Czech overagers in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft

By Robert Neuhauser
Overaged players were always a factor in the show called the NHL Entry Draft. Some of the
players earn the label of late-bloomers because their skill just wasn’t still fully developed
coming draft age and they began to turn heads at times when the NHL scouts were already
focusing on younger birthyears. Solid seasons in Europe supported by strong showings at the
international tournaments help to open the eyes of the NHL staff and every year some
of the older and more experienced players hear their names selected at the NHL Entry Draft.
The teams are looking for immediate boost to the lineup and have a good feeling that those
players can fill the gap. Some can, some not. This is the case also by the Czech overagers,
Roman Simicek struggled with both the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted him and the Minnesota
Wild, while on the other side last year’s second-rounder Karel Pilar looks like the perfect
fit to the Toronto Maple Leafs defensive corps. Last year there were two Czech overagers
picked already in the second round, besides Pilar also Los Angeles Kings property Jaroslav
Bednar. Don’t expect the same also this year, overagers are usually picked in the later
rounds and this year’s crop of overagers won’t be that strong. But there are still some
interesting names. Have a look!

Jaroslav Balastik
Team: HC Continental Zlin
Position: right wing
Born: November, 20th, 1979
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 210 lbs.
Shoots: L
2001-2002 reg. season stats: 50GP 25G 19A 44P 32PIM
2001-2002 playoff stats: 11GP 3G 5A 8P 14PIM

The sturdy Zlin winger enjoyed a breakthrough year this past season as he established himself
as one of the best young power forwards of the Czech senior Extraleague. Balastik also
became the clutch performer of the Zlin line Jaroslav Balastik-Petr Leska-Libor Pivko, which
was a revelation of this season. This combo clicked well and Zlin fans can only worry that
pivot Petr Leska signed with HC Sparta Praha and is leaving the city. Jaroslav Balastik really
thrived on this line and made use of his imposing frame when he was also clearing space for the
slick waterbug Leska. But Balastik also showed impressive skills and an ability
to handle heavy traffic very well. The hulking forward often positioned himself in front of
the oppsing net and looked for rebounds and loose pucks. Thanks to his very solid skill-set
he could turn many chances created by his teammates into goals. From the two wingers Balastik
and Nashville Predators draftee Libor Pivko Balastik was the more offensive one and had more
chances to forecheck and forcing turnovers. He is extremly good at this and finally he
contributed to the fact that the Balastik-Leska-Pivko line was along with Petr Cajanek
the main factors in bringing HC Continental Zlin into the Extraleague finals, where they
were defeated by HC Sparta Praha. This past season Jaroslav also made his senior
international debut and it was a succesfull one. He played at three Euro Hockey Tour
tournaments and overall he notched 8 points for 4 goals and 4 assists in 14 international
Jaroslav Balastik skates well for a player of his size and has a very good balance on his
skates. He also posesses soft hands which are able to control the puck with ease and make
smart decisions with it.
He can take advantage of his superb upper-body strength to cover the puck with his
body easily and keep the attacking defensemen off him. Jaroslav has a bright vision and a
nice portion of hockey sense which contributes to his strong decision making. Once on the
puck, he can shoot and pass as well. He has a highly accurate wrist shot and his slapper is
also very solid. Intensity isn’t a problem for Jaroslav who is always involved in the games
and fighting for the pucks. His size allows him to play a physical brand of hockey, but
Jaroslav doesn’t tend to throw punishing checks and will have to develop this aspect of game
in North America a bit. But overall he is a mix of the three s: size, speed and skill and it
could happen that some NHL team may take a flyer on him in the later round.

