Czech CHL Import Draft – Part 1

By Robert Neuhauser
People on both sides of the ocean may say what they want about the European players playing
in the CHL, but the fact is, that if the CHL will exist, the young Czech players will be
eager to try their luck in the junior leagues. They want to get used to another lifestyle,
another style of play and play in front of NHL scouts every game. In Europe hockey involved
people rave about young kids leaving for the CHL after their parent clubs invest lots of
money into their development since they start playing at 6 and get nothing in return. In
America people complain about the Euros taking spots which could be filled by home Canadians.
Everyone knows those disputes. The fact is, that from the last year’s CHL crop lots of Czech
players made a name for themselves and got drafted by NHL teams (Hemsky, Krajicek, Podlesak, Mojzis,
Lukes, Jakes, Platil). It is very likely that this situation will be repeated next year,
because CHL teams selected some top-notch prospects from the Czech developmental system.
Now look who is it!

Round 1

No. 1 Marian Havel – Vancouver Giants (WHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Dukla Jihlava
Born: January, 26th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

The Giants made the projected 2002 first-rounder the top selection in the CHL Import Draft.
Marian is without a contract with his Jihlava team and is ready to come over. His brother
Lukas skated with Brampton Battalion of the OHL the previous seasons and he supports his
younger and more talented brother in coming to the WHL. Marian is a naturally very talented
offensive forward. Marian skates like the wind and has a great pair of hands. A very aggresive
forechecker, he uses his top-notch stickhandling to create quality chances. He also posesses
terrific vision and hockey sense. Marian isn’t very defensive, but excells at offense and
isn’t afraid of the rough play. But most of the time he’ll fly on the ice, creating plays
and scoring goals. He played the second half of the season for the senior team of HC Dukla
Jihlava against men and this is a plus. His season with the junior national teams consisted
of stints with the Under-17 team, where he played at the World Hockey Challenge and with the
Under-18 team, where he scored 3 points (2 goals + 1 assist) at the Under-18 WJC. His
transition to the WHL should be smooth, the only problem could appear if the Giants put too
much pressure on the rookie Havel.

No. 2 Petr Kanko – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: February, 7th, 1984
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 183 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

The Rangers traded with the Mississauga IceDogs to get this pick and draft Petr Kanko out of
HC Sparta Praha. Petr stunned the NHL scouts at the Under-18 WJC, when, as a 1984 born, led the
Czech team in scoring with 7 points for 6 goals and 1 assist. At another important tournament,
the World Hockey Challenge of the Under-17 teams, Petr scored 4 goals to lead the team in
goals. He also cracked the lineup of HC Sparta Praha senior team for 6 games and scored a goal
in his first game. Those facts prove what kind of player Petr is. A projected 2002 top 15 pick,
Petr has great speed and hockey sense to go along with a excellent scoring touch. A smallish
winger, Petr can beat the opposing defensemen and goaltender in lots of ways. He excells in
one-on-one situations and handles his stick well enough to beat the opposition. Petr, a finesse
goalscorer, plays at high speed and intensity. He isn’t too defensive, but Pavel Bure also
isn’t. Petr will score just like Bure. He wants to play regularly and not to split time
between the junior and senior team of Sparta. The OHL style will suit him and he’ll probably
score lots of goals. Now the Rangers have a real offensive threat!

No. 3 Martin Vagner – Hull Olympiques (QMJHL)

Position: defenseman
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice
Born: March, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

Ales Hemsky will have a fellow Czech mate for the next season. Martin Vagner, a sized and well-
skating mobile defenseman, can be the anchor of the Olympiques defense. Martin plays a great
two-way game, he clears his own zone with his size and aggresive play and then can join the
rush. Martin passes well and also has a hard shot and all this makes him probably the best
1984 born Czech defenseman, along with Ondrej Nemec of Vsetin. Martin played for the juniors
of Pardubice in 2000-2001, even if he is still midget league eligible. He appeared at the
Five nations tournament in the US with the Under-18 team, but most of the season he played
with the Under-17 team (was with Lukas Pulpan the only Czech defenseman to score a goal at the World
Hockey Challenge). Martin can enjoy the same success with the Olympiques as Ales Hemsky did
the last season. He is eager to come over and his offensive, hard-nosed game will the scouts

