Czech players in the 2002 CHL Import Draft – Part 1

By Robert Neuhauser
People on both sides of the ocean may say what they want about the European players playing
in the CHL, but the fact is, that if the CHL will exist, the young Czech players will be
eager to try their luck in the junior leagues. They want to get used to another lifestyle,
another style of play and play in front of NHL scouts every game. In Europe hockey involved
people rave about young kids leaving for the CHL after their parent clubs invest lots of
money into their development since they start playing at 6 and get nothing in return. In
America people complain about the Euros taking spots which could be filled by home Canadians.
Everyone knows those disputes. But you can see that from the last year’s CHL crop lots of Czech
players made a name for themselves and got drafted by NHL teams (Taticek, Vagner, Klepis,
Fidler). Especially the late-born players who have no chance to play in the senior
Extraleague frequently choose to come over and it can be viewed as very reasonable.
It is very likely that this situation will be repeated next year,
because CHL teams selected some top-notch prospects from the Czech developmental system.
Now look who is it!

Round One

No. 1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)Jiri Drtina
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: March, 1st, 1985
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

The consensus first overall pick really became the new Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound as Craig
Hartsburg couldn’t resist the temptation to grab this amazing offensive defenseman with the
first selection. Drtina will now join fellow Czech Petr Taticek on the Greyhounds team. When
lloking at is play, you wonder why he doesn’t play forward. Jiri has excellent offensive
instincts, is capable of delivering extremly smart outlet passes and doesn’t hesitate to
unleash blasts from the blue line. He is a terrific skater and often contributes as the
“fourth forward”. Thanks to his speed Jiri doesn’t suffer from a disability to join the
transitional play and is very sound positionally. He doesn’t have a hulking frame thus he also
isn’t a ferocious hitter. He’ll try to learn how to hit more harder in the OHL. Jiri is a
projected first-rounder for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and can easily be among the top rookie
scoring leaders next OHL season with his superb two-way game.

No. 4 Ottawa 67’s (OHL)Lukas Mensator
Position: goaltender
Team: HC Becherovka Karlovy Vary
Born: August, 18th, 1984
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 154 lbs.
NHL draft: Vancouver Canucks, 3rd round, 83rd overall

After being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL Entry Draft, the diminutive goalie
decided to have a taste of major junior hockey already next season. He wanted to stay in
Europe but after he wasn’t served with a solid chance to play regularly at the senior level,
Lukas feels the OHL is the best for him. The 67’s have a good tradition of picking European
netmiders and this time they snagged one who dominated the international scene this past
season. Lukas is a goaltender who makes up for his severe size deficiency with his exceptional
quickness and strong athleticism. He has a superb dexterity and skates very well. Lukas
likes to aggresively challenge the shooter and is extremly tough to beat on all inital
shots. He also has a good control of the rebounds. Lukas has to further develop his stickhandling
skills, which is essential in North American hockey. But he will be a guy who will be relied
upon the 67’s very soon with his great play.

No. 6 Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)David Svagrovsky
Position: left wing
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: December, 21st, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 210 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Blessed with prototypical size and an ability to succeed in the much tougher WHL, Svagrovsky
said goodbye to his parent HC Slavia Praha team, like many of his teammates. The Seattle
Thunderbirds hope that he can contribute immediately as a smart two-way winger. David
can make his size to his advantage as he drives hard to the net and likes to fight along
the boards for the pucks or look for rebounds in front of the net. A potential power forward,
Svagrovsky doesn’t posess hair-raising speed but is well-balanced on his skates and can
take advantage of his superior strength to cover the puck. Once on a scoring chance he
often fires the puck and has quite solid puckhandling skills. Not the best stickhandler,
but handles huge traffic very well and is very useful defensively. A dilligent player,
David Svagrovsky is looking to upgrade his stock for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and the WHL
is the best solution for him.

No. 7 Brampton Battalion (OHL)Martin Lojek
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice
Born: August, 19th, 1985
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 227 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Martin Lojek was a member of the winning Pardubice squad in the junior Extraleague this past
season and now is looking to impress the OHL with his fearless play. He is going to join
forward Kamil Kreps on a team which has a love affair with Czech imports as the likes of
Lukas Havel, Rostislav Klesla and Kamil Kreps were or are their “soldiers”. A big, smart
stay-at-home defenseman, Lojek won’t step in as an ultimate physical presence, even he
is quite tough. He plays a very good positional game and can make use of his excellent
reach to distribute the pucks effectively. Martin has a cannon of a shot, he only needs
to fire it more often. He stays with his man and isn’t afraid of swweping the crease from
the opposing forwards. Martin doesn’t have a huge offensive upside but can be counted on as
a reliable blueliner and that’s the thing the Battalion were looking for.

