Czechs invite 8 CHL players to WJC camp

By Robert Neuhauser
The Czech WJC camp opened yesterday, on Sunday, Dec. 10th, in Havlickuv Brod and this time coaches Jaroslav Holik and Pavel Hynek invited 8 CHL players. In the past years there were trouble with the Czech Ice Hockey Federation, which wanted to select only players playing in Europe. This should force the prospects to stay at home and not to leave for North America. But those teams struggled and so Jaroslav Holik had a chance to invite 5 CHL players last year. And those guys led the Czech team to a victory! So the limit of maximum 5 CHL players looked a bit out of place. It was dismissed and this year are 8 CHL players supposed to take part in the WJC. They could be nine, but Regina Pats’ defenseman and New York Rangers draft choice Filip Novak wasn’t allowed to start at the WJC by his parent Czech team HC Ceske Budejovice by this time and it looks like he won’t participate. That’s because he left for the Pats even if his team didn’t give him pemission to do so. But this year’s team includes for the first time two players, who had a taste of the NHL before they started at the WJC. These two are Jakub Cutta who spent 3 games with the Washington Capitals and Rostislav Klesla, a Columbus Blue Jacket, who even scored a goal in the NHL. So who are the CHL invitees?

Defensemen

Rostislav Klesla (Brampton Battalion, OHL
NHL draft: Columbus Blue Jackets)

No doubt about this guy. The first ever draft choice of the Blue Jackets will be the anchor of the defense. A rugged offensive defenseman likes to punish the players in front of his own net and then to rush with the puck and pass it wisely. This hard fighter isn’t afraid of anybody and can score some points. He can play at the 2002 WJC, too, but by this time he’ll be most likely a regular with the Blue Jackets.

Libor Ustrnul (Plymouth Whalers, OHL
NHL draft: Atlanta Thrashers)

If I was an opponent of the Czechs and would see Libor wanting to hit me, I would rather move aside. This hulking defenseman, nicknamed “Drago”, stands at 6’5”, 235 lbs. at the age of 18. He won’t score a lot of points, but he’ll break the opponent’s bones. Great to have this heavyweight on the roster, he’ll be one of the most feared defensemen in the tournament. He can also play at the 2002 WJC.

Jakub Cutta (Swift Current Broncos, WHL
NHL draft: Washington Capitals)

The second NHLer on the roster played 3 games with the Caps. The former player of Liberec is a responsible stay-at-home defenseman with good skating and passing skills. He isn’t too offensive, but only rarely does a mistake. He reads the game well and will be one of the personalities on the team.

Forwards

Pavel Brendl (Calgary Hitmen, WHL NHL draft: New York Rangers)

What to say about this great forward and a possible NHL star? Only that with Brendl on the roster the Czechs lead 1:0 even before the game started. He is an offensive miracle, now more responsible defensively, has all the tools and still averages 1 goal and 1 assist pro a WHL game. He now wants to play for the Czechs to make a name for himself at the WJC. Hope he will!

Zdenek Blatny (Kootenay Ice, WHL
NHL draft: Atlanta Thrashers)

The former player of HC Kometa Brno plays in the WHL for 3 years. He benefits from playing on the first line of the Ice with Jarrett Stoll and Mike Comrie, WHL scoring leader. He has great size and also posesses good scoring skills. He’ll be a power forward and create a lot of scoring opportunities for his high-scoring teammates.

Martin Erat (Saskatoon Blades, WHL
NHL draft: Nashville Predators)

The new WHL player of the month November breaks out in Saskatoon this year. He has now put the intangibles together and scores a lot of points. A great skater and stickhandler, Martin will probably be the scorer of his line.

Radim Vrbata (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL
NHL draft: Colorado Avalanche)

The native of Mlada Boleslav has taken the QMJHL by storm this year. The still unsigned Avalanche draft pick was named the offensive player of the month October and is second in league scoring. His numbers are even better than those of Pavel Brendl, but Vrbata played more games than Brendl. Vrbata is a great skater with an accurate shot and good passing skills. Will create the scoring duo with Brendl.

Lukas Havel (Brampton Battalion, OHL
NHL draft: none)

Another player of Stan Butler and Rostislav Klesla’s teammate is the only undrafted player invited form the CHL this year. Maybe due to his size, Lukas is just 5’9”, but at the WJC he’ll show his explosive speed and scoring touch. This smart player could impress the scouts.

So you can see that the Czechs have build probably the strongest squad of the last decade. All of the players have a bright future ahead and behave like real pros. Following is the complete roster of the players invited to the camp, from which will be 1 goalie, 2 defensemen and 3 forwards scratched.

Name                Pos    Team             NHL draft
Tomas Duba           G   HC Sparta Praha
Lukas Cucela         G   HC Vitkovice
Michal Fikrt         G   HC Litvinov

Rostislav Klesla     D   Brampton (OHL)     Columbus
Libor Ustrnul        D   Plymouth (OHL)     Atlanta
Jakub Cutta          D   Swift Current (WHL)Washington
Jan Vytisk           D   HC Vitkovice
David Pojkar         D   HC Slavia Praha
Jan Choteborsky      D   HC Keramika Plzen
David Nosek          D   HC Ocelari Trinec
Jakub Grof           D   HC Karlovy Vary
Petr Puncochar       D   HC Karlovy Vary       2001
Pavel Dvorak         D   HC Pardubice

Petr Zajgla          F   HC Slovnaft Vsetin
Jiri Hudler          F   HC Slovnaft Vsetin    2002
Patrik Moskal        F   HC Ocelari Trinec
Jiri Polansky        F   HC Ocelari Trinec
Tomas Plekanec       F   HC Kladno             2001
Ladislav Vlcek       F   HC Kladno           Dallas
Pavel Brendl         F   Calgary (WHL)       NY Rangers
Zdenek Blatny        F   Kootenay (WHL)      Atlanta
Martin Erat          F   Saskatoon (WHL)     Nashville
Radim Vrbata         F   Shawinigan (QMJHL)  Colorado
Lukas Havel          F   Brampton (OHL)
Vaclav Nedorost      F   HC Ceske Budejovice Colorado
Michal Sivek         F   HC Sparta Praha    Washington
Ivan Rachunek        F   HC Continental Zlin Tampa Bay
Marek Tomica         F   HC Slavia Praha