No. 5 Kamil Kreps – Brampton Battalion (OHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Born: November, 18th, 1984
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 165 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

The Battalion has a good story in drafting Czech imports and this year they reached for Kamil
Kreps of the Litvinov juniors. It’s doubtful if Rostislav Klesla or Lukas Havel will return
to the Battalion for the next season, but Kamil can handle the situation on his own. He is
an incredibly smart diminutive center, who can play wing as well. Kamil is an excellent skater
with fast acceleration. He plays very good in traffic and his nifty moves with the stick allow
him to slip through tough defences. Kamil sees the ice well and has an excellent hockey sense
and vision, he is more of a finesse player but he can take a hit. If this right-shooting
forward was bigger, he could go top 5 in 2003. The size is his drawback, at 5’9” some tough
rearguards can smash him into the boards. But Kamil is fast and smart enough to avoid those
hits. Kamil played regualrly on the top lines of the Litvinov juniors and also appeared
in one game with the seniors on the summer Zepter Cup. Kamil contributed regularly also for the
Under-17 team and he wasn’t scoreless at any tournament.

No. 7 Daniel Volrab – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: March, 11th, 1983
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 182 lbs.
NHL draft: Dallas’ 4th round choice, 126th overall

The Blades landed the Stars fourth-rounder in 2001, even if Daniel wanted to play in the OHL
more. Now he has to adjust to the tough WHL. He’ll come over even if he has to face this
fact. Daniel played this year for the juniors of HC Sparta Praha and was called up once
to play for the seniors, but went scoreless. He is one of the most talented 1983 born players,
but doesn’t always make the most of it. At times Dan disappears from the ice so that you must
look for him. But if his game is on, then Daniel shows a great two-way game. He can take care
of his own end just like as make passes and score goals. Daniel skates well enough to slip
past opposing defensemen and has a good scoring touch. He is also effective at forecheck and
backcheck. His motivation and intensity remain his biggest drawback. Now he has a clear goal –
make the Stars team sometimes in the future. With the Blades, he has a very good chance to try.

No. 8 Petr Taticek – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno
Born: September, 22nd, 1983
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

The son of former Kladno forward missed the 2001 NHL draft only by seven days, but it seems
that he’ll be a top prospect for 2002. The Greyhounds, once captained by Josef Vasicek, hope
that Petr can develop into a simillar player. Petr, who played in the Extraleague already
as a 16-year old, plays a great two-way game. He can break up plays as well as set up the
teammates and create his own plays. Also posesses a nice scoring touch to go along with a
gritty play if needed. He has no glaring weaknesses, only his skating could be improved,
and only needs to mature. Petr is more of a defensive player and won’t probably be a goalscorer
ever (he didn’t score a goal for the Under-18 team this season). But he is a smart
playmaker who can control the play of his line. He’ll most likely join the Greyhounds in order
to upgrade his draft stock.

No. 12 Martin Kasik – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: January, 28th, 1983
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: eligible 2002

Martin left the Olomouc juniors before the 2000-2001 season to play for the juniors of an
Extraleague team, HC Sparta Praha. Now it looks like he is on the move again. Martin had a poor
second half of the season and slipped in the CSB rankings a lot. Finally, after playing all
games of the schedule of the Under-18 team before the Under-18 WJC, Martin didn’t make the
WJC squad. And, at worst, he was overlooked at the draft. Now he is hoping that he can bounce
back and that he’ll be selected next year in Toronto. Martin is still very raw, but shows
flashes of talent and has a nice size as a plus. He plays on the left wing and can play
defensively quite well. He posesses solid vision and has good passing skills but he should
use his size more and shoot the puck more often if he wants to succeed in North America. His
skating could also be improved, but he can flourish in North America. He has the skills, all
he needs is maturity and putting his game together. The QMJHL will do him well.