No. 10 Mississauga IceDogs (OHL)Tomas Linhart
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice
Born: February, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 209 lbs.
NHL draft: Montreal Canadiens, 2nd round, 45th overall

Had the second half of the last season hampered by a shoulder injury which required a surgery
in the end, but the new Montreal Canadiens draft choice Tomas Linhart is ready to show
what he can do the next season. It may not be in Mississauga, though, Tomas still didn’t
give up his chances to play at the senior level in the Czech Republic and may stay at home.
A tough cookie, Tomas won’t shy away from the physical contact and will provide lots
of toughness thanks to his great size. He is a hardworking player and can be described as
more of a stay-at-homer. Tomas keeps his game simple and is showing signs of a mean streak.
Even if he concentrates on mistake-free defense first, Tomas also won’t hurt you offensively
with his very solid outlet passing and hard shooting. Needs only to gain more maturity to
put the intangibles together, it remains to be seen where he’ll play next season.

No. 11 Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)Petr Vrana
Position: center
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Born: March, 29th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

The Halifax Mooseheads have to cross their fingers in hope that the extremly talented
diminutive center Petr Vrana will leave Havirov of the Czech Extraleague, where he is still
under contract. The likes of Filip Novak and Petr Kanko have shown in the past that even
this is possible, both left their respective teams without permission. Vrana looks to be
a star in the making, even if not blessed with a huge frame he can dominate the games with
his superior speed, agility and scoring talent. Petr can score and pass equally well, but
tends to pass the puck more than shoot it, shooting can still be counted to his drawbacks.
The undersized Petr doesn’t shy away from the physical play, but won’t deliver any bone-
crushing hits, also thanks to his frame size. Petr posesses intriguing skills and if he’ll
come over, he can easily challenge for the QMJHL rookie scoring title. In 2003 then he has
the chances to slip into the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.

No. 13 Saginaw Spirit (OHL)Tomas Csabi
Position: left wing
Team: HC Vitkovice
Born: November, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Tomas showed an inspiring performance at the Under-18 WJC, quickly being considered as one
of the better prospects for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He feels that his stock will see a
more rapid rise if he’ll play in the CHL and finally the Saginaw Spirit have made Tomas their
first import choice since the franchise moved from North Bay to Saginaw. Tomas is a sized
forward who brings a lot of intensity to the team. He has very good shooting skills and thanks
to his superb balance is extremly tough to get knocked off the puck. An intelligent forward,
Tomas can also create very good scoring chances. He is working on improving his defensive
play and has made remarkable strides here. Tomas is still a bit raw and needs to upgrade
his decision making. Csabi will report to play in the OHL and will probably see success there
with his strong two-way play.

No. 16 Barrie Colts (OHL)Jakub Straus
Position: right wing
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice
Born: July, 23rd, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

After ripping off the midget Extraleague this past season with his elusive moves and offensive
instincts, Jakub Straus was also instrumental in the Pardubice juniors run to the championship
title in the junior Extraleague. The Barrie Colts made him their import pick and Jakub
will most likely report to play for the Colts. A smallish waterbug, Jakub can fly on the
ice and make plays at top speed. Agile and well-balanced, Jakub can beat the opposition
in many ways and is perfect in one-on-one situations. He handles his stick extremly well
and has a strong knack for scoring goals. Jakub posesses typical European skills and
is extremly useful on the powerplay with his creativity and nose for the net. Jakub doesn’t
excell defensively and could add some toughness to his play, but the chances are high the
OHL will learn him this. Still a bit hidden among the 1985 born Czech prospects, Jakub’s
goal is to make a name for himself as soon as possible.

No. 18 Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)Tomas Fleischmann
Position: center/right wing
Team: HC Vitkovice
Born: May, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 172 lbs.
NHL draft: Detroit Red Wings, 2nd round, 63rd overall

Jiri Hudler was the first Red Wings’ choice at this years draft and soon after him they grabbed
another Czech forward, Tomas Fleischmann. In opposite to Hudler, Fleischmann got drafted
in the CHL Import Draft and will consider coming over. Tomas earned a bright reputation
among the NHL scouts this past season and will be looking to convince them that he is
able to translate his offensive skills also to the WHL.
Fleischmann is an agile, industrious forward who is a quick skater and a crafty
puckhandler with a hard drive to the net. Tomas is well-balanced and once on a scoring
chance, he takes advantage of his sniper instincts and very often fires the puck.
He could use a bigger portion of aggresivness and be more aware defensively, still overall he
is a very solid prospect who can surprise in the ‘junior NHL’.

No. 19 Sudbury Wolves (OHL)Miroslav Hlavaty
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Litvinov
Born: December, 3rd, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Not having a reputation of a blue-chipper for the next NHL Entry Draft, Miroslav Hlavaty
has exactly the same chance as many of his fellow late 1984 born Czech prospects – try to
succeed in the CHL after staying home would definitely diminish his chances for being
selected by a NHL team next year. Miroslav won’t rule the OHL as a ferocious hitter or
a tough guy, he takes pride in his strong positional play and an ability to foresee the
plays and read them well. Even if he can throw some hits, he’ll need to add more toughness
to his play. Hlavaty is a very solid skater and can dominate the defensive zone with his
smarts and mobility. He has a decent offensive upside and is capable of making crisp passes.
He is no lethal shooter and has some reserves there, he more concentrates on mistake-free
defense. Hlavaty will report to play for the Wolves and the rest is upon him.

