Wednesday, May 03, 2006


World Championships: Czech Prelim Roster Set

The Czechs have announced their preliminary roster for the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia.

Once the three players from the Canadiens/Predators are medically cleared/denied, the final roster will be set. If all 3 of the newer additions can play, 3 European based players will get canned.

With it being an Olympic year and with a lot of star players injured or hurt, it’s not surprising that the Czech roster is lacking seriously in star power. The Slovaks are going to have a weak roster and Team Canada is going with a very young roster. This tournament will be quite interesting given the amount of youth and European based players taking spots on the rosters for the major teams.

(NHLers in BOLD)

Milan Hnilicka (Liberec)
Adam Svoboda (Timra, Sweden)
Tomas Popperle (Eisbaren Berlin, Germany).

Tomas Kaberle (Toronto, NHL)
Marek Zidlicky (Nashville, NHL)
Martin Skoula (Minnesota, NHL)
Lukas Krajicek (Florida, NHL)
Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix, NHL)
Jan Hejda (Chimik Moskevska, Russia)
Martin Richter (Liberec)
Miroslav Blatak (Zlin)
Zdenek Kutlak (C. Budejovice)

David Vyborny, Jaroslav Balastik (Columbus, NHL),
Tomas Plekanec, Jan Bulis (Montreal, NHL),
Martin Erat (Nashville, NHL),
Patrik Stefan (Atlanta, NHL),
Jan Hlavac (Geneve, Switzerland),
Petr Tenkrat (Oulu, Finland),
Miloslav Horava (MoDo Hockey, Sweden),
Jaroslav Hlinka, Jan Marek (Sparta Praha)
Petr Hubacek, Zbynek Irgl (Vitkovice)
Jaroslav Bednar, Ivo Prorok (Slavia Praha)
Tomas Rolinek (Pardubice).

The goaltending sees the overrated and undeserving Milan Hnilicka get the #1 job with a shaky Adam Svoboda (he's worse than Chris Osgood handling shots from 50+ feet) as his likely backup. Tomas Popperle is a rising star who drastically improved his game over the past two seasons. I'd love for him to get a shot, but he's likely sitting in the press box.

The defence is very offensive minded and a bit small overall. I think they'll have a lot of trouble against teams like Canada who can use their size to forecheck and create traffic in front of the net. Only Jan Hejda is really big and strong out of that entire group, although Martin Richter is not too shabby. I would expect the younger Kutlak and Blatak to be cut from the roster. Of the forwards, the slow slug Hubacek or the old Ivo Prorok will probably be cut.

The offence will count on EuroPower to score goals. There are a lot of names I know you people haven't heard about, although frequent readers of this site or Hockey Rodent's rathole will know all about Jan Marek. Overall, this team is going to have a lot of trouble scoring goals and keeping pucks out of their own net. I feel the Czechs are set for a rather low finish.

Here's a little primer on the European-based players who've never played in the NHL.

Jan Hejda - A 27 year-old DMan, he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 4th round of the 2003 draft. He's big, strong (6'3" 21), and he's good offensively with a big shot. He helped HC Slavia Praha win the Czech Extraliga a few years back before being lured to Russia by the big oil money. Out of all of the Europlayers, he's the best bet for an NHL career in the future, if Buffalo is willing to match the money he can make in Russia.

Martin Richter - A 28 year-old DMan who was taken by the Rangers in the 2000 draft in the 9th round, he's been a mainstay on the Czech teams that compete in smaller European tournaments, and has had a few sniffs at big-time competition as well. He's a decent 2-way defenseman, but nothing too special.

Miroslav Blatak - He'll be 24 in a few weeks, and he's a smaller defenseman (5'11" and very thin at 174 pounds) who was taken by the Red Wings in the 4th round of the 2001 draft. Like other smaller Wings DMen, he's pretty skilled and his size isn't a huge detriment. His offence hasn't really developed as much as it could have, but he's a very dependable defenseman for his HC Zlin squad.

Miloslav Horava - Son of a former national team player of the same name, Horava, like Alex Auld, was going bald when he was 20. He's a smallish winger who skates well and works hard, but has very little to offer offensively. His selection is quite puzzling.

Jaroslav Hlinka - A 29-year old winger who's been one of the top players in Europe for quite some time. He's good speed to burn and he puts up pretty good numbers. I could see him doing fairly well in this tournament, as he'll be given a pretty decent role to play.

Zbynek Irgl - A smallish 25 year-old winger with great speed who was taken by Nashville in the 2000 draft (6th round). I'm a bit surprised he hasn't been brought over to the AHL yet. His game is more North-South than most European players and he scores more goals with his speed and instincts rather than smarts. This will be a good audition for him and a good chance for the Preds to assess their selection.

Ivo Prorok - One of my favourite Euro-based players, the 36-year old Prorok is a wily old wizard who is probably a little too slow for this tournament. I expect him to be cut if Plekanec and/or Bulis are healthy enough to play.

Tomas Rolinek - A smallish and rather average Extraleague player. What the hell is he doing here?

Yep, the Czechs are certainly bringing a very strange team to the tournament.

I think they'll have a lot of trouble against teams like Canada who can use their size to forecheck and create traffic in front of the net.

IF Canada uses the forecheck. Maybe it was just our olympic squad, but Canadians sometimes seem very hesitant to check when they're playing in international tournaments.

Great primer, btw.
Zidlicky was not allowed to play by Predators, so all defencemen stays with team. Plekanec and Bulis will come, so Horava and Rodent's favorite Marek has been sent playing golf. It is a smart decision, both are the small and can not play physical. Rolinek, being average forward, is at least able to nail somebody to the boards.

Leaving for Riga now, hope to see a good tournament with all those young power and without crappy Rucinskys, Jagrs and Maliks..
This very strange team took silver and you can put your bullshits where sun never shines...
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