Martin Erat is the only player on the Nashville Predators playing in the 2010 Olympics with a medal already in his possession. At the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Erat scored the game-winning goal for the Czech Republic in the third place game to pick up a bronze medal.
As Erat heads to Vancouver, he has the second longest tenure with the Nashville Predators. Only David Legwand, who was the original draft pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, has been in the organization longer. The 28 year-old native of Trebic, Czech Republic was a seventh round (191st overall) in the 1998 draft. After he was drafted, he played two years of junior hockey in the Western Hockey League in order to transition to the North American game.
Playing with Red Deer in 2001, Erat won the Memorial Cup (championship of the Canadian Hockey League) and led his team and goals and points in the playoffs. He also won a Gold Medal representing the Czech Republic in the World Junior tournament mid-season in 2001.
With the Preds in desperate need of scoring, Erat made the rare jump from junior hockey to the NHL for the 2001-02 season. In his first year with the Preds, he set rookie records for games (80) and assists (23) and he also scored nine goals. For the better part of three seasons from 2001-04 Erat played on one of the more memorable lines in Predator history, the “vowel” line. He generally played along side Vladimir Orszagh and Denis Arkhipov, who were also young players from Eastern Europe.
Erat was considered the least talented of the three line mates and actually was sent to the AHL for a portion of the 2002-03 season. Now, Orszagh is retired and Arkhipov is toiling in the KHL, while Erat has become the highest paid Predator in team history signing a contract last year that will keep him with the Preds through the 2013-14 season.
In eight seasons with the Predators, Erat is among franchise leaders in several categories. He is second in goals scored (121) and total points (339), and is third in assists (218) and games played (532). Erat is currently having one of his better seasons scoring 19 goals and adding 20 assists in 54 games. After a slow start, Erat has scored 14 goals since the first of December and has been the best player on the ice at times this year for the Preds.
His best years came in 2006-07 and 2007-08 when he logged 57 points in consecutive seasons. Erat’s best year in the playoffs was 2007-08 when he had a goal and three assists as the Predators lost to Detroit in six games.
At the Olympics in Vancouver, Erat has been reunited with former teammate Tomas Vokoun who will be the starter in goal for the Czechs. The Czech Republic is considered to be a top five team, and, while not the favorite to win the tournament, the Czechs stand a good chance of ending up with the medal when it is all said and done.
The Czech Republic lost to Russia 4-2 on Sunday and will probably play on Tuesday seeking a berth in the quarterfinals. Erat has one assist in three games.