Czech 2004 prospects: Jan Dusatko

By Robert Neuhauser
Like every year, numerous Czech prospects will travel across the sea to make the transition to the CHL. The Czechs supplied the major juniors in Canada with many players throughout the years and the stream goes on. One of the most likely players to make the jump in this year’s crop is Sparta Praha forward Jan Dusatko.

As a son of a former soccer player, Jan Dusatko should be destined more for a soccer career than a hockey one. When Jan was a small kid, his father wanted him to play some organized sport, but didn’t force him to start attending practices of ‘his’ soccer. He left the decision on Jan, who liked the two most popular sports in the Czech Republic – hockey and soccer. Jan began visiting the elementary school and some kids were already enrolled in various teams, so his steps led to the hockey arena quite soon. A native of Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic, Jan didn’t take his first strides in his hometown arena, but headed Svetla nad Sazavou to the practices and first games. It didn’t remain by this for a long time, though. Jan has spent only one year in Svetla nad Sazavou, learning how to skate and handle the puck. After that he packed his equipment and accepted an offer to return to his native Havlickuv Brod and start playing in the system of the local team.

In those years Jan’s life didn’t consist only from hockey. At the same time when he began to play organised hockey he also started to take part in soccer practices of the FC Ledec nad Sazavou team. For five years was Jan dedicated to both sports and soccer was helping him to improve his conditioning and stamina. But when Jan was about to move up to the 5th grade team of Havlickuv Brod, he felt that in hockey he will enjoy a more succesfull career and stopped attending the soccer practices due to lack of time.

Havlickuv Brod pee-wee coach Milan Kraucuk was aware of the fact that in Jan he has a special player on his team and was working a lot with him, giving Jan valuable tips how to make use of his strength to become an effective player. Jan was working out a lot in his free time, because he showed a combative style where power was needed. His attitude helped him to become the best player on his team and in the year when Jan skated with the Havlickuv Brod 7th grade team even the team’s captain. That season saw Jan, nicknamed ‘Dusi’ from his surname, record his first major success. He was voted the Top forward at a major tournament of the 7th grade teams, played in the Czech city Sokolov. The next year was also Jan’s final in the Havlickuv Brod team, but before he left, he could lead his team to an appearance at the final tournament of the 8th grade teams. there qualify only the top six teams from the whole Czech Republic. There he became the top goalscorer after an inspiring showing and it was clear that his days in the provincial city are counted.

Jan had a reputation of a coveted prospect and gained attraction from Extraleague teams, who always bring the most talented kids into their systems. The best offer came from the capital city, Sparta Praha has envisioned Jan as a potential boost for the senior team after a few years will pass and their staff finally agreed with Jan and his parents on Jan’s joining of the Sparta Praha 8th grade team. Jan skated with Sparta for the remainder of the season, but was focusing more on the next season, where he wanted to make the jump to the midget Extraleague as an underager.

Jan Dusatko is a gritty forward who is blessed with a very solid frame. At 6’2”, 180 lbs. he has still some filling out to do, but he is likely to reach his prime at about 6’3”, 200 lbs. A fierce competitor, Jan works hard on all shifts and he often comes back to help the defense thanks to his above-average defensive awareness. He doesn’t have an impressive hockey sense, but drives hard to the net, using his frame well. Jan has a hard slap shot with a fast release which he fires quite often. His wrister could see improvement especially in accuracy. Jan doesn’t shy away from the physical style and can dish out very solid hits. He isn’t afraid of positioning himself in front of the net, too. Jan is a smart puckhandler and a decent passer who can eventually fit the grinder’s role well. Improving on his skating will be essential for Jan as it is clearly his biggest drawback. Right now Jan lