Czech 2005 prospects: David Kuchejda

By Robert Neuhauser
The 2005 crop looks to be very promising as far as Czech defensemen are concerned, but like every year also a bunch of highly talented forwards will attract attention of NHL teams. Among the elite ones like Tomas Pospisil, Marek Knebl or Petr Kalus there sits the name of David Kuchejda (read Koo-khe-ydah), a winger from the Ceske Budejovice midgets.

David Kuchejda didn’t start learning to skate and playing hockey immediately after he could walk which is sometimes the case by kids who have their fathers involved in hockey in some way. He liked to be active and play many sports. The breaking point came when David was already seven years old. His father wanted his sons to do some sport on a regular basis and as first he brought David’s older brother Jakub to hockey. The younger David didn’t want to be left out and a little piece of envy was also in play, so he persuaded his father to enroll him to the hockey team in his native city Opava, too. From now on the two Kuchejda brothers could both attend hockey practices.

The older Jakub felt comfortable between the pipes, but about David’s position wasn’t decided yet. Because his brother was the immedaite role model for him, David has put on the goalie’s gear. But he filled the netminder’s role only at one practice, it was evident that he won’t become a premiere puck-stopper and Opava youngest grade team coach Petr Beranek has slotted him on the forward position.

David didn’t worry too much about it, he better concentrated on learning how to skate and handle the puck. He was a quick study and soon could display a huge portion of skill in his play. He was helpful to his team also with his determination and spirited play. Like all the kids who develop into top prospects David was very dedicated to hockey and was eager to learn new things on every practice. He did various off-ice workouts and because he didn’t want to play only hockey, he began to play soccer for FC Slavkov, a team based in a village near David’s hometown Opava. As a kid talented for sports, David could benefit from this in upgrading his conditioning and stamina.

He liked to chase the ball just like the puck. But his first successes came in hockey. Like every team, Opava 1987 borns squad took part in various tournaments for players of the respective age. It was often David Kuchejda who went home with the trophy for either the Top forward or Top goalscorer, sometimes even both. He was a leading personality of his team and was relied upon heavily as far as offensive output was concerned, leading to the fact that him was given the captain’s role when David was about to start performing for the 7th grade team of Opava. Thanks to his inspiring performances at the youth tournaments David slowly gained a reputation of one of the most talented pee-wee aged forwards in his region and Extraleague teams began to focus on him. The Opava region is heavy on Extraleague franchises as three teams, Vitkovice, Trinec and Havirov are based near David’s hometown. After some talking and deciding, David Kuchejda finally accepted the offer of the Havirov team. He joined their developmental system prior to the season when he should start perform for the 8th grade.

But Havirov midgets coaches Jaroslav Beck and Ivo Pestuka didn’t leave him on the 8th grade level. They liked what they saw from him in the summer camp and promoted him to the midget team to play in the midget Extraleague as a twice underage. There he faced opponents sometimes four years older than him, who were getting ready for the leap to the junior ranks. The 13-year old David was looking like a small kid there, but not on the ice. He could get used to the elite midget competition in a relatively short time and ruled with his slick skating and deceptive finishing skills. In 19 games for Havirov midgets David recorded 6 points for 3 goals and 3 helpers to go along with a +/- of -2 and 4 PIMs.
In his first season in Havirov David also made his first trip to North America to have a taste of Canadian pee-wee hockey. He joined the Havirov 8th grade team who travelled to Vancouver to a tournament which turned out to be a huge success for David. He took advantage of his playing experience in the midget Extraleague to emerge as the team’s leader. He was voted the first star in two games and returned home with a good feeling about his showing. David didn’t travel to Quebec City to participate at the international pee-wee tournament because he made an appearance already at the tourney in Vancouver, but he couldn’t change this fact.

