Marian Havel – Another Czech Giant

By Robert Neuhauser
Born in Jihlava, Czech Republic, Marian Havel is the latest gem from the once hockey famous
city. Thirty years ago the mighty Jihlava dynasty ruled the Czechoslovakian First League
(the same level as the Czech Extraleague right now), winning an unprecendented number
of championship titles. Generation of players like the Jiri and Jaroslav Holik (father of
Devils’ Bobby Holik), current Czech senior national team coach Josef Augusta or defenseman
Jan Suchy is unforgettable in the minds of fans of the Jihlava team. After winning the last of
the 11 championship titles in early 90’s the level of hockey in Jihlava began slowly to decrease and
after some time the team found itself in the Czech Div I league, where it is till now. Still,
solid players learned the tools of the hockey trade in Jihlava and quality players were risen.
For example Josef Marha, the former NHLer, now in the Swiss Elite League. When looking
at the rearguards, then you can see Marek Posmyk, the Tampa Bay Lightining player, who
is now playing for Zlin, but is from Jihlava, or Petr Svoboda, in the system of Toronto Maple
Leafs. The last one with very solid chances on a NHL career is without doubt the offensive
sparkplug Marian Havel.

Marian Havel was the youngster of a hockey family. His dad, a hockey coach, brought both his
sons to the game. The older Lukas just like the three years younger Marian. So Marian had
hockey all around him and it was only a question of time before he also starts to attend
regular hockey practices. He could see his brother taking the first strides and his dad
coaching the kids and just like most the kids, he was eager to jump in and play. Also his dad
and brother were always the only hockey role models for Marian.

During
winter he learned how to skate, with his brother and dad following him. Quite surprisingly
it took more time than usual before Marian started playing organized hockey. At the age of 7,
when most of the kids have at least one-year experience with hockey, Marian only started
playing hockey. Plus, he wasn’t regularly attending hockey practices till he was 10. Gifted for
sports, Marian Havel was naturally talented so even if he still wasn’t in the system of
Jihlava, he could be a huge force in the games with his agility, competitivness and creativity
on the puck. That didn’t leave the youth coaches calm and so at 10 Marian was finally in the
game full-time. Then he saw something what we call a rocket-like career. The flashy forward was totally
outstanding against competition of his own age, so since the very beginning of his career
he was facing older opponents. In fact, till midget age Marian Havel was always the youngest
player on the team. But also one of the best. With his quickness and finesse moves he could
beat the opposing players by many ways, which brought him lots of individual trophies from
youth tournaments.
Marian Havel is a very good skater who is able to reach top speed in a few strides, can make
fast turns and has an above-average lateral movement. He handles the puck very smoothly and
is able to maneuver through traffic. Marian is blessed with exceptional vision and hockey
sense, which enables him to make very smart passes. But his biggest offensive asset is his
booming slap shot. He has a fast release and the shot isn’t telegraphed, he could only
release it more frequentely. That’s a thing for him to work on. His wrist shots are quite
fast and accurate, but the slapper is a dangerous blast.
Marian is a threat on every powerplay and he is also improving
the defensive side of his game. He didn’t play very defensively back in the Czech Republic, but
these days he is getting better in this skill. Marian likes to have the puck on his stick,
where his creativity and offensive talent explodes. He is willing to fight for the pucks,
and also doesn’t refuse to play hard. Even if his size isn’t prototypical, Marian can make or
take a hit to make the play. His goal is to develop into an all-round forward, one he is
likely to become.
His talent earned the first recognition in the summer of 1998, when he was invited to the
selection camp for the Czech Under-16 team of 1983 born players. The underaged Marian Havel
left a very good impression and after being scratched from the first tournament he finally
put on the Czech national team jersey for a three-game series against the Russians. The one
goal he scored there was enough to share the lead with Petr Domin and Tomas Micka
in goals scored among the Czech forwards, because only defenseman Lukas Krajicek scored more
than once. That was it for Marian’s international career for a while.
He had a good underage season in the midget Extraleague and after consultation with his parents,
he finally decided that he wants to follow his brother’s footsteps and come over to North
America. A quite risky decision for a 15-year old kid to cross the pond and enter an other
culture, where is a different language spoken. But Marian was feeling that he is mature enough
to handle the situation and soon he was sitting aboard a plane heading North America. Far
from being eligible for the CHL Import Draft, he chose to play Midget AAA for the Pikes Peak
Colorado Springs.
The year in Colorado helped Marian’s hockey development a lot. After overcoming the usual
problems with learning the language and homesickness, Marian felt very comfortable in the
Midget AAA league and he got used to the different North American style. There he combined
his finesse skill with the typical North American determination, intensity and feistiness.
So that after the year was gone, Marian wasn’t also a different personality, but also a better player.
He had the choice of continuing his midget career and wait for the CHL draft or return home
and going on with his international career. He felt that the stint in Colorado helped his
improvement enough and returned to Jihlava for one more year.
There he could make use of everything he learned in North America. He was started his seven-game
reign of doom in the midget Extraleague, where he terrorized the opponents with more than
four points per game average! Among the Jihlava midgets Havel notched 29 points for 11 goals
and 18 assists in 7 games, which was even good for the 49th place in midget Extraleague
scoring overall after the whole season was over. If he would stay with the midgets for the
whole season, he would definitely set a new scoring record, because these numbers are very
rare now. Jiri Hudler is the last man to hit the 100-point plateau with his 114-point effort
from 1998-99.
No wonder that Marian, who likes to wear the number 22 on his jersey, was immediately promoted
to the Jihlava junior team. Even if being the youngest player, Marian Havel was
selected captain. For the first time in his career Marian wore the ‘C’ on his jersey and he
was aware of this fact. He teared up even the junior Extraleague, quickly earning the
reputation as one of the Czech blue-chippers for the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and a possible
first-rounder. In 13 games he scored 17 points for 8 goals and 9 assists, also very impressive stats. There was only one level ahead of him – promotion to the senior
team and a debut in the Div I league. That happened quite soon and just as Marian turned 17,
he also became a regular with the Jihlava seniors. He states this as his biggest success in
hockey so far. Playing against players where some of them were twice as old as him gave him
also a lot of experience. Still he was able to find ways how to score. In 25 games he amassed 4 points for 2 goals and 2 assists, this includes also 3 playoff contests.

