Left-winger Jan Hlavac showed potential as a scorer in his native Czech Republic before being drafted by the New York Islanders in 1995. However, by the time he ended his six season run with Sparta Praha his rights had been transferred from Long Island to Calgary and then on to New York.
The Calgary Flames coveted Hlavac, who by then was fulfilling his potential as a goal scorer with 33 tallies in 49 games during his last season in the Czech Republic, but they had difficulty luring him to North America. After the big trade with the Rangers, Hlavac was signed and headed overseas for the 1999-00 campaign.
Hlavac delivered on his promise right away by scoring 19 goals as a rookie. Things started to come together from the first year forward when the Rangers closed a deal with the Florida Panthers that netted the Blueshirts Radek Dvorak. Hlavac's adjustment to the NHL game was smoothed considerably when Ranger coach Ron Low placed him on a line with two of his countrymen, center Petr Nedved and right-winger Dvorak.
The next season the "Czech Line" continued to excel and Hlavac fired home 28 goals and notched 64 points. Despite the success of the line, overall the Rangers were a struggling club and General Manager Glen Sather vowed big changes for his high-profile club.
In the summer of 2001 the Rangers targeted a valuable asset on the trade market in star center Eric Lindros, but he would clearly come at a price. When the deal was finally made between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Rangers, they had to sacrifice promising young defenseman Kim Johnsson, top prospect Pavel Brendl and Hlavac.
The "City of Brotherly Love" was anything but friendly from the Czech winger, as it would turn out. From the start Hlavac did not fit into the Flyers system or style of play very well. Halfway through the season the former sniper had just seven goals and 10 points. Hlavac was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for tough guy Donald Brashear, a player that suited the Flyers style much better.
In Vancouver, Hlavac was brought into bolster the teams sagging offense, and though he did improve on his output from Philadelphia, he still did not play up to his potential. In 46 games he managed nine goals and 21 points, then added one more in five playoff games.
After beginning the 2002-03 season in Vancouver, Hlavac was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes where he would finish the season. In the summer of 2003, Hlavac re-joined the New York Rangers. Hlavac spent 72 games with the Rangers before he moved overseas to compete with HC Sparta and Geneve of the Czech and Swiss leagues respectively. He returned to the NHL in the summer of 2007 after being signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the international stage, the former Islander prospect represented his homeland at the 1995 and 1996 World Junior Championships and is a four-time member of its World Championship team (1998, 1999, 2004 and 2005).