Jakub Klepis – The Penalty Killer

By Ivana Paulova

Introducing Ottawa’s 1st round pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft – Jakub Klepis. Maybe a surprise, maybe not. But for him a unique position and a great success. He was closely scouted while playing in Portland last season but he made a name for himself mainly on the 2002 World U-18 Championship as a left wing of the 1st Czech line, him being the assistant of most of their goals. This great season together with his undoubted skills has opened the door to the NHL for him the only question is whether he will be able to walk through them.

Jakub Klepis did not have an ordinary start of his career. He was not brought to hockey by his father or any other member of his family. When he was 3 years old from time to time he was going to the public skating with his parents, and one day coaches of Sparta’s youngest players spotted his potential. From then on there was no time for the public skating anymore, because Klepis fell in love with the game of hockey and he wanted nothing else then just to play. From the very start he wanted to be a goalie, but since he could skate well he had spent his first season as a defenseman, and from the second season onwards he was always a forward. Definitely it was a good choice because Klepis throughout the youth categories was always at the top of the score leading statistics, he was a very productive player.

He kept on playing for Sparta till the 5th grade. His parents were not satisfied with the conditions there, neither with the overall atmosphere so they decided to change the team. They did not have to travel far, the best conditions were offered by Slavia. Klepis stayed in Slavia till the juniors. In his second season in the midgets with Slavia they won the title of the Champion of the Midget Extraleague. That season Klepis played 48 games for the midgets and had 40 points (14+26). In the season 2000/01 Klepis played for the midgets in 18 games and scored 25 points (10+15) and he played as an underage in the juniors that season as well, performing in 27 games gaining 13 points (10+3). Then in his draft season together with his agent they thought it would be better to go oversees so he will be more under the scouts’ watchful eyes, also that he will learn English, experience new life style and get used to the North American hockey. In the 2001CHL Import Draft Klepis was chosen as 37th overall by Portland Winter Hawks. He knew he will have no chance to play for the senior team of HC Slavia, and so would have to play for the juniors of Slavia, he moved to the Portland with no hesitation.

His offensive skills could not be ignored by the coaches (Kopriva and Marek) of the newly forming U-16 selection. Klepis was invited right for the first event and he did not miss any event or tournament till the U-18 team that is because he went to play in the WHL. He returned just in time to play at the 2002 World U-18 Championship in Slovakia. But the success came right with the U-16 selection when the Czech team won the Tournament of 4 which is the biggest event of this category.

In Portland Klepis lived in a good family which helped him a lot in the beginnings, because he could not speak English very well. Also Slovak teammate Jozef Balej was a great support for Klepis mainly when introducing him to the hockey life in the North America. Klepis quickly adjusted himself and in the season 2001/02 he played 70 games and gained 64 points for 14 goals and 50 assists plus he had 111 PIM. This result earned him 4th spot among top scoring WHL rookies and also finished 4th in team scoring. Klepis enjoyed the atmosphere of about 5000 spectators per game who attended the games, which could never happen to him in Slavia juniors. It was fun and honor for him to attend all the different entertaining events such as he won the Accuracy Shooting event in Portland’s skills competitions and performed at the 2002 CHL Top Prospect Game in Saskatoon.

His impressive performance in the WHL won him the nomination to the Czech U-18 pre-World Championship camp. He played so well that he was placed in the 1st line together with Milan Michalek and Jiri Hudler. He was fighting for each puck and his vitality, passion and willingness to do the hard work and take care of the rough staff was greatly appreciated. His role was to prepare the scoring chances for his teammates and he fulfilled it perfectly while his precise passing skills was well taken advantage of by Hudler and mainly Michalek, Klepis assisted to 8 goals and scored 1 by himself. He was extremely strong on the penalty killing and also on the powerplay units. The bronze medal was a great success for him.

Klepis’ draft season worked out extremely well for him. He impressed while playing in Portland where he soon got used to the physical style of play, and on the World U-18 Championship where he demonstrated his resistibility and rare ability to create unmistakable scoring opportunities. The fruits of the hard work was that Jakub Klepis was picked by Ottawa Senators in the first round as the 16th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. This was very surprising for Klepis and he was so happy that he hardly remembers what followed. In the after draft interview Jakub said that he will try to make the team in 2 or 3 years.

In the season 2002/03 Klepis returned back to Slavia where he was offered a contract with the senior team. Klepis plays 2nd to 4th line but also helps to the junior team to reach the play-offs, in the senior Extraleague Klepis played 27 games where he scored 2 goals and added 3 assists and 14 PIM, in the Junior Extraleague he played 5 games and his statistics are 0+2 and 6 PIM. Coaches Jaroslav Holik and Jiri Kalous also kept on inviting him to the tournaments of the U-20 team. He played well enough to be chosen to play at the 2003 World Junior Championship in Canada. It is not surprising because the Czech team needs players who do not shy away from the physical style of play and who are aware defensively, and that is the case of Jakub Klepis.

Klepis is a very talented player best described as an excellent creative playmaker with good balance, deceptive speed and a fluid stride. He relies on his well developed hockey sense and the ability to effectively read the play. This agile center or left wing sees the ice well and has strong puck-handling skills, which he uses to work well in heavy traffic. As Klepis is an unselfish player he can easily use his strongest weapon which is the incredibly accurate passing skill. Offensively gifted Klepis possesses quite hard slap shot and a good wrist shot, but to his disadvantage he does not put his shooting arsenal to display often. He also plays the game with an edge and cares about his defensive duties. The drawback in his play is the lack of shooting and he should improve the stability while fighting in the corners. Klepis is a responsible team player who sacrifices for the team good. Mainly he is the penalty killing specialist.
Klepis is a friendly guy who enjoys fun and you always find him in a good mood. On the ice he plays with passion and enthusiasm.

To play hockey was always the number one objective for Klepis but he was responsible enough and wanted to secured his position by going to school, so that if something goes wrong he can always get some other work. He attended a high school but was only able to finish the second year of his studies there and then left to Portland. Now when he is back home he would like to finish his studies and get the diploma but problem are morning practices of the Slavia senior team. In his free time he likes to play soccer and play on the Playstation. For the rest of time he relaxes. Jakub Klepis managed to have a really good start of his career. Hopefully he can keep on playing on such a high level. His abilities and his character for sure determine him to be an NHL regular.