Ales Hemsky – a story of a scorer

By Robert Neuhauser
When you look at Ales Hemsky, you won’t see a big body as for example Martin Podlesak, his
Czech mate for the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. But you will face a gifted scorer, who even if hasn’t
a huge frame, has many other hockey talents which made him one of the top 2001 draft prospects.

The tale of Ales Hemsky has something in common with the lifeline of fellow Czech young
players Martin Havlat and Vaclav Nedorost. Just like Martin Havlat, Ales Hemsky is a son
of a hockey coach. Just like Vaclav Nedorost, Ales has a brother, one year older than him,
who plays hockey. It’s Petr Hemsky, the lesser known brother of Ales who took the QMJHL
by storm this year. Petr Hemsky is now competing in the OHL, he was traded from a top team,
the Belleville Bulls, soon after his arrival and faced problems with lack of ice time for
the whole season. It was the first year when those two brothers played in different leagues.

Ales and Petr grew up in the Czech city of Pardubice under the watchful eye of their father
Petr, who brought his sons to his beloved sport very soon. At the young age of four Ales
already stood at his skates and tried to be better than the older Petr. Their father was the
main force why the guys started playing at 5 and they’ve both spent a lot of time on the ice.

Even if they attended practices, they still have spent some time with their father, who
gave them tips and taught them a lot of hockey basics. By that time it became obvious that
those guys are something special and the younger Ales was a huge talent in every way. Thanks
to the skating drills with his father his natural talent could unfold and Ales was soon one
of the fastest skaters on the Pardubice kids team even if he played with kids older than him.

He has a very good acceleration and a fluid stride which has allowed him to rule among the
kids. He overskated almost every opponent and his speed brought him into scoring chances,
in which he knew how to score. Before he started playing midgets for Pardubice at the age
of 15 Ales also attended soccer practices and is a good soccer player. Soccer is also very
popular in the Czech Republic and father Hemsky wanted their sons to be all-round athletes,
not just concentrate on hockey since the childhood.
In early spring of 1998 Ales attended the selection camp for the next Under-16 team and
even if he gave a solid performance, he didn’t play like he would want to. His rather skinny
figure seemed to be a bit of a problem at that time even if Ales had a great natural talent
and was one of the best skaters. This advantages secured him a spot with the Under-16 team,
that year he played on a team that was led by Petr Domin and Jiri Novotny, who were also
the leaders at the Under-18 WJC in April. But by that time Ales still played with them
together.

Ales also played some games for the juniors of Pardubice in the 1998-99 season and
he was one of the youngest players to play in the ELHJ that year. The following season
he was already a steady member of the junior team and one of its leaders. No wonder when Ales
became the scoring leader of the team, even if he was still midget league eligible. He played
the right winger, which allowed him to play more offensively and he tried to shoot soon
after he received a pass. But also his vision and sense allowed him to find a better placed
teammate if there was any. Ales had only very little defensive duties, the coaches used him
as an offensive threat especially on the powerplay and when there was a lot of open space
for his good skating skills. Even if he missed the most important tournaments of the Under-17
team in the 1999-2000 season like the World Challenge Cup or Five Nations tourney, Ales Hemsky
became the top scorer of the Pardubice juniors with 62 points for 24 goals and 38 assists
in 51 games. He needed just two points to capture the scoring title of the junior league,
overager Radim Kucharczyk of Vsetin amassed 64 points and Hemsky was two points shy. That
didn’t remain unnoticed by the senior team and Ales had some practices with the men besides
the practices with the juniors. At the end of the regular season he was recalled to play his
debut in the Czech Extraleague. Ales sat on the bench under his father, who is an assistant
coach with Pardubice by now. In his second game he scored his only point in the Extraleague,
an assist, and after 4 games he was returned to the junior team for the playoffs.

In the summer of 2000 Ales and his brother had to face a tough decision. After lots of
talking to other people and their father, they finally decided to come over to North America.
Ales had the situation tougher than Petr because he could have been provided with a chance
to play in the Extraleague, but he thought that toiling on the fourth line or playing with
juniors wouldn’t help his development and that it is better when the NHL scouts can see him
every game. Besides, he is willing to play hard. So he went through the CHL Import Draft.

The Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL grabbed him at the 7th spot, deciding that the Robert Guertin Arena
will be his new home. The transition to another lifestyle was quite smooth for Ales, who was in contact with his brother,
and he soon became accustomed to the offensive style that is played in the QMJHL. Scouts
noticed his great offensive skills and the fact, that the 6’0”, 175 lbs. Ales could find
it hard to bring himself into scoring situations like he did in the Q against huge defensemen
and tight defenses in the NHL. Those rumors influenced his draft stock a bit, but Ales, the
QMJHL Rookie of the month for January, was selected to perform at the Top Prospects Game in Calgary.
He didn’t travel there only due to an injury he suffered before the Top Prospects Game. But he was
able to play for the Lebel Conference All-star team in the new all-star games format of the CHL.

His stats at the end of the season proved that he belongs to the all-stars of the QMJHL as he became the leading
scorer for the Olympiques with exact 100 points for 36 goals and 64 assists.

Even after a first round playoff exit of the Olympiques, who were defeated by the Rouyn Noranda Huskies,
Ales wasn’t permitted to play for the Czech Under-18 team at the WJC because of not signing a contract
which would allow him to play for the Czech Republic junior national team.

Now he has some time to relax and he can look forward to late June, when he’ll travel to Florida.
I think that he’ll be selected somewhere between the 15th-20th place of the first round.

He has some time left before he can reach the NHL. But once he is ready, he’ll be a scorer.

He has the talent to become a very good one.