David, nicknamed ‘Kuchec’ from his surname, began the 2001-2002 season with the Havirov midgets as an underaged player, but didn’t remain there for a long time, only for the first quarter of the season. During that time he dressed up for 15 games, amassing 8 points for 4 goals and 4 assists, a +/- of +11 and 8 PIMs. But meanwhile he received a serious offer from the Ceske Budejovice team to change the team and begin to perform in the Ceske Budejovice system. That meant also moving to the other end of the Czech Republic, but David agreed on this challenge.
Ceske Budejovice midgets head coach Milan Starek knew that in David he gets a bright prospect and a boost to the lineup, which resulted into solid ice-time and plenty of chances to showcase his talent. David replied with an increased offensive output, scoring at a nearly one point per game pace. Finally in 20 games for the Ceske Budejovice midgets David notched 6 goals, 10 assists for a total of 16 points, a +/- of +4 and 20 PIMs.
David lists Ceske Budejovice forward and a 2003 blue-chipper Milan Michalek his hockey role model and now he could see Michalek play live many times and learn from this player, which was an useful lesson for Kuchejda. Among the NHL players David admires Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk and Washington Capitals standout winger Jaromir Jagr.

His stellar play wasn’t a secret for the new Czech Under-16 team coaches Bretislav Kopriva and Vladimir Bednar. They invited David to the selection camp and had an easy decision after David was turning heads with his inspiring performance. He made his first appearance in the Czech national team jersey in a three-game series between the Under-16 teams of Czech Republic and Slovakia, played in Humenne, Slovakia, last August. David Kuchejda found himself among the top Czech scorers with 2 points for 1 goal and 1 assist in the 3 games. His second and last international tournament so far came in the three-game series against the young Russians. David skated mostly on the line with Martin Husicka and Petr Kalus and scored one marker, which was his only point at this tourney.

In this season David, a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, could count on a much increased role on the team with already two midget Extraleague seasons under his belt. A regular on the top two lines, David Kuchejda created a great duo with fellow Under-16 team player Martin Hanzal. In the last contests the two play on different lines, but still David considers Hanzal one of his best teammates ever. David proves that he is ready to the jump to the junior Extraleague in the next season as an underager with his superb effort for the midget team. Even if he sustained a sprained ankle in December and missed a few games, he scores more than a point per game. So far he played in 39 games, registering 47 points for 20 goals and 27 assists, an even +/- and 28 PIMs.

David Kuchejda is a slick skater who utilizes on his speed and agility to create offense. He has a solid balance and despite his smallish 5’10”, 173 lbs. frame he covers the puck quite well. Kuchejda is an intense forward who inspires with his never-give-up attitude. He fights for the pucks a lot and sticks his nose into tight corner battles. His combative play is very helpful for the linemates, David is a smart passer with a huge portion of vision and hockey sense. He possesses sharp instincts and is particularly lethal around the goal area thanks to his solid nose for the net. He is a crafty puckhandler who takes advantage of his soft hands. David has a good slap shot which only could be more harder, his wrist shot has a fast release and is of decent accuracy. On the downside he could show more defensive awareness in his game, he tends to concentrate on offense and forget about his own end.

Resting takes most of David’s free time. He knows that strength is important for the games and he relaxes a lot. That also by listening to music, he prefers to listen to the latest hits played on the radio and doesn’t have any special style he would like. David finished the elementary school last year and now he is learning the cabinetmaker’s trade. He probably won’t install new locker rooms on his own, but is aware that he has to visit school regularly. David isn’t very choosy as far as food is concerned and to drink he also drinks everything except of alcohol.

For next season has David a clear goal. He wants to win a regular roster spot with the Ceske Budejovice juniors as an underager and have a taste of the junior Extraleague. After the next season will David decide whether to come over to play in the CHL or not. Represented by agent Milan Kasparek, David tends to stay home and take the European route to the NHL, but there is plenty of time left before he’ll finally decide. No matter what route he’ll take, he’ll definitely be considered as one of the best Czech prospects for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Good luck!