Czech 2004 prospects: Lukas Kaspar

By Robert Neuhauser
Remember Ivan Hlinka and Jiri Bubla? Both Czech ex-NHL players were raised in Litvinov.
Or do you want a less distant history? Then take for example Robert Reichel, Robert Lang
or Martin Rucinsky. All products of the Litvinov system. The city is incomparable as
far as Czech players in the NHL are concerned. Almost every year there is a prospect raised,
who is considered as another potential NHLer. Right winger Lukas Kaspar is one of them.

Lukas Kaspar didn’t inherit any hockey talent from someone of his family relatives. Former
hockey players or coaches bring very often their kids to hockey as soon as possible, but
Lukas wasn’t influenced in the decision what sport to choose as none in his family has enjoyed
a hockey career. But as a native of Litvinov, Czech Republic, hockey was the most logical
solution for the small kid. No wonder, Litvinov is on one side just a small town near the
German border, but on the other side also a legendary town of Czech hockey. Hard to find on
not very detailed geographic
maps, but impossible to look over on hockey maps – this played an important role in Lukas
Kaspar’s decision what sport to choose. In fact, he didn’t want to play anything than hockey,
so his steps led to the hockey arena very soon.

Already at the mere age of three Lukas laced up the skates and took his first strides under
the watchful eye of his father, who was his first hockey mentor. As soon as he felt that the
small Lukas is able to keep balance on the skates, he brought him to organised hockey.
From the very first time Lukas was slotted to play the forward position and he felt very
comfortable there. Gifted for sports, he could show his creativity and very solid puckhandling
there and also earn a reputation of a highly talented leader of the Litvinov novice team.
When Lukas was about to turn eight and start performing for the 3rd grade, a respected hockey
personality now had a direct influence on his career. That person was coach Vaclav Cerny, who
took over the coaching duties of the Litvinov 3rd grades. Coach Cerny formed the careers of
current NHLers and former Litvinov gems Robert Reichel and Martin Rucinsky and immediately
saw that in Lukas Kaspar there is another special talent here. He gave him lots of useful
tips how to make use of his talent and improve his offensive output. The other thing was
that Lukas realised that he needs to work really hard if he wants to become a special player
and started doing various on- and off-ice workouts to upgrade his strength and skill. That
along with his talent and competitivness formed a great package and Lukas began to be considered
as a potential gem.

Since the 3rd grade with his favorite number 22 on his back,
he flourished under coach Cerny and in his season for the 5th grade team
he could see the dividends as he reached the 50-goal plateau for the first time. That year
he also captained the Litvinov 5th grades, the only season so far Lukas was wearing
the ‘C’.
Already in
the system of an Extraleague team, Lukas didn’t need to move anywhere, unlike many of the
talented pee-wee aged players. He was now concentrating more on his upper body and leg strength,
because in the older grades goals don’t come only from slick skating and Lukas was a sniper.
Goals came and Kaspar also added lots of assists as he could make use of highly skilled
teammates in the Litvinov system. The last year when he was playing under coach Cerny, in
the 8th grade, Lukas recorded a whooping total of 140 points, which made from him one of the
best 8th grade-aged player in the whole Czech Republic and the future Under-16 team coaches
now took his name seriously into account.

After the season for the 9th grade team, Litvinov
midgets head coach Milan Kral has promoted him to the midget Extraleague for 2000-2001 and
Lukas was also selected to perform at the selection camp for the new Czech Under-16 team of
the 1985 borns. There he left a very solid impression and he could expect big things from
the new season. A huge fan of Wayne Gretzky and fellow Litvinov born Robert Reichel, Lukas
now could see that his career is always rising and that he will probably make his living
with hockey.

At 6’2”, 190 lbs. Kaspar already posesses a huge frame, which he knows how to use for
his advantage. He just needs to bulk up and gain more strength. He is a solid skater for
a player of his size with a decent burst of speed. Lukas handles the puck extremly well with
his soft hands and is blessed with a great nose for the net. He knows many ways how to
score a goal and uses both of his wrist and slap shots with ease and accuracy. A talented
sniper, Kapsar also deliveres crisp passes, but once on a scoring chance he prefers shooting
to passing. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and fights along the boards and in front
of the net a lot. The things to work on for him are his agility and defensive awareness,
even if he did remarkable strides in his defensive play during the last months.

