Wednesday, December 22, 2004


WJC: Team Czech Republic Preview

The Czechs announced their final roster for the 2004/05 WJC and what instantly jumped out at me are some of the names left off of the roster. After looking over the roster, I’m a bit nervous about my 4th place prediction for Czechia...

First, here are the lucky ones who made it...

Marek Schwarz (Vancouver, WHL), Jakub Cech (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), Vladislav Koutský (Pardubice).
Martin “It’s not a” Tuma (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), Lukas Bolf (Barrie, OHL), Martin Lojek (Brampton, OHL), Roman Polák (Kootenay, WHL), Michal Gulasi (Lethbridge, WHL), Ladislav Smíd (Liberec), Ondrej Smach (Znojmo).
Rostislav Olesz (Sparta Praha), Jakub Petruzalek, Lukás Kaspar (Ottawa, OHL), Petr Vrána (Halifax, QMJHL), Zbynek Hrdel (Rimouski, QMJHL), David Krejcí (Gatineau, QMJHL), Marek Kvapil (Saginaw, OHL), Bedrich Kohler (Vítkovice), Michael Frolík, Milan Hluchý (Kladno), Michal Polák (Plzen), Roman Cervenka, Michal Borovanský (Slavia Praha).

Coach Alois Hadamczik (former coach of Trinec) has showed that he was not afraid to cut talented players that he didn’t believe would fit in with the ‘team’ concept. Hadamczik felt that certain talented players were either too lazy, whiny, or just not committed to the ‘team’ hockey that the past Czech champs were known for.

Thus, talented soon-to-be-bust Vojtech Polak (Stars 2nd rounder), Zdenek Bahensky (Rangers 3rd rounder and CHL Import Draft 1st overall), Jakub Sindel (Hawks 2nd rounder), and vertically-challenged Lukas Pulpan (ex-Giant who went undrafted) were left off of the team. Prospective 2005 1st rounder Jakub Kindl was also among the last cuts of the team.
For all of the talk about the CHL/European division in past years, it was interesting to see Hadamczik take 13 CHLers in all.

Names to Watch:

Marek Schwarz, G – I’ve talked at length about the current Giants netminder, and he’ll be the most important player for the Czechs this time out. Schwarz has incredible agility, flexibility, and quickness...and he’s also got rather suspect fundamentals. He has worked with goalie coach Bill Ranford to address these problems, but then Marek ran into injuries and fatigue after coach Don Hay started him just about every single game. Schwarz is like an early version of Curtis Joseph. If he falters, then the large drop-off to backup Jakub Cech (a Turek-like barge) and 3rd stringer Vladislav Koutsky is going to be felt.

Rostislav Olesz, C – Before running into Dion Phaneuf’s famous Scott Stevens-like hit, Olesz was tearing up last year’s WJC tournament. Olesz, amazingly, has not been buried under the star-power depth of Sparta Prague’s forward corps. Olesz is my early predicition to lead the tournament in assists (just because Crosby is such an easy and boring pick).

Ladislav Smid, D – I often get questions about Smid, especially considering he plays in relative obscurity in Liberec. Smid doesn’t put up a lot of offence in the Extraliga, but he has shown the ability to rack up numbers against his own peers. Smid will play big minutes in every game situation, and his calm demeanor should pay dividends for a rather unimpressive looking defence corps.

Petr Vrana, W – The Devils 2nd rounder had a monster year in 2002-03 with Halifax and then slipped to the 2nd round due mainly to the fact he’s not quite 6 feet tall. Since his draft day, Vrana has struggled with to maintain a point-a-game place and he’s played like a 2nd rounder. Vrana needs to have a big tournament and reclaim some of the luster he’s lost since his draft year.

Lukas Kaspar/Jakub Petruzalek – They play together for the Ottawa 67s and they’ll play together for the Czech team, too. In such a short-term tournament, playing with a friend and long-time playing partner can give you an incredible edge other most of the other teams who lack such partnerships. Kaspar/Petruzalek will need to give the Czechs some secondary production if they are to succeed.

Michael Frolik, RW – If you pay particular attention to upcoming draftees, then Frolik is the guy for you. What makes Frolik special is that he is not even draft eligible until 2006! Playing in the WJC at such a young age is often reserved for the most talented players like Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Lindros, Sidney Crosby, and Jason Spezza. Frolik spent some time on Kladno’s pro roster earlier this year, enjoying the company of Jaromir Jagr.

Here is Robert Neuhauser’s scouting report on the talented youngster.

"Michael Frolik is currently one of the fastest progressing young players in Czech hockey. Frolik accomplished a rare feat in reaching the senior Extraleague just three seasons after skating with the 13 and 14-year-olds at the 9th grade level. Frolik needed just one season to get accustomed to the midget and junior levels and even showed that he wouldn’t benefit from a longer stay at those levels. Besides performing regularly for the Czech Under-18 and Under-20 teams, Frolik joined the Kladno seniors for the summer camp. He succeeded in earning a playing spot alongside former fringe NHL players Pavel Patera and Martin Prochazka, both seasoned senior Extraleague veterans who should teach the youngster big lessons in how to make use of all his natural talent to his advantage on the elite Czech level.

Frolik is a solid skater with deceptive quickness. He possesses strong agility and a smooth stride to go along with good balance and lower-body strength. Frolik impresses with his above-average puckhandling skills and hand-eye coordination. Frolik can bring the defensemen out of position with his nifty stick moves and plenty of finesse skills, which enables him to maneuver effectively even in traffic. He boasts an excellent hockey sense and an ability to find the open man. Frolik is a very strong playmaker who possesses a rare
sixth sense for finding a passing lane unseen by others. He shows a good array of shots, but prefers passing to shooting. Frolik unleashes a quick wrist shot with solid accuracy, but could upgrade on the accuracy of the slap shot. He isn't very big, but is solidly built and willing to dig for pucks along the boards. He doesn't play an overly aggressive style, but isn't a liability in traffic. The top Czech 2006 eligible prospect is blossoming into a real blue-chipper and is the only Czech midget-eligible player to skate in the senior Extraleague player right now."

Overall, the Czechs have some incredible star power, and then some questionable depth. Coach Hadamczik is counting on the ‘role’ players to work hard and hold the fort while the stars shine in front of them. I wouldn’t bet money on the Czechs winning their first medal since 2001 (after 2 straight Golds), but they may put up a pretty good fight compared to their squads the past 3 years.

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