Czech 2003 prospects: Patrik Valcak

By Robert Neuhauser
Some prospects stand in the spotlight a long time before they hear their names selected in the draft, while the others aren’t household names also for die-hard draft fans. Virtually unknown even in the previous season, Patrik Valcak has earned a reputation of one of the better Czech prospects eligible for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in rapid time.

Patrik Valcak started his hockey career when he was about four years old. None of his relatives did play hockey, but his parents were hockey fans, so they brought their little son to the game. Patrik had to learn how to skate first but soon after he could keep balance on his skates and make a few strides, his steps took the direction hockey arena in his native city Ostrava. There he could choose between a number of teams based in Ostrava, he attended the first practices with the Sareza Ostrava team, but soon after that he felt that Vitkovice will help his development more. So from the very beginning of his career Patrik performed in the system of an Extraleague franchise.

He deserved the fact playing in Vitkovice only with the best kids from the third biggest Czech city Ostrava. Patrik showed a huge love for the game and every practice was a challenge for him. Thanks to this he also took huge strides in his play and skills because his strong attitude was supported by valuable tips from the coaches. Patrik emerged as one of the best skaters on the team and he could bring a huge portion of vision to the table. The coaches have put him in the back rows to play defense and Patrik didn’t worry about it. His leadership skills were considerable, too, so coach Stankovic has honored Patrik Valcak with giving him a ‘C’ on his jersey starting from the season Patrik should start performing for the 3rd grade team of Vitkovice.

As a second sport besides hockey, Patrik decided to take part in various organised bike races. His leg strength took a significant upgrade thanks to this, but Patrik wanted to concentrate only on hockey after some time, so he stopped participating in the bike races when he was ten years old. At that time came already his first successes in hockey. Even in the 3rd grade he claimed his first Best player trophy from a 3rd grades international tournament, played in Slovakia.
Patrik Valcak anchored the blue line of the Vitkovice team for two more seasons, but at that time it was also visible that he simply has too much offensive upside to be slotted as a rearguard.

Former goaltender and current pee-wee coach Jindrich Krawczynski took over the coaching duties in the Vitkovice 5th grade team and soon made the necessary change, which brought Patrik Valcak to the forward lines. He started contributing offensively immediately, which led to a Best forward trophy at a 5th grade tournament played in Hradec Kralove. Patrik was happy about playing forward, he didn’t need to stay back and focus on defense, now had his offensive raids a green light and he could think about nifty dekes and goals. He even got promoted to the one year older cathegory, because he had nothing to prove against kids of his own age.
Patrik Valcak, nicknamed ‘Valec’ from his surname (‘valec’ means cylinder in English), captained his Vitkovice 7th grade team at two major international tournaments in the 1996-97 season, at both he registered a solid performance. The first was played in Poprad, Slovakia, and Patrik went home with the Best forward trophy. The second tourney meant also Patrik’s first trip to North America, the Vitkovice 7th grade team took part in a tournament played in Philadelphia. There they could finish at the second place overall and leave some good impression.

Patrik Valcak is a slick skater with deceptive quickness. He possesses an effective stride and is able to reach top speed in a few strides. Patrik is blessed with a huge portion of vision and is a very smart playmaker. He often finds passing lanes which are unseen by other players, but has also adequate finishing skills. His wrist shot needs further polishing in the accuracy departement, but Patrik has a nice release. His slap shot is solid, quite hard but a bit too telegraphed. He is a hardworking player, playing the games with a high level of intensity. Valcak has a strong attitude and is a very coachable player. He doesn’t shy away from the physical stuff, throwing solid hits and posting himself in front of the opposing net. Patrik needs to develop the defensive aspect of his game more, he isn’t a total liability defensively, but it can’t be counted to his strengths.

His season for the 8th grade team was highlighted with an appearance at the Pardubice 8th grade teams tourney, where Patrik grabbed the Best forward trophy, but he was thinking already about competing at the midget level. Patrik felt that he is mature and physically strong enough to do well in the midget Extraleague as an underager. Yet still he dressed up for many 9th grade team games, under coach Radek Kuridym.