No. 16 Tomas Plihal – Kootenay ICE (WHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Liberec
Born: March, 28th, 1983
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: San Jose’s 5th round choice, 140th overall

The ICE will be losing Zdenek Blatny due to pro hockey this summer, but they have another
Czech import to play for them. It is the Sharks fifth-rounder, Tomas Plihal, one of the key
players of the Czech Under-18 team in 2000-2001 (played all games, despite scoring only 3 goals).
Tomas was a bit lost in Liberec, as this city has no Extraleague team and Tomas carried the
Liberec junior team offense on his shoulders. He practiced with the seniors of Liberec during
the season but saw almost no playing time in the Div I league. Since he probably won’t play
in the Extraleague next season, Tomas feels that the WHL will be the best for him. This is a
good decision, because if he won’t have a chance to play against men, then the CHL is the
best chance to learn new style of hockey. And what will the ICE get? A creative offensive
forward, who is good at center, but can play on the wing as well. A very good skater and
stickhandler with a nose for the net. When needed, Tomas can handle the defensive duties quite
well, but he likes to have free space for his offense. Like most European juniors, he’ll need
to add some bulk to his frame, but he looks like a decent prospect at worst.

No. 20 Daniel Kraft – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Vitkovice
Born: January, 6th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

Daniel Kraft (no relation to Pittsburgh Penguins’ Milan Kraft) was a member of the succesfull
Vitkovice midgets squad, which had a very impressive first half of the season, including a 17:0
win over Ytong Brno midgets. Daniel, a fast agile forward with nice skills, played at all
important events of the Czech Under-17 team in 2000-2001 and will be a boost to the Frontenacs
offense. Very likely to come over, Daniel is a smooth skater with very good offensive instincts.
He likes to have open ice in front of him and can pass and score equally well. Not overly
defensive and still raw, but Daniel plays well on PP and has a nice vision and hockey sense.
He could use more aggresivity and intensity to his game and this will the OHL learn him,
hopefully. Another 2002 prospect who chooses the CHL route to step out of the shadow of fellow
2002 prospects playing in the Czech Republic. Daniel seems to be forgotten a bit but the scouts
will most likely discover his talent next season and see that he can be a very good player.

No. 31 Vaclav Studeny – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Born: January, 6th, 1983
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

The Warriors took a forward who is not very known also in the Czech Republic. Vaclav, a forward
of HC Havirov Panthers of the Czech junior Extraleague, played only at one tournament of Under-18
B teams and didn’t crack the roster of the regular Under-18 team. Overlooked at the 2001 NHL
Entry Draft, Vaclav scored 30 goals in the last season for the Havirov juniors, one of the worst
teams of the junior Extraleague. Vaclav is an agile intense forward who has a nice scoring
touch and passing skills. He skates well and isn’t afraid to go in front of the net to look
for rebounds. Vaclav has a good shooting arsenal and is very useful on PP units. When needed,
he can also play a gritty style. The problem is his inconsistency and sometimes poor decisions.
But Vaclav is still very offensively gifted and moving to the WHL is the best for him. He can
also be more aggresive and if he succeeds in the WHL, then his chances for a succesfull draft
will raise. Vaclav is something of a wild card, only time will tell how he will play in the WHL.

No. 35 Vladimir Skoda – Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Position: forward
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Born: October, 9th, 1983
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

The smallish Ceske Budejovice versatile winger was scratched from the roster of the Under-18
team right before the Under-18 WJC. He enjoyed a good season with the Ceske Budejovice juniors
and also the Under-18 team, where he played all games excluding the WJC and shared the team’s
lead in goals scored at the first tournament, a three-game meeting against Canada, with two.
Vladimir is 2002 eligible but his small size can be a problem in the OHL. He isn’t as fast as
Frank Lukes for example and the tough defensemen can cause him some trouble. Vladimir played
on the second line of the Budejovice juniors most time of the season and he is a good skater
with solid puckhandling skills. Vladimir has a good vision and accurate passes. His problem
seems to be his unwillingness to play in heavy traffic and against tough defenses. He is very
likely to come over as he wants to upgrade his draft stock and as Studeny, Skoda is a wild card.

That’s for the first part. The other players, claimed by the CHL teams, I’ll feature in the second
part of the article. Thanks for reading!