Under-18 WJC: Czech Republic team preview

By Robert Neuhauser
For eight years is the Czech Republic waiting for a medal from the Under-18 WJC. This drought
lasts even from the times when the event was only the European championship of the Under-18
teams. Last year’s team was the first one to slip into the semifinals, but finally were the
only unlucky team, finishing fourth. This year this bad streak could come to an end. For
two years it is known that the Czech 1984 birthyear is exceptionally strong, definitely the
strongest one since the 1976 birthyear, which brought NHL stars Patrik Elias and Milan Hejduk
plus some solid NHLers like Pavel Trnka, Radek Bonk and Petr Sykora. The 1984 birthyear boasts
the likes of top 2002 prospects Jiri Hudler, Jakub Koreis, Jakub Klepis or Ondrej Nemec and
some more, of whom the NHL clubs can still one year only dream. This is for example Milan
Michalek or Kamil Kreps. All those players were selected to perform for the Czech Republic
at the Under-18 WJC, held in the Slovak cities Piestany and Trnava.

Now all the focus of
NHL scouts, players agents and hockey fans will be concentrated on those two not very big
cities. They’ll surely see many great players, including the Czech ones. In fact, the Czechs
didn’t invite any 1985 born or younger underager as they have a terrific 1984 born birthyear.
The likes of Lukas Pulpan, Vojtech Polak and Martin Lojek were scratched from the team.
Like in the previous year the Czech will use CHL players on the team, but have to deal
with a limit of four. This year they didn’t even come close to this limit, Martin Vagner
wasn’t permitted to perform by his team, Hull Olympiques, who advanced to the next round of
the QMJHL playoffs, and Vancouver Giants’ Robin Kovar was scratched from the team after
the selection camp. This left only a duo of CHLers on the team, Jakub Klepis and Kamil Kreps.
The Czechs have to feel sorry that Kitchener Rangers’ sniper Petr Kanko wasn’t allowed
to play at the Under-18 WJC by his parent team, Sparta Praha, for leaving for the OHL even
if he still was under a valid contract. Kanko scored 6 goals at the last Under-18 WJC as an
underage and would be a huge boost to the already strong Czech team.
In the exhibition games the young Czechs defeated the Finns 4:2 in Prerov last Saturday and
the Swiss players they ousted 6:3 in a game played last Sunday in Prostejov. Now they are
ready for the Under-18 WJC. Ready to fight for gold. And who will be the warriors?


Lukas Mensator
Team: HC Becherovka Karlovy Vary Jr.
Born: August, 18th, 1984
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 164 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 3rd among Euro goalies

The Karlovy Vary goaltending star went super-nova this year on the international scene,
winning the Top Goaltender Award at every major tournament except of the Viking Cup. Also
in the junior Extraleague he constantly stood on his head for his average team, bringing them
almost into the playoffs. Smallish, resilient Mensator plays a great butterfly style and
likes to aggresively challenge the shooter. He has cat-like reflexes and is a
very strong skater. Lukas has a very fast glove hand and uses his pads extremly well.
His only problem is his severe size deficit, but he’ll definitely be the Czech starter
at the WJC.

To read a detailed article on Lukas Mensator click

Lukas Musil
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: May, 9th, 1984
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 168 lbs.

Musil won the backup spot over Tomas Popperle and Stefan Zigardy at the camp. He seems to have
a slightly bigger upside than the two, now he has to prove it at the Under-18 WJC. Lukas
Mensator is the clear starter, Musil will probably see action against weaker opponents. He
backstopped HC Slavia Praha midgets to the championship title last season, this year he
spent with the juniors. Musil plays a mix of butterfly and stand-up style and has very good
reflexes. He covers the net well and can challenge the shooter. On the downside he sometimes
tends to loose focus and needs a better control of the rebounds. But surely a high-quality


Ondrej Nemec
Team: HC Vsetin
Born: April, 18th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 192 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 11th among Euro skaters

Ondrej Nemec is one of the Czech players who spent this season already full-time in the
Czech senior Extraleague. The smart blueliner even scored five goals, which is very good.
Nemec will be the anchor of the Czech defense at the WJC. Blessed with a tremendous vision,
strong outlet passing and a hard shot from the point, Nemec lacks only size and a superb
skating ability, else he is a complete defenseman. He has a very smart head on his shoulders
and should prove that he has second-round potential.