David Nosek
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Ocelari Trinec
Born: February, 19th, 1981
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 202 lbs.
Shoots: R
2001-2002 reg. season stats: 50GP 4G 6A 10P 16PIM
2001-2002 playoff stats: 6GP 1G 0A 1P 4PIM

Albeit being the youngest player on the Trinec regular defensive rotation, David Nosek
was relied upon heavily in his third senior Extraleague season. His great ability
to bring a strong two-way play to the table along with his sound positioning also earned
him an invitation to the Czech senior national team for two of the four Euro Hockey Tour
tournaments. David performed at both the Baltika Cup and Sweden Hockey Games and he didn’t
finish scoreless at any of these tournaments, at the Sweden Hockey Games he even scored 2 goals
in 4 games.
The Trinec team boasted a very
solid defense so David Nosek couldn’t be viewed as a defensive anchor, but alongside
ex-Hab Miloslav Guren or vets Libor Prochazka and Petr Jancarik the young blueliner
flourished and began to show his full potential. He was often paired with stay-at-homers
so that he could join the rush after his defensive duties were done.
David Nosek is an effortless skater with a fluid stride and very strong lateral movement.
He is very fast backwards and only rarely do the opposing forwards outskate him. Nosek
relies on his extremly sound positioning and an ability to read the plays well, which
makes his play nearly mistake-free. He is rapidly improving his reliability and now
is making safe decisions with the pucks, which don’t lead to turnovers.
Nosek has a superb
ability to play the transitional play and his accurate outlet passes also contribute
to his offensive flair. David distributes the pucks effectively and can be very useful on
the powerplay, where he likes to unleash his blasts at the goalies as well as making
crisp passes as a powerplay quarterback. The only thing he still lacks is toughness,
David wasn’t born with a giant frame and could use more of a mean streak in his game.
He probably won’t ever be a feroucious hitter and crease-clearer, but defensemen of this
skill and smarts aren’t a frequent commodity and the NHL teams should be aware of this
fact and consider picking David Nosek this June.

Jaroslav Hlinka
Position: left wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: November, 10th, 1976
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 184 lbs.
Shoots: L
2001-2002 reg. season stats: 52GP 16G 45A 61P 54PIM
2001-2002 playoff stats: 13GP 9G 6A 15P 4 PIM

If it wasn’t for Hlinka’s diminutive frame, he would appear on the radar screen of the NHL
scouts way earlier. He won’t intimidate the opposition with his physical presence, but with
his speed and skill. When Jaroslav hits his ‘see you later’ gear, the opposing defensemen
know that they have some serious trouble. For five years he is one of the key performers
of the Czech senior Extraleague powerhouse Sparta Praha and this season he even posted
career numbers as he hit the 60-point plateau for the first time. In the past he showed
a bit of inconsistency as he recorded rollercoaster seasons in which he couldn’t pick
up where he left the previous season but with his improved maturity there is a good
sign that these times are over. Jaroslav comes into his prime and just like the previous
season, he led his team also in the playoffs, with the difference that this past season
Sparta grabbed the awaited championship title. Jaroslav also showed his durability as he
didn’t miss any single game this season and regularly terrorised the goalies with his
raids off the wing, elusive moves and deceptive puckhandling. After establishing himself
as a steady performer for the Czech senior national team he faced increased expectations
this season and coped with them well. He missed only the Baltika Cup and scored at every
tournament he participated. For the World Championship he even appeared on the line where
also Jaromir Jagr skated and was able to notch 6 points for 1 goal and 5 assists.
Jaroslav Hlinka is a terrific skater who makes use of his blistering speed to slip through
the defenses and threaten the goalies. Another plus is that thanks to his agility the
opposing defensemen don’t always know where he is going with that speed and he is able
to make plays at high tempo. Hlinka has a very good use of his stick and is capable of
handling the traffic quite well. He is a smooth puckhandler and reads the plays with
ease. Hlinka is an intense set-up player who is able to score and pass extremly well, even if
he tends more to a playmaking role. With his hockey sense and accurate passing he
prepares lots of quality chances which snipers can easily turn into goals. On the downside
Jaroslav has to further develop his defensive skills and could definitely use a bigger
portion of toughness as he is a finesse winger. His lack of physical presence may make
his transition to North American hockey hard at the beginning if he gets drafted but his
skill is undoubted. At nearly 26 years old, Hlinka can’t be viewed as a young player, but
his stellar past season may help to open the doors to the NHL for him.