So Patrik felt that returning to the Sareza Ostrava team will provide him with a bigger role on the team, which just like Vitkovice performs in the midget Extraleague. In Sareza Patrik shared a solid amount of playing time for a rookie, because head coach Jaroslav Vlk was aware that getting Vitkovice 9th grade captain team was a steal and a boost for the team. Patrik got accustomed to the midget Extraleague in 1999-2000 and made some nice plays, which showed lots of promise for the future.

In 2000-2001 Patrik Valcak already was a mainstay in the forward corps of Jaroslav Vlk’s squad. He was logging lots of ice time and could be force thanks to his skills and experience. Patrik contributed consistently to the offensive output of his team and finished his midget Extraleague career in his last season with 29 points for 13 goals and 16 assists in 44 games to go along with a whooping +/- of +17 and 34 PIMs.

The next season, 2001-2002, was Patrik thanks to his late 1984 birthdate no longer midget Extraleague eligible, but made the leap to the junior Extraleague without further trouble. Being coached by ex-NHL defenseman Milos Holan, Patrik adjusted well to the pace of the junior game and displayed glimpses of finesse which made him a coveted prospect. The Ostrava juniors didn’t boast a very deep roster, so Patrik earned the powerplay time, too. Despite battling a back injury, he had a decent rookie season in the junior Extraleague with a top-notch finish. Overall Patrik registered in 45 games 25 points for 9 goals and 16 assists with a -4 and 44 PIMs, but played on fire in the last 12 games, when he averaged more than a point per game. That was also because of the fact that those games were against other teams from the relegation group and their defenses weren’t so good and tight. The finish saw Patrik Valcak record 13 points for 5 goals and 8 assists in 12 games.

Patrik picked up where he left in 2002-2003, his sophomore season on the elite junior level. As a bonus he began to show more of a nasty edge in his play and made clear that he upgraded his aggresiveness. He didn’t hesitate to throw his body around and his slick skating and soft hands made it impossible for the scouts to overlook him. On the CSB Preliminary Ranking Patrik was ranked 16th among the Czech skaters, but saw his stock take another rise to emerge as one of the surprises on the Mid-term rankings with his 23rd place overall among European skaters. An alternate captain of the Ostrava juniors, Patrik Valcak’s combo with Marek Badzo clicked well and the two understood each other on the ice well. Patrik is the best player of his junior team and recently he made his debut in senior hockey, helping out the Sareza Ostrava seniors in the Div II league. But before this he dressed up for 35 junior games, notching 12 goals and 17 assists for a total of 29 points, an even +/- and 102 PIMs.

This season Patrik Valcak finally made his international debut, too. As a late-bloomer from the junior point of view, he got overlooked in the three previous international seasons also because of the fact that his 1984 birthyear is one of the strongest in Czech hockey ever. Patrik has put on the international jersey for the first time in a three-game series between the Under-19 teams of Czech Republic and Finland last November. He went scoreless but didn’t look out of place against the international competition. So he was invited to the recent Five Nations Tournament of the Under-20 teams, played in the Czech Republic in the previous month. Skating mostly on the third or fourth line, Patrik registered his first international points and finished with 2 points for 2 assists in the 4 games.

Hockey is simply Patrik Valcak’s life. When he isn’t playing games or practicing, he is doing various workouts to improve his strength and stamina. He has respectable conditioning and maintained his attitude from the childhood, but is also resting in order to have strength for the games. As for hockey superstitions, Patrik has only always the same way how to prepare his sticks for the game. He is still continuing his education, attending the secondary school for sports in Ostrava. Patrik is in the third year of his studies at a school where also 2004 top prospects Rostislav Olesz and Petr Pohl visit the classes, joined by Czech 2003 WJC starting netminder Martin Falter. Patrik is a huge music fan and the techno style counts to his favorites. Among food Patrik mostly chooses food from chicken meat with pasta for his dinner.

A Tampa Bay Lightning fan, Patrik doesn’t mind what team will select him at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, but is looking forward to this event a lot. He is seriously considering coming over to play in the CHL at least one season, but that will depend from the situation after the draft what will his future NHL employer want him to do. CHL is a challenge for Patrik and he will stay home only if he’ll get an offer to play in the senior Extraleague. Along with his agent Jaromir Henys they are going to solve this situation in the upcoming months.