Martin Cizek
Team: HC Slavia Praha Jr.
Born: May, 17th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 184 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 16th among Euro skaters

The Slavia Praha rearguard posesses great size, mobility and plays also a very mature game.
Primarily a stay-at-home defenseman, Cizek takes care of his own end first but is also
adept at joining the rush. He is very responsible and does the little things well. Cizek is
good to be paired with a rusher, when he can show his huge defensive awareness. He is also
capable of very solid outlet passes, even if he avoids any risky plays and tries to keep
his game simple. Another sleeper worth a look.

Marek Chvatal
Team: HC Ocelari Trinec
Born: January, 27th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 182 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 77th among Euro skaters

If you are looking for an offensive defenseman, here is one. Marek Chvatal stood out for the
Trinec juniors this season and also saw playing time in the Extraleague. Chvatal skates
well, likes to carry the puck out of his own zone and distributes it effectively. He
also is willing to play hard and show his nasty edge, despite he lacks size a bit. On
the defensive side Chvatal doesn’t tend to make stupid mistakes and is very reliable. With
a good showing at the WJC he’ll take the depth charts by storm.

To read an interview with Marek Chvatal click here.

Michal Barinka
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Born: June, 12th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 189 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 24th among Euro skaters

The hulking Ceske Budejovice defenseman is almost a complete package of size, toughness,
defensive awareness and skill. Barinka hits hard, fights along the boards and is a feared
crease-clearer. He uses his reach well and a has a nice offensive flair. Positionally
very sound, Barinka has a booming shot and is capable of smart passes. His only problem
seems to be weaker skating and mobility. After overcoming a serious spleen injury, Barinka
is ready to prove his talent at the WJC.

To read a detailed article on Michal Barinka click

Jiri Hunkes
Team: HC Ocelari Trinec Jr.
Born: July, 31st, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 171 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: not ranked

A native of Brno, Czech Republic, who made the team due to his spirited team play and a
smart two-way game. Hunkes isn’t considered as a serious 2002 prospect, but he gives
all his best every shift and plays with lots of heart. He is an average skater and could
use his size and reach more effectively, but Jiri has sound positioning and also won’t hurt
you offensively. He is quite strong on the puck and is capable of accurate passes. His shots
are ordinary and could also be improved a bit. Overall, Jiri is a welcomed player due to his
tenacious play and determination.

Ctirad Ovcacik
Team: HC Vitkovice Jr.
Born: October, 18th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 190 lbs.

Another finesse Czech defenseman. Ovcacik takes pride in his positional play and is extremly
tough to beat in one-on-one situation due to his excellent mobility and great skating skills.
Ctirad skates backwards very fast and has a very good acceleration. He has also a decent
offensive flair, he distributes the pucks effectively and has a hard slap shot. He has bulked
up during this season, now he has to learn how to play with a bigger nasty edge. He also
needs to improve his reading of plays and decision making, else he is a very good rearguard.

Tomas Kolafa
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Born: February, 23rd, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 179 lbs.

CSB mid-term rank: not ranked

Quite surprisingly the Kladno defenseman won a roster spot on the Under-18 WJC team. He didn’t
see any significant playing time for the Under-18 team during the season and his play at
the international scene seemed to be on the decline. But with a strong showing at the camp
Tomas Kolafa established himself on the roster. He is more of a defensive blueliner, with
very solid positioning and a portion of toughness. He has to work on his mobility as this
still doesn’t look like one of his strengths. Tomas has a decent offensive upside, he
distributes the pucks well, but his point shots could be more accurate. He tries to keep his
game simple and doesn’t have many downsides. But on the other side also many huge upsides.
He can surprise.