The 2000-2001 campaign was Lukas’ inaugural season for the Litvinov midgets. He could fight
out a regular spot in the offensive rotation and as the season progressed, his role on the team
also took a steady rise. Lukas made use of his scoring touch and soft hands, which helped
him to record almost 30 goals in his first season among the elite midgets. Overall in 54
games for the Litvinov midgets Lukas Kaspar recorded 51 points for 29 goals and 22 assists
to go along with 64 PIMs.
Lukas made two appearances with the Czech Under-16 team in 2000-2001. The first was in a
three-game series against the Under-16 team of Russia. The second was also in Russia, this
time on the Four Nations Tournament. After a wild shootout against the host Russians and
wins over Finland and Sweden the young Czechs finally won the tournament, which is the
biggest success in Lukas’ career so far. For the Under-16 games Lukas skated 6 games, scoring
2 points for 1 goal and 1 assist and notching 43 PIMs.

In 2001-2002 Lukas was expected to step up as one of the leaders of the Litvinov midgets.
He coped with those expectations well and also used his teammates more as he started to
develop also his playmaking abilities besides his scoring talent. He emerged as a very
dangerous offensive weapon and with the end of his midget eligibility it was clear that Lukas
filled his role well and has nothing to prove here. In 50 midget games Kapsar notched 78 points
for 36 goals and 42 assists, but also showed lots of his nasty edge with a very solid record
of 148 PIMs. In the second part of the season Lukas was even the best passer in the whole
midget Extraleague.

Lukas had a succesfull campaign with the Czech Under-17 team in 2001-2002. He performed at
the famous World Hockey Challenge, scoring two goals there. He also skated at two Four Nations
Tournaments and understood on the ice well with Michal Polak, former Sparta Praha forward,
now preparing to crack the lineup of the defending Memorial Cup champions Kootenay ICE. For
the Under-17 team Kaspar played 20 games, scoring 12 points for 10 goals and 2 assists along
with 12 PIMs. Lukas only contributed to his sniper’s reputation and could look forward to
the leap to the Under-18 team and also the Litvinov juniors, coached by father of ex-NHL player
Josef Beranek.

Lukas Kaspar played his debut with the Czech Under-18 team at the summer World Junior Cup.
For the second-placed Czechs Lukas served as an alternate captain and skated on the second
line with Milos Schejbal and fellow 2004 prospect Jakub Sindel, but went scoreless.
Lukas, nicknamed Kaspy (from his surname) or Balty (from the christian’s saga of three kings
travelling to greet the newly born Jesus – Caspar, Melichar and Balthasar) isn’t a very
superstitious player. The only same thing he does before each game is the way he dresses into
his gear, he always puts on the gear and skates from the left side first.
Lukas is fully concentrated on hockey and from other sports he just plays tennis sometimes
when he has some free time and wants to play something different than hockey. He also knows
that resting and relaxing is very important for an athlete and is often just resting. Even
if the music Lukas likes to listen to isn’t very suitable for relaxing – Lukas is a fan of
metal and hardrock music and his favorite songs come from the groups Kiss, Metallica or
Czech metal legend Orlik.

School duties also take lots of Lukas’ free time. He attends the secondary school for
construction engineering in Litvinov and will start his second year of his studies this fall.
Lukas isn’t very demanding as far as food and drinks are concerned. He drinks nearly
everything and for his dinner he is always satisfied with some kind of sauces. A good
thing to hear for the family Lukas could be billeted in Canada next season, Lukas is
considering coming over to try his luck in the CHL next season, which will be his draft season.
It will depend from his play and situation this year and if he’ll see enough ice time with
the Litvinov juniors or maybe even seniors. Lukas misses the deadline for the 2003 draft
eligibility just by 8 days, but as a 2004 eligible has still lots of time to hone his skills.
He is a fan of the Canadian-based NHL teams and
he dreams of course of a NHL career. There is a good chance that he really can enjoy one.
Good luck!