Czech 2004 prospect Petr Pohl – the story of a sniper

By Robert Neuhauser
In today’s hockey is scoring goals often a problem. Lots of teams use various defensive
traps and the number of goals scored took a steady descent in the last decade. This also
made from players with a knack for scoring goals a very wellcomed commodity. Not many
pure snipers lace up the skates and the teams have to treat them well, because they are
the players who break games. Czech hockey developed more nifty playmakers than feared
snipers, but there are also gems who can develop into legitimate scoring threats. Coveted
Pavel Brendl had the label of a future scoring champion, but hasn’t lived up to the
expectations yet and had only a cup of coffee in the NHL so far. Another forward with a
terrific nose for the net, who has all the intangibles to reach the NHL, is 2004 eligible
Vitkovice midgets right winger Petr Pohl.

Petr Pohl had quite an interesting begin of his hockey career. Mostly are the small kids
brought to the game by their parents, who are frequently even former players or coaches.
But not Petr. The most important person in Petr’s beginnings was his granddad, who is a
huge hockey fan. He wanted his grandson to play the game and he didn’t need to force him in
any way. Petr was also inspired by a friend from the neighborhood, who played hockey and
he wanted to be like him and chase the puck. Petr was born in Koprivnice, a small city in the
north of the Czech Republic and at the age of four he made his first attempt to enter
the local team. There were older and more skilled kids competing for a spot on the
youngest kids’ team so at the first time Petr Pohl wasn’t selected to the hockey team. He didn’t
want to give up and was admitted to learn figure skating. Figure skating coaches taught
him how to keep balance on his skates and make turns and jumps, so after the year spent
with figure skating Petr was a way better skater than the year before. But he didn’t think of
a figure skating career. Next spring he tried luck in the hockey team again and this time
the swift skating kid was welcomed.

Ottawa Senators’ Radek Bonk is the local Koprivnice icon, but the Koprivnice 1986 borns
showed lots of promise. Besides the offensive Pohl there laced up the skates also young
defenseman Adam Lukacovic, the future captain of the Czech Under-16 team. Petr didn’t think
of playing defense. He was a smallish kid and had a very good speed so he was slotted to
play forward. He was a very quick study and soon he could handle his stick as well as
skate. At many tournaments the opposing defensemen were warned from the talented Pohl,
who soon gained a reputation of a feared sniper. This brought him about 15 various
trophies from the
youth tournaments, where he was often the best goalscorer, best forward or even the best
player. He participated also at the tournaments played abroad, as for example in the Slovak
cities Martin and Poprad or in the Polish town Tychy. The Koprivnice team was usually one of the
best teams at the tournament.

Petr was also very dedicated
to the sport. Off the ice he did various workouts to gain strength and does so till these
days, so he definitely has no trouble with work ethic.
He was of course the core player of the team and his scoring touch plus Lukacovic’s solid defense
helped the team to turn
games into victories. The season when Petr Pohl was performing for the 5th grade was clearly
the most succesfull one from this point of view. Koprivnice players enjoyed a hot run and
the team was one of the candidates for the top 5th grade team in the whole country.
Unfortunately Koprivnice finished just behind the top. Two years after that Cinderella season
the situation looked completely different. The Koprivnice 7th grade team couldn’t play
in the elite league of the 7th grades and this meant trouble for Petr. It would be a nonsense
for a guy that has ‘future NHL prospect’ written all over him to skate at a much lower level
than before and he saw the necessity of leaving the hometown. Finally he accepted the offer
of the nearby Frydek-Mistek team, where he had a chance to compete at the top level.
In Frydek-Mistek he spent two enjoyable years, but then was time to move again. Petr felt
that he is ready to perform at the top midget level in the midget Extraleague and he already
had offers from the top Extraleague teams. They always look for their future prospects
and let them develop in their midget and junior teams. This was also the case of Petr Pohl.
Famed Vitkovice team gave him a chance to join their system and Petr did so. Ostrava, where
the Vitkovice team is based, is just a few miles away from Frydek-Mistek, so Petr didn’t
have to move a long way.