Jiri Hudler
Team: HC Vsetin
Born: January, 4th, 1984
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170 lbs
CSB mid-term rank: 3rd among Euro skaters

What to say about this gem. Hudler oozes talent and relies on his pure skill. He averaged
a point per game in the Czech senior Extraleague and is by far the most talented player
on the team. He has an uncanny playmaking ability and has a totally terrific hockey sense
and vision. Hudler skates well and posesses top-notch stickhandling. The only thing he
has to battle is his serious lack of size. If Hudler were 6’2”, he would definitely go
first overall in June. But at 5’10” he looks “only” like a top ten pick. Still a great
leader, Jiri will be the player relied upon when the team will be facing trouble.

Milan Michalek
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Born: December, 7th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 205 lbs.

Milan will probably create a great scoring duo with Jiri Hudler. The guy who will challenge
for the first overall pick in 2003 broke into the senior Extraleague full-time this year
and posted very solid numbers for a rookie, including a four-point night. Michalek will also
perform at his second Under-18 WJC. He is a rare blend of great size, feistiness and top-notch
skill. Milan handles the puck extremly well, is capable of both great scoring and passing
and he uses his size well. Along with Jiri Hudler Milan Michalek will likely be one of the
top Under-18 WJC players.

Jakub Koreis
Team: HC Keramika Plzen
Born: June, 26th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 8th among Euro skaters

The Plzen power forward saw his stock take a steady rise during the season. He just healed
from an ankle injury and is ready to show what he can do. Koreis posesses very good overall
skill, even if his skating could still be improved a bit. He is a good puckhandler, shoots
well and has a terrific hockey sense. His huge frame contributes to the upside. Jakub gives
everything to the team’s success and uses his body very well when fighitng for the puck or
covering the puck. Koreis is also quite solid in the faceoff circle. Looks like a dark horse
of the Under-18 WJC.

Jakub Langhammer
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Born: August, 17th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 192 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 33rd among Euro skaters

Sparta Praha’s lanky winger will be travelling to the tournament with a need to make a name
for himself as a blue-chipper for the draft. Langhammer has a terrific to find the open
man and can handle traffic very well, but has just average skating and shooting skills,
which hold him back a bit. But he still has a huge upside as he can play a defensively
responsible game and sees the ice very well. Also capable of very smart passes, but on the
other side Langhammer lacks enough aggresivness for a player of his size. He can still
prove all the people wrong and show that he is worth a look before the first four rounds are

To read a detailed article on Jakub Langhammer click here.

Kamil Kreps
Team: Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Born: November, 26th, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 171 lbs.

The only OHL invitee on the team, Kreps skated with the Stan Butler’s Brampton Battalion this
year. Kamil will be asked to show both his playmaking and scoring abilities and hopefully
add something of the North American style of play. Primarily a finesse forward, Kreps had a
growth spurt this year and skates very effortlessly. He is a slick puckhandler with soft
hands who has a very good vision and hockey sense. On the downside Kreps still lacks
aggresivness and could shoot the puck more. But this won’t prevent him from being a serious
2003 prospect.

Jakub Klepis
Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Born: June, 5th, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 188 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 24th among North American skaters

Jakub enjoyed a stellar WHL rookie season and could be the player, who will skate alongside
Jiri Hudler and Milan Michalek on the first line. Klepis would be the logical fit, he
can score and pass, even this season he earned more of a playmaker reputation. Klepis would
be the offensive wing when Hudler the playmaker and Michalek the two-way type. Jakub is
an explosive skater with very soft hands and an excellent vision. He handles the puck well
and makes very smart passes, but has also a nose for the net. Klepis’ star is on the rise
and he’ll try to prove at the Under-18 that he is a worthy second-round prospect.

Jan Kubista
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice Jr.
Born: April, 12th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 208 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 15th among Euro skaters

Jan is a revelation of the last two internation seasons. The sized Pardubice winger is
one of the most complete forward to burst onto the international scene. His problem is,
that the jury is still out on his skating ability, else he has all the tools of an elite
forward prospect. He posesses a very good size and is willing to use it when fighting for
the puck or punishing the opposition. Jan is a slick puckhandler and has a very bright
shooting arsenal. He can also make accurate passes and is working on his defensive play
and play off the puck. Another player who can turn out to be a very pleasant surprise.

Roman Vondracek
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Born: September, 26th, 1984
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 170 lbs.

