Within the last hot days of the summer you can find a number of Czech-born prospects aboard the planes heading North America. They left their families, friends and Czech style of hockey to take the first step on their way to their dream, by playing in the CHL first.
Whether their decision was a good one or not is sometimes questionable. When they come to North America early, they learn the language and they get used to a smaller rink and a different style of play even before they hear their names selected at the NHL Entry Draft. There is no doubt that this is an advantage. But on the other hand there may be a chance to play in the Czech Elite league and the Czech junior national team. At the age of 17 Elite league games help your development more than the CHL games. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to the player which way he chooses. Most agents would like to see their players cross the sea and they have a big influence on the players and their parents. Leaving home helped future Czech NHL stars like Pavel Brendl, Martin Skoula or Rostislav Klesla to make a name for themselves in the Canadian junior ranks. Martin Havlat stayed at home, played for Trinec in the ELH and won both WJC and WHC championship titles. Now he comes to the Senators camp more mature than he would be if he spent that year in the CHL. Well, lets get through this years CHL Import Draft list with some comments about the players drafted.
1. Ivan Huml (CHL:Val d’Or, QMJHL; Czech:Kladno)
Boston’s 2nd round choice played for the BCJHL Langley Hornets for two years and there is no reason why he should return home. The big winger (6’3) isn’t supposed to wear a Bruins uniform next season, more likely it will be a Foreurs uniform. His size and scoring touch would look good in the QMJHL. However, he played for Kladno in the games of summer Zepter Hockey Cup and was scratched from the Under-20 team roster on the 5-nations tournament due to an angina. His next stint is still open, either Val d’Or or Kladno.
2. Lukas Krajicek (CHL:Peterborough, OHL; Czech: Zlin)
The same as above, Lukas skated last season with Detroit Compuware team and a return to Zlin would be of no use. He would have to play for Zlin Jr. team and the Petes are a better solution. He is 2002 eligible and has plenty of time to get used to the CHL first and after that then make a name for himself in the 2001-02 season. Could be the next Martin Skoula if he improves his skating and hitting.
3. Petr Chvojka (CHL:Medicine Hat, WHL; Czech: Plzen)
The defensive star of the last Under-18 team was drafted by Montreal. A late-round pick Chvojka wants to skate with the Tigers next season. He should think it over as he is expected to see more playing time with the Elite league team than he saw last season when he was limited to 4 games. A Under-20 team spot is waiting for him if he stays. Petr should follow the way of Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle. His situation is nearly the same as Kaberle’s in 1996 and Tomas stayed at home. If Chvojka stays with Plzen, in 4 years he can be there where Tomas is now. With one difference, Chvojka will be wearing a Habs uniform.
4. Frantisek Lukes (CHL:Toronto, OHL; Czech: Litvinov)
The lion-hearted 5’9 left wing from the famed “Factory of forwards” in Litvinov got drafted by the St.Mike’s Majors. He seemed to earn a roster spot with the Litvinov Senior team, but the contract dispute of Montreal Canadiens star Martin Rucinsky left him out of place. It looks like Rucinsky will start the season with Litvinov and that sends Frankie to the junior team. The Habs are unlikely to leave their top scorer in Europe for the whole season so Lukes should be patient. He practices with the Senior team for the second summer and a chance will come. With the junior team Frank will see a lion’s portion of playing time and surely spent some time with the Senior team. Litvinov is the right choice for Frankie more than Toronto.
5. Ales Hemsky (CHL:Hull, QMJHL; Czech:Pardubice)
The gifted playmaker plays for the former club of Dominik Hasek in Pardubice. He played 4 games with the Senior team, recording an assist as a 16-year-old. The son of Pardubice’s assistant coach also played in some games of the summer Zepter Hockey Cup. However, he isn’t projected as a regular for next season and the Under-18 team coaches aren’t too high on him. So it’ll be nice to see him skate with the Olympiques the next season. In Hull he can blossom into a creative forward with a good scoring touch. The winger will upgrade his stock if he comes to the QMJHL.