Czech 2002 prospects: Michal Barinka

By Robert Neuhauser
The small city Tabor in the south of the Czech Republic isn’t well-known outside the Czech
borders. History fans may know that in the 15th century the city was the main base of the
Husits, people fighting against all the evil in the catholic church in the Czech countries,
and also leaving a waste land on the places, where the battles took place. After they were
finally defeated in 1434, there was nothing for what Tabor would be known for. But die-hard
NHL fans may be aware of the fact, that some quality prospects who turned into NHLers were
born in Tabor. Just as the case is by New York Rangers’ Radek Dvorak or former Tampa Bay
Lightning Jaroslav Svejkovsky, both of them being first-rounders. And coming 2002, there is
another prospect for the draft, who has the tools to develop into a solid NHL player. Even
if he doesn’t look like a sure-fire first round talent. The guy I’m talking about is
defenseman Michal Barinka, a standout for the Ceske Budejovice juniors and the Czech Under-18
team.

Michal Barinka was born in a family, where not his father, but his mother was involved in
hockey action. She was a teacher at an elementary school for sports, where hockey is the
main subject. She loved the game and her biggest dream was having her little son playing
hockey. So it was quite logical, that she brought him to the game very soon and Michal was
admitted to play for the C team of the youngest kids in Tabor when he was five years old.
As a tall guy, Michal was put by coach Rene Skalicky to the defenseman position and he felt
very comfortale there. He had fun with fending off opposing forwards’ attacks and soon began
to realize that hockey is the right sport for him. He liked to be active also during his
free time, just like these days. From other sports Michal did and still does swimming
very often or is playing tennis, just like many hockey players. He also enjoys bike trips
a lot. Michal is quite a frequent visitor of the weight room, as he is aware that he has to
bulk up and does a lot of workouts.

But during his days in Tabor he didn’t visit the weight room. He did the workouts using the
weight of his body and in the games he was taking advantage of his natural talent for hockey.
Michal soon turned out to be the anchor of the defense of his team and the reliable blueliner
went on to play against older opponents. On the tournaments the Tabor guys often faced teams
from the southern region and on some tourneys Michal was voted the best player, even if he
played against older kids. From the very beginning of his career he followed the fact that
he wants to be a reliable defenseman and tried to avoid risky plays. That was also one of the
reasons why he became the ‘C’ on his sweater when he was starting to perform for the 8th
grade of Tabor. He maintained the captain position also for the following season, which was
to become his last in the native Tabor. A highlight of this season came when Michal, nicknamed
‘Bara’ from his surname, was voted the best defenseman of a whole 9th grades tournament.

Just like all the talented kids, Michal faced the
necessity of joining an Extraleague franchise coming midget age. After going through hands
of coaches Zdenek Tupy, Pavel Jezek, Karel Bilek and respected Bedrich Pastyrik he felt
that he is ready to say yeah to the Ceske Budejovice offer. He didn’t need to move a long
way into his new home, Ceske Budejovice is a nearby city.
In 1999-2000 there was a very talented team established under the lead of Jan Tlacil, the
current coach of the Czech Under-16 team, and Jiri Sramek. Besides Barinka on the team were
the likes of top NHL prospects Jiri Novotny or Milan Michalek.

Michal Barinka was a rookie, but he fought his
way into the defensive rotation and soon saw a very good portion of playing time. After winning
the regular season the Ceske Budejovice midgets swept Havirov and Plzen on the road to the
finals. There they stood against HC Sparta Praha. After beating Sparta two times 3:1 Ceske
Budejovice midgets won the midget Extraleague championship title and this was the biggest
success of Michal Barinka’s career so far. Michal played the whole schedule of 54 games and
left a very solid performance for a rookie after posting 15 points for 1 goal and 14 assists.
The 1999-2000 season was one to remember for Michal also thanks to the fact, that it was his
first on the international stage. Already at the time when he was playing for the Tabor 9th
grades he had an impressing showing at the selection tournament for the Under-16 team. He was
easily one of the selects and made his international debut in a three-game series against
the young Slovaks. That was followed by a performance at the Four Nations Tournament in the
Swedish city Angerholm. The young Czechs won the tournament and this put a cherry on the top
of Michal Barinka’s season.

Many players from the succesfull Ceske Budejovice midget team have made the leap to the
junior ranks and Michal was one of them. He was in his last year of midget eligibility, but
spent the bigger part of the season already with the juniors as an underage. He played just
7 games for the Ceske Budejovice midgets, registering 1 point for 1 assist. Michal got
accustomed to the junior Extraleague very fast and even if he was a rookie, he was one of
the better players on the team. He played his first 29 junior games, scoring 9 points for
1 goal and 8 helpers. In the end the Ceske Budejovice juniors failed to make a medal as they
finished on the fourth place overall in the junior Extraleague.

