Toronto’s New Czech Checker

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

Most Bud draftniks greeted the selection of Karel Pilar in the second round with a collective ‘huh?’ when his name was called from the podium in late June. Little was known about the defender in the original media dispatches except for his height (6’1″) his weight (201 to 215 pounds depending on who you believe) and the fact that he played with recent Leaf acquisition Robert Reichel for Litvinov in the Czech Extra League. His stats on the year, 12 goals and 38 assists in 52 games (which lead Extra League defenders) came in shortly there after. But there is more to Pilar than simply statistics and measurements.

According to Robert Neuhauser, HF’s hockey correspondent in the Czech Republic, Pilar is actually a thinking player on the ice. He almost always opts for the safe play when there is any risk involved and is positionally very sound in his own zone. While he has the size to compete physically, his corner work and clearing work do need to improve at this stage in his career. His skating easily makes the grade and his lateral movement and pivot are NHL ready.

Offensively, the Czech rearguard again usually opts for the safe play, never forcing a shot or trying to thread the needle when attacking. That said, his right-handed shot from the point, while not in the Modin/MacInnis class in velocity, has an uncanny knack of getting through to the net and is easily deflected by forwards there. This and his hockey smarts should make him valuable on the Leaf powerplay where, all too often last year, the point shot either never came or never reached its intended destination when it did get released.