The smallish offensive sparkplug from Sparta Praha is a player with a big heart and a smallish
size. Vondracek skates like the wind and has a tremendous acceleration, but has trouble
with handling the physical style. He tries to overcome his size deficit with his great
intensity and determination. Roman is very offensively gifted, handles his stick well and
likes to shoot the puck. Defensive play can’t be counted to his strengths, but Vondracek will
be asked to generate some offense. He will be very efficient in games against not so physical
opponents as the Canadians or Americans.

To read a detailed article on Roman Vondracek click here

Tomas Fleischmann
Team: HC Vitkovice Jr.
Born: May, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 168 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: not ranked

This means the return of a sniper. Tomas was often scratched from the junior national team, but
due to his very good performance during this season he finally made the Under-18 WJC team.
A finesse offensive winger with soft hands, Fleischmann is just an average skater but has
soft hands and he handles the puck with exceptional poise and smarts. He has a good vision
and doesn’t hesitate to shoot the pucks. Tomas is also intense and drives hard to the net.
His drawbacks are his lackluster defensive play and a quite skinny frame, which makes him
vulnerable to vicious checks. But Fleischmann’s star is on the rise and now he can prove it
and make a name for himself.

Tomas Csabi
Team: HC Vitkovice Jr.
Born: November, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 180 lbs.

NHL scouts must love the size and feisty play of the Vitkovice center. Tomas Csabi has the
tools of an elite prospect if he continues his progress. He skates well for a man of his
size and is very mobile. Csabi is solid in the faceoff circle and he won’t hurt you
defensively, he is often the first forward back. He has a nice hockey sense and very good
playmaking skills. His stickhandling is just average, but Tomas to make up for this with
increased toughness and intensity. He doesn’t have one exact strength, but also no glaring

Jan Velich
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice Jr.
Born: April, 5th, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 187 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 34th among Euro skaters

Versatility is his name. When needed, Jan can also play defense as well as forward. Also
a bright team player who works hard on the team’s success. Jan doesn’t have the sharp
skills, but an excellent work ethic, determination and defensive awareness. As a bonus there
is his huge frame, which Velich uses very well. He fights hard for the pucks and can throw
hard hits. Jan tries to play an all-round game and is solid on the puck. Just an average
skater and stickhandler, but Jan can distribute the pucks well and has a hard slap shot.
He’ll be the grinder of the team most likely.

Roman Bilek
Team: HC Keramika Plzen Jr.
Born: February, 7th, 1984
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: not ranked

Bilek won a regular spot on the Czech Under-18 team not earlier as this season and he maintained
it also for the Under-18 WJC. He is a skilled type of forward and his biggest asset are his
smooth puckhandling skills and an ability to handle traffic very well. Roman has a good
vision and is capable of very smart passes. He also has a good wrist shot, his slapper still
needs some improvement. Even if he isn’t a total defensive liability, he has to work on this
skill, just as at his toughness and playing away from the puck. He has to prove that his
progess is on a steady way and the Under-18 WJC will be a good chance for him.

Lukas Pabiska
Team: HC Bili Tygri Liberec
Born: February, 24th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 176 lbs.
CSB mid-term rank: 108th among Euro skaters

The same case as Roman Bilek above, Lukas Pabiska is a revelation of this international season.
He broke into the Under-18 team full time and finally grabbed a roster spot for the upcoming
WJC. Lukas is a very good skater with a decent burst of speed. He handles his stick very well
and is strong on the puck, but has to upgrade his intensity when off the puck. He likes the
powerplay situations and is very good at one-on-one. His great reading of plays enables him
to make crisp passes and Pabiska is also a good shooter. He needs to be more consistant
and add some mean streak to his play, then he’ll turn into a serious prospect. He won’t be
expected to lead the team in scoring, but show a gritty play and hopefully score some points.

Czech team’s schedule

All times local
Games are to be played in Piestany, Slovakia

Thursday, April 11th
Slovakia-Czech Republic 4:30 PM

Friday, April, 12th
Norway-Czech Republic 1:00 PM

Sunday, April, 14th
Czech Republic-Germany 1:00 PM

Monday, April, 15th
Czech Republic-Canada 1:00 PM

Wednesday, April, 17th
Russia-Czech Republic 1:30 PM