No. 21 Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)Martin Krupka
Position: right wing
Team: HC Mlada Boleslav
Born: September, 29th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Virtually unknown before the CHL Import Draft, Martin Krupka made just one appearance with
the junior national team of his age and is quite hidden also in the Czech Republic, where
Mlada Boleslav can’t be counted to the top teams. The newest addition to the Lethbridge
Hurricanes, Martin Krupka will definitely come over and try to make a name for himself the
next season. He has a solid size and is willing to use it when fighting for the pucks and
looking for rebounds in front of the net. Martin has deft puckhandling skills and is a
smart industrious forward with solid all-round play including a portion of defensive
awareness. A solid skater for his size, Martin could use a bigger burst of speed, though.
Blessed with decent vision and hockey sense, Krupka has a tricky shot and has solid instincts
around the goal. Still needs to gain more maturity and is very likely to benefit from
the WHL experience.

No. 24 Regina Pats (WHL)Petr Dvorak
Position: center
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Born: October, 11th, 1983
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 194 lbs.
NHL draft: Washington Capitals, 4th round, 118th overall

The Washington Capitals draft choice Petr Dvorak is rushing to the WHL after seeing low
chances on a full-time job in the senior Extraleague with Havirov. Filip Novak graduated
to the pro ranks and Petr will now with giant defenseman Matej Trojovsky form the Czech
duo on the Pats team. A quick, crafty
skater who can turn on a dime, Dvorak brings a nice mix of grit and skill and shows signs
of developing into a scoring threat. Petr boasts a very accurate wrister and is a coveted
powerplay and penalty killing units player. He handles the puck extremly well with his
soft hands and seems to always find a way how to slip through traffic. Thanks to his solid
vision is Petr capable of strong passes and he has also a nose for the net. A finesse-type
pivot, Petr will look to add more toughness and determination to his game during his
time with the Pats to develop into a legitimate Capitals prospect.

No. 25 Sarnia Sting (OHL)Marek Chvatal
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Ocelari Trinec
Birthdate: January, 27th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 176 lbs.
NHL draft: New Jersey Devils, 3rd round, 84th overall

If it wasn’t for Marek Chvatal’s valid contract with Trinec, he would come over to the
CHL already one year ago. Now as a New Jersey Devils’ property, he has no problem with
coming over and will report to play for the Sting. Marek is a smooth, swift-skating
rearguard who is a gifted puckrusher.
He has a bright vision and hockey sense but needs to work on his decision making and
try not to wander from his defensive responsibilities. Up front Marek is very good,
with highly accurate passes, only his shot needs to be a bit more harder and accurate.
Marek isn’t a devastating hitter, more a positional player and he could show more of his nasty
edge. He doesn’t suffer from odd positional breakdowns. Marek uses
his stick well against opposing forwards and he reads the plays quite well. Has the talent
and skill to be one of the premiere offensive blueliners of the OHL.

No. 27 Calgary Hitmen (WHL)Jiri Cetkovsky
Position: center/right wing
Team: HC Continental Zlin
Born: November, 4th, 1983
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 194 lbs.
NHL draft: Calgary Flames, 5th round, 141st overall

The Flames scouts probably won’t need to go a long way to see their coveted fifth-rounder
from this year’s draft play live. The local WHL franchise Calgary Hitmen snagged the hulking
versatile Cetkovsky, who is expected to thrive under the look-or-you-get-nailed WHL style.
Jiri will intimidate the opposition with his imposing frame and a willingness to mix it up
in the corners and along the boards. He plays both center and right wing equally well and
has shown a huge defensive maturity. A tireless worker, Jiri has neither of electrifying speed
or top-notch stickhandling, but is working dilligently to become a feared two-way presence.
His finishing skills has to improve, though, if he hopes to secure a NHL spot someday.
Newly unearthed talent, Jiri Cetkovsky has the tools to rocket the Flames depth chart
and even if he received offers from Czech Extraleague teams, it looks like he is well
headed Calgary for WHL time.

No. 34 Plymouth Whalers (OHL)Martin Cizek
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: May, 17th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: Buffalo Sabres, 9th round, 271st overall

Another from the wave of Slavia Praha junior players who are now trying their luck in the
North American developmental system. New teammate of Jonas Fidler on the Plymouth Whalers
team, Martin Cizek is a competitive blueliner who is a valuable asset on penalty killing
units and thrives on a pair with a rusher. He consistently
makes safe outlet decisions when he avoids any risky plays and tries to keep
his game simple. Cizek shows remarkable poise moving the puck but could do that more often as
he seems still not fully grown into his huge potential. He concentrates on smart, low-risk
defensive game in his own end. Martin has solid shooting skills but could unleash his blasts
more in order to upgrade his offensive upside. The Buffalo Sabres found him in the ninth round
of the NHL draft and Cizek will look to get used to the different playing style as soon as