Josef Vavra – a wildcard for the draft

By Robert Neuhauser
Josef Vavra didn’t have the opportunity like lots of fellow 2002 prospect had, for example Jiri
Hudler, Petr Taticek or Petr Jelinek. He wasn’t born in a family of a former active player
or even active coach. Josef’s dad enjoyed a basketball career but was a huge fan of hockey, though.
Because he didn’t play organised hockey, only when he had the opportunity to agree with
some friends on a match, then he laced up the skates and the puck began to fly on the ice.
So he wanted that at least his son Josef would have the chance on a hockey career and brought
the kid to the rink in Valasske Mezirici, the town where the family lived. That was when
Josef was five. It can’t be said that only Josef ruled on the ice since the very first moment
because there was another kid who made the coaches turn their heads when looking at his skill.
This at that time completely unknown kid had the name of Robin Kovar. Because both of the
guys made their presence on the ice felt very soon, they often played on the same line, where
they terrorised the opposition. Josef and Robin immediately became the elite novice-aged
players of Valasske Mezirici. Josef was very dedicated to hockey and he also did lots of
off-ice practices to imporve his skill.

The break of Vsetin team into the Extraleague influenced also the life of the two Valasske
Mezirici gems. The future perennial Extraleague champion wanted to have a core of top
regional players in every age cathegory, from kids entering the first grade to the junior team.
The senior team of course couldn’t consist only of regional players. But Josef Vavra
and Robin Kovar were among those selected to perform for Vsetin, for the 4th grade kids.
Both players and their parents agreed on the offer and Josef with Robin started to wear the
yellow-green colors of Vsetin.

Vsetin, which is of course the favorite Czech team for Josef, really build a very strong
team of 1984 born players. As the players grew in age and skill, also the number of
victories began to increase and Vsetin 1984′s were fighting for the championship title among
the 8th grades and also the following season among the 9th grades. Josef Vavra was
constantly among the best players of the team and he could look forward to the begin
of his international career, which was set to begin in 1999-2000.

The Calgary Flames fan amdires the style of Theo Fleury because of his agility and determination,
but doesn’t posess Fleury’s size in no way. Josef Vavra is a really good skater with a fast
acceleration, but could use his stride more effectively and be more stabile in order to
become a great skater. Josef likes to fly on the ice and at moments he tends to forget
where his position is. That is a thing for him to work on. Josef has a huge playmaking
upside and is a smooth puckhandler. He has a very good hockey sense and vision which
allows him to make smart plays. Josef just needs more maturity which will prevent him from
overhandling the puck and he has to shoot it more often. Josef has a solid wrist shot but he seems
to hesitate to release it sometimes. If he works on his shooting and positional play, then
he can easily become an offensive threat because of his very strong passing skills. That
was evident even in the time when Josef was playing for the 9th grade team.

The 1984 born guys had the first international game in an unofficial Under-15 teams game
against Finland. Both Josef Vavra and Robin Kovar were named to the team. Vavra unfortunately
suffered a knee injury there, but it didn’t prevent him from playing hockey the next
season. Finally the injury turned out to be only a minor problem which won’t affect Josef’s
career.
So in the fall of 1999 Josef wore the jersey of the Under-16 team. He didn’t participate
at the first tournament held in Slovakia but got invited to a three game series against
Russia. His first two goals for the Under-16 team Josef scored at the top meeting of the
Under-16 teams in the season, at the Four nations tournament, held in Sweden in 2000.
The 1999-2000 season was also the first full season among the Vsetin midgets for Josef.
He emerged as one of the team’s leaders soon and averaged exact 0.5 goal per game as he scored
25 goals in 50 games. The total was then 46 points for those 25 goals and 21 assists. The
number of penalty minutes was also quite high, 90 PIMs show that Josef is willing to show
his nasty edge.

Josef’s international schedule in 2000-2001 was quite full as he missed only a three-game
series against Finland and participated at six other actions, including the World Hockey
Challenge and the European’s Youth Olympics. At both of these tournaments Josef didn’t
manage to score a goal. From this point of view his most succesfull tournament was the first
one, a three-game series against the team Germany, where Josef registered 3 points for 2 goals
and 1 assist.
In the midget Extraleague he still showed that he is one of the most talented players in the
league as he averaged nearly two points per game with 55 points for 22 goals and 33 assists
in 32 games. The number of PIMs even increased and Josef was one minute shy from reaching
100 PIMs in the season. No wonder that Josef saw playing time also in the junior Extraleague.
He spent 11 games already with the Vsetin juniors, mostly on the third or fourth line,
registering 2 assists and 2 PIMs.

After this season Josef Vavra is eager to come over to the CHL to get used to the North
American style soon. He wants to accomplish his studies at the secondary school in Vsetin
and then cross the pond. During his free time Josef likes to search the internet for
interesting news or just to sleep because he is aware how strength is needed for the games.
Josef is a fond of good food and states that he really hates when people are betraying other
people or when people behave badly.

Right now the hockey fans in North America can have a look at Josef’s play as he performs
for the Czech Under-18 team at a tournament which will conclude with the Viking Cup games.
Hope this guy makes enough impress for him to be drafted next June. Good luck!