Hershey Bears President/General Manager Doug Yingst announced on Sunday that Jakub Klepis has decided to return to Europe to pursue his passion of hockey. The move became permanent on Sunday as Klepis played his last game with the Bears during Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Giant Center, and will return to Europe immediately.
The 23-year-old native of Prague, Czech Republic, was a first round selection of the Ottawa Senators in the 2002 NHL entry draft. In 2003, the Senators traded Klepis to the Buffalo Sabres for Vaclav Varada. The Sabres then traded Klepis to the Washington Capitals the very next season for Mike Grier.
A member of the 2006 Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears, Klepis spent parts of three seasons with the Bears compiling 22 goals and 52 assists in 104 games in Chocolatetown. Prior to joining the Bears in 2005, Klepis was a member of the Portland Pirates in 2004-05.
Once he arrived in Hershey, Klepis became a fan favorite from the beginning. He helped guide the Hershey Bears to the 2006 Calder Championship by contributing two goals and five assists in 15 playoff games during the postseason. In 2007, Klepis was a key part to the Bears success in a return trip to the Calder Cup finals. The Bears would go on to lose to Hamilton four games to one.
In addition to his four years spent in the AHL between Hershey and Portland, Klepis played in 66 games for the Washington Capitals. During his parts of two seasons in Washington, Klepis scored four goals and added ten assists.
Instead of accepting his qualifying offer from the Capitals, Klepis decided to begin the 2007-08 season as a free agent. He attended Washington’s training camp in hopes of receiving a one-way deal with the Capitals. After failing to secure a spot with the Capitals, Klepis took some time debating on whether he wanted to stay in North America or return to Europe.
In early October, Klepis decided he wanted to stay in North America with the hope of earning a contract with an NHL team. He signed a 25-game player tryout contract with the Bears, and made his season debut on October 13th in Binghamton. In 19 games this season, Klepis recorded five goals and six assists.
Per the NHL CBA, if a player doesn’t have an NHL contract by December 1st, that player is locked out from playing in the NHL that season. This was a factor in Jakub’s decision to leave North America for Europe.
Nothing has been confirmed, but the word going around Hershey on Sunday was Klepis will be playing in Czech Republic. That would be the logical choice for Klepis who has family still living in Prague.