Jiri Hudler – next superstar on the scene?

By Robert Neuhauser
Many of you may ask “who?” when reading the article header. In two years, it’s almost certain you won’t ask any more. A new junior superstar began to shine in the Czech Republic, and this one is something special.
Jiri is really a rare talent who at the age of 16 makes an impression that can only be compared to “Number 68” Jaromir Jagr when he was 16. Jiri plays regularly as a third-line center with the HC Slovnaft Vsetin of the Elite league and scored 4 points (1+3) in a single pre-season game! He was 0+2 after the first two games of the regular season schedule. And playing against men sometimes 20 years older than Jiri! It looks like it won’t take a lot of time before he’ll be nicknamed “Number 42”, the jersey he wears.
In the pregame skate he looks like a boy among men, he is just 5’9” and 155 lbs. That’s right now but the size may come as his body develops more. His parents aren’t smallish either so that bodes well.
After the puck drops the lack of size is forgotten. He is no kid anymore, a rising star suits him better. I haven’t seen a more mature 16-year old player than Jiri Hudler. He excels at reading plays and his decision making is simply excellent. He always decides right away whether to shoot, pass, or hold the puck. He makes happen what he wants to happen. This is due to his incredible vision, which seems to be in the mold of a future superstar and that’s why he is by many NHL scouts nicknamed “Little Gretzky”. He can foresee the game situations well and makes extremely smart plays. He wouldn’t be able to do it if he didn’t posses excellent stick handling. He can be “at the right time at the right place” which makes players into superstars. His shooting is only above-average, he has to work on it, his one-timers are perfect, though. The other two things Jiri needs to work on are skating and strength. Skating could be improved, a smallish player needs to be an excellent twisting-type skater. Jiri needs strength so that he can’t be knocked off the puck easily. That happens sometimes, but Jiri equals the lack of strength by smarts and skills. As a bonus there is Jiri’s leadership. Jiri is a confident leader who hates losses. He is born to be a captain as well as a leader on and off the ice.

His future is bright as he has always played against older competition and at 16 years of age plays against men in the Elite league. He also skates with the Under-20 team and is preparing for his first WJC this winter. He’ll play there against the world’s top prospects who will be 2-3 years older than him and then you’ll see how good he is. Till 2002 I hope he’ll play for Vsetin, where he earns a lot of experience (plays next to stars Jiri Dopita, Roman Stantien or Jan Pardavy). I will be very surprised if he isn’t a top 5 pick in 2002, the sky is the limit for Jiri Hudler!

Please don’t forget to check Jiri Hudler’s profile!