The 2000-2001 season was his rookie season in the midget Extraleague. Petr was an underager
because he was still eligible to play for the 9th grade. But he really proved that he can
compete at the elite midget level and averaged nearly one point per game. He also earned
quality ice time on powerplays so that his season numbers stopped at 26 games played
with 18 points for 8 goals and 10 assists.
Future Under-16 team coaches Vlastimil Koci and Jaromir Sindel were aware of these facts and
of course Petr was selected to perform for his Northern Moravia region at selection camp
for the new Under-16 team. Players form 8 regional squads which compete against each other
and the best players are then selected to represent the country. Petr left a very solid
impression with his offensive output and was a lock to make the Under-16 team.

Last August Petr’s international career began with a three-game series against the Slovaks.
The series was repeated in December and in November Petr performed in a three-game series
against the Under-16 team of Switzerland, where he notched 1 assist. The most succesfull
tournament for Petr was the Four Nations Tournament of the Under-16 teams, played in Praha,
Czech Republic in February. Petr Pohl skated on the top line and averaged exactly one
point per game for the third-placed Czechs when he recorded 3 points for 1 goal and 2 assists.
He finished his first international season with a showing in the three-game series against
the Under-17 team of Switzerland. The young Czechs lost all three games and Petr Pohl
recorded 1 point for 1 assist and had one goal disallowed.

In the midget Extraleague he didn’t need to worry about disallowed goals. He scored and
scored and was clearly among the top snipers in the league. Vitkovice midgets coaches
created a great combo with the line where besides Petr Pohl skate also Petr Valusiak and
Michal Novak. Unfortunately, Petr Valusiak was sidelined for most of the season with
mononucleosis, so Petr Pohl had to perform without one of the players who suit him best.
Still, in 40 midget games he notched 54 points for 35 goals and 19 assists. He also played
at an exhibition tournament of midget teams in Havirov and went home with the trophy for
the best forward.
But he didn’t play only at the midget level. Vitkovice juniors coach Mojmir Trlicik saw
the talent Petr has and has promoted him for 10 games already to the junior team, making
Petr one of the youngest players to play in the junior Extraleague this season. In those
10 games Petr recorded 2 points for 2 assists. But of course saw a smaller role than on the
midget team. However, next season Petr should compete for the juniors full-time as an
underager and his junior goals will surely come.

There is one interesting thing with the number he wears, 55. It was an idea of Petr’s
granddad. 55 is read ‘padesat pet’ in Czech and the first letters of those two words are
the same as by Petr’s name and surname – Petr Pohl. Else Petr isn’t a very superstitious
player. But after every good game Petr tries to do the next game exactly the same warmup
and the same order of putting on the hockey gear as by the previous game.

Petr Pohl is a terrific skater with a very fast acceleration and a fluid stride. He is
capable of sharp turns and his speed is one of his biggest assets. Petr handles the puck
extremly well and has very smooth hands. He has a nose for the net and once in a scoring
chance, he doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck. He prefers shooting and has both his slap
and wrist shot very good. Petr posesses a very solid portion of vision and hockey sense,
which enables him to foresee the plays. He thrives on powerplay units and develops into
a feared scorer. From the things he has to work on there is defensive play first. His
intensity vanes when he plays off the puck and doesn’t contribute very much defensively.
As a finesse winger he also doesn’t hit very hard and toughness is one thing he lacks.
He can get knocked off the puck by using power but thanks to his outstanding smarts it
doesn’t happen very often.

Petr is working very hard to be a better player. He is aware of the fact that he has still
a long way to go before he will be a complete player and has his mind set completely on
hockey. In his free time he does various workouts and excerises or is relaxing to have
enough strength for the games. From other sports Petr likes to play soccer, tennis or squash.
He’ll have a chance to play the sports, because next month he’ll graduate from the
elementary school and from September he’ll start attending a secondary school for sports.
When Petr is resting, then he likes to listen to disco or pop music, he likes the group ATB
or singer Enrique Iglesias. His favorite food is fried chicken with rice and cucumber salad.
He also likes to eat various yoghurts or chocolate bars with fruit.

Petr, called ‘Poli’ or ‘Polik’ by his friends still has enough time before his draft year
somes around. He is considering coming over to the CHL next year, but still isn’t finally
decided. But one thing is for sure. He won’t play on a team with one of his role models.
The first one, the unforgettable ‘The Great One’ Wayne Gretzky, has already hung the skates
and Dominik Hasek will hang the pads quite soon. It isn’t common that a right winger states
a goalie his role model, but Petr really admires Hasek’s dedication to the game and his work
ethic. Petr Pohl himself has a great work ethic, which can also bring him to NHL success.
He has the tools, wish him luck!