championship, confirmed Monday morning in a text message the deal was done.

Bucek is not playing for Slovakia at the tournament because of health reasons. 

The right-handed shooter has been playing professionally in Slovakia after going undrafted following stints with Shawinigan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Chicago in the United States Hockey League from 2015 to 2018.

In addition to his 50-game regular-season totals, Bucek also scored another 13 goals and 11 assists in 19 playoff contests. Nitra finished third in the 12-team league before losing the championship round to Bratislava Slovan.

Bucek is teammates with Nitra defenseman Simon Nemec, seen by many as a potential top-five NHL draft pick this July and a possible Kraken target with the team selecting fourth overall. 

Bucek scored the game-winning goal for Slovakia in a 3-2 upset with over defending champion Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. He also represented Slovakia at last November’s Deutschland Cup, scoring his team’s only goal in a 4-1 finals lost to host nation Germany. 

  • Word of the Bucek talks came the same day the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they’d reached a two-year contract extension with former Kraken captain Mark Giordano worth $800,000 annually. The Kraken selected Giordano, who’ll be 39 next season, from the Calgary Flames in last July’s expansion draft, made him captain, then traded him to his native Toronto in March along with forward Colin Blackwell in exchange for a second round pick in this summer’s entry draft.