Michal’s 2000-2001 international season began on August, 23rd, when he played at an exhibition
game against the Under-17 team of Switzerland. Along with teammate Ondrej Zluva he was also
selected to perform at the Four Nations Tournament in late August. After that Michal Barinka
didn’t play for the Under-17 team until the last tournament of the season rolled around.
In a four-game series against Germany Michal scored his first two international goals, which
rounded out his season stats for the Under-17 team at 8 games played, 2 goals, 1 assists,
3 points and an even number of +/- to go along with 6 PIMs.

After a summer full of workouts Michal was ready to deal with an increased role on the
Ceske Budejovice junior team, but had his plans somewhat spoiled by a serious injury. He
anchored the blue line well for the first two months of the regular season, but suffered
a bad spleen injury in a game played at Karlovy Vary on November, 3rd. This injury forced
him to sit out the next month, but after that time Michal was practicing again and soon
found himself back in the lineup. This season can turn into another major success for Ceske
Budejovice as they’re currently battling Pardubice juniors for the championship title.
Thus far Michal Barinka stands at 37 games played, 6 goals, 17 assists and 23 points
while racking up 68 PIMs.

But this month brought another pleasant surprise for Michal. Ceske Budejovice seniors were
promoting players from the junior team, who are supposed to perform for them the next season
and he was among the lucky ones. So he could celebrate his senior Extraleague debut in a
game at Znojmo, in front of TV cameras. On a pair with vet Milan Nedoma Michal played defensive
hockey, without any mistakes, but also without any points. But they’ll come as Michal will
be getting used to the pace of the senior game.
The injury of course influenced also his international career this year. He showed up for the Under-18
team at the Six Nations Tournament in late August, but then was out of the lineup till the
Five Nations Tournament. In February he rejoined the Czech Under-18 team
at the Five Nations Tournament of the
Under-18 teams in Russia, the last tournament before the Under-18 WJC. In one game Michal was
selected as the best player. Now is the Under-18 WJC awaiting him and he is looks like a lock
to make the Czech team. With a good performance there Michal’s draft stock can rise
significantly, according to the CSB mid-term rankings, he stands now at the 24th place among
European skaters.

Michal Barinka is primarily a stay-at-home defenseman, but his strong outlet passing and
a terrific vision contribute to his nice offensive flair a lot. At 6’3”, 200 lbs. Michal posesses
a great size and he is willing to use it. He can throw hard hits and often dominates along
the boards. He is also a feared crease-clearer and isn’t afraid of the rough stuff. This
season he averages around two PIMs per game. But he is also positionally very sound plus can
use his good reach very well. Michal’s role model is St.Louis Blues’ bomber Al McInnis due to
his great shooting and vision and also Michal has a very hard, accurate slap shot. He shoots
lots of pucks in the practices and can be used as a pointman on the powerplay. Michal’s
superb vision and hockey sense allows him to make very smart passes, which are accurate.
His drawback is his average skating and agility, but Michal is working on these things a lot.
With a more fluid stride he could skate more effortlessly and handle the game situations
with a bigger ease. But overall Michal is a rare blend of size, huge defensive awareness,
toughness and very good skills. He would definitely be worth a look after the third round
of the draft is over.

Michal Barinka can be counted to the quite superstitious players. The first thing comes with
the number he plays with. In his beginnings he was wearing the number 7, but when he joined
and older grade team, then he had to change the number. He chose the number 24, it is connected
with his birthdate and now he doesn’t want to change it in no way.
Before the game he always
does the same gymnastics and he always avoids being the first or the last player to hit
the ice for the pre-game skate and also for the game. He puts his hockey gear from the left
side first and his stick has to have a black tape. And the last thing appears
on the pre-game skate, Michal is always the third player to shoot at the goalie.
Michal is in his third year of studies at a secondary school of construction engineering
in Ceske Budejovice. He doesn’t rule out coming over to play in the CHL, but he prefers
to stay for the next season at home and finish his studies. School is very important for
him and he also wants to crack the Ceske Budejovice seniors lineup full-time the next
season.

When Michal doesn’t play hockey or any other sport, you’ll most likely find him relaxing.
One of his favorite relaxing activities is listening to music, he likes lots of music styles
and often has just the radio tuned. The only thing he hates is brass music. He also likes
watching all good TV movies. On the food side Michal doesn’t have any exact favorite food,
but he won’t be pleased with liver or red beets for his dinner. Hope he won’t get much of
it at the selection camp for the Czech Under-18 WJC team. After the Under-18 WJC the NHL
Entry Draft will be awaiting him. As he has no exact favorite team, Michal will be happy
with every selection, just like many young players. He is looking forward to the draft quite
a lot. He has a good reason why, he is definitely one of the best young Czech defensemen.