Czech players at the CHL Top Prospects game

By Robert Neuhauser
Since 1996 all top prospects for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft gather in one weekend to take
part in an event, followed very closely by NHL scouts and general managers, the CHL Top
Prospects game. Almost every player who played at the CHL Top Prospects game got drafted
and some of them are already NHL regulars and future stars, for example Joe Thornton of the
Boston Bruins, Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators and Tim Connoly of the New York Islanders.
The Czech players play a significant role among the Euros playing in the CHL, so it is logic
that they already made their presence felt also at the CHL Top Prospects Game. Last year on
the rosters of Team Orr and Team Cherry were the likes of Rostislav Klesla and Libor Ustrnul,
WJC champions, or Tomas Kurka with Filip Novak. This year the lists which the NHL scouts
have submitted include five Czech players. They have a bright future ahead and can look
forward to the NHL Draft in Florida. Let’s have a look who is it.

Lukas Krajicek (Peterborough Petes, OHL)

Born: March 11th, 1983
Position: D
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 185 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB rank: 16th
Last Czech team: HC Continental Zlin
Lukas Krajicek, a prospect born on the same day as fellow Czech prospect Daniel Volrab, plays
overseas for two years. In his last season with HC Continental Zlin Lukas posted solid numbers
in the midget league ELHD and became the 9th best scorer among ELHD defensemen. The next
year he chose to play for Detroit Compuware of the NAHL to get used to the North American
style. And he adjusted quite well. He isn’t that big, but plays a smart game, using his
top-notch skills and great vision to control the game. He won’t be a tough hitter, but a
smart quarterback, though he is a bit raw by now. Lukas became the fourth overall pick of the
2000 CHL Import Draft and now he posts solid numbers for the Petes, with 20 points (5+15)
after 40 games played. My projection is a late first-rounder or early second-rounder.

Ales Hemsky  (Hull Olympiques, QMJHL)

Born: August 13th, 1983
Position: RW
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 170 lbs.
Shoots: R
CSB rank: 11th
Last Czech team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice
The highest ranked Czech player according to the CSB mid-term rankings took the QMJHL by storm
this season. The son of Pardubice assistant coach, who played some games in the Extraleague
last year, made a bigger impress than his older brother Petr in the OHL. That was no surprise
because this great talent posesses great vision and hockey sense along with very good skating
and stickhandling. The size may be his biggest drawback, Ales needs to bulk up a bit if he
wants to become a NHLer, the 170 lbs. may be enough for the QMJHL but not for the NHL. He
averages more than one assist pro a QMJHL game and was named to the QMJHL’s Robert LeBel
Conference All-Star team. Ales scored 75 points (24+51) after he reached the 50 game mark.
My projection on him is a late first-rounder.

Jiri Jakes  (Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL)

Born: October 10th, 1982
Position: LW
Height 6'4''
Weight: 210 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB rank: 22nd
Last Czech team: HC Sparta Praha
Jiri wasn’t a well-known prospect back home in the Czech Republic, better known as a defensive
forward, but this changed after he came over to North America. Jiri became a big physical
presence on the ice for the Wheat Kings, playing a fearless play and putting up nice numbers
(27 points, 16+11) after 38 games. Jiri isn’t afraid of the rough stuff as he showed in one
of his first games in the WHL, when he had a fight with two years younger Robin Big Snake,
which was his first fight ever… He won’t show fighting at the Top Prospects game, but his
defensive game, play in the corners and powerful shot. I think he’ll go early in the second
round of the draft, teams will love his size.

Martin Podlesak (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL)

Born: September 26th, 1982
Position: C
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 195 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB rank: 24th
Last Czech team: HC Sparta Praha
Martin was regarded as one of the top 1982 born prospects in the Czech Republic many years
ago and he maintained this title after half of the WHL season. Recently he got traded from
Tri-City to Lethbridge, where he continues to play his game. A good passer who can play in
traffic with perfect puckhandling skills with great size. Will be the biggest player of the
Top Prospects game along with Kiel McLeod. A big talent at center who can play great in front
of the opposing net and can share defensive duties with the defensemen. He’ll go late in the
first round or early in the second, depends on the second half of the season.

Frantisek Bakrlik  (Barrie Colts, OHL)

Born: June 2nd, 1983
Position: RW
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 200 lbs.
Shoots: R
CSB rank: 99th
Last Czech team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Frankie upgraded his draft stock after coming over to the Barrie Colts. He was known for
having a knack for scoring when he played in the ELHD for Litvinov, but he had little
trouble with adjusting to the smaller rink, but now he looks fine. He scored 10 points for
5 goals and 5 assists in 31 games, but he worked as a grinder for the Colts and not as
a scoring star. This may be his role in the North American hockey, Frantisek could turn
into a defensive forward, but he can create a scoring chance. The Top Prospect game will
help him a lot, but I see him as a third- or fourth-round pick.

Well, that’s it. I wish best of luck to the players at the Home Hardware CHL Top Prospects