His international career also was off to another hot start. During 2000-2001 Havel was playing
for all the Under-17, Under-18 and Under-20 teams! The stint with the Under-20 team was
relatively a short one, more important were his showings for the Under-17 and Under-18 teams.
For the team of his birthyear, the Under-17 team, Marian played on two tournaments, the
first being the famous World Hockey Challenge. He scored two goals there, finishing tied
for second in goals scored with Kamil Kreps, Tomas Csabi and Jakub Klepis. The result of
his Under-17 career in 2000-2001 was 6 points for 2 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.

For the Under-18 team he appeared also on two occasions, in two exhibition games against
Slovakia before the Under-18 WJC and then also on the Under-18 WJC. In the exhibition games
he recorded two assists, securing his spot on the WJC team.
The Under-18 WJC was quite succesfull for the Czech team, even if they finished on the fourth
place. Also Marian Havel left a solid
impression when he scored 2 goals and added 1 helper in the 7 games of the WJC. The first goal
came in the third game, which turned out to be a 7:2 win over Norway. At first Marian Havel
was a bit struggling on the first line with Milan Michalek and Jiri Novotny but after he got
assigned to the third line his play began to flourish and Marian showed his soft hands and
finesse skill. The second goal was in the semifinal game against Russia, a 8:3 loss of the
Czechs. The only problem was that the Russians were already leading 6:0 when Havel found
the net…
Marian didn’t need lots of time in deciding whether to stay home or come over to the CHL. His
brother Lukas was returning home from the Brampton Battalion and Marian Havel was sure that
he’ll take the CHL route to the NHL. Long before the CHL Import Draft Havel was pegged as
the possible first overall selection, a total offensive package.
On the draft day the Vancouver Giants really didn’t hesitate to grab him with the first
overall pick and Marian Havel became the first import player of the new WHL franchise. Along
with Robin Kovar the two became the only Europeans on the team, as there is a limit of two
Europeans per team in the CHL. Already during the camp the two Czechs displayed their skills
in the scrimmages and Marian Havel helped Robin Kovar in his first steps in North America. Both
made the team without any further trouble and dressed up for the inaugural game of the
Giants. While Kovar got injured, Marian Havel had a decent game. The next contest, which turned
out to be the first Giants win, was great for Marian. He scored his first WHL hattrick!
But that was it for a while. Havel’s offensive numbers decreased and he learned how defensive
play is important in avoiding coach Milan Dragicevic’s doghouse. Now more aware defensively,
Marian Havel has his scoring touch rediscovered and is putting up impressive numbers for
a rookie on a team which comes through growing pains. Till now Marian Havel scored 32 points for 17goals and 15 assists in 61 games.

He was ranked 123rd by the Central Scouting Bureau’s mid-term ranking but he is almost a lock
to move up. It is very likely that he’ll boost the Czech roster for the Under-18 WJC and he
can do great things there. After that we’ll see where he’ll be selected. He states, that he
likes every NHL team and has no favorite squad. So whoever will pick him, Marian will be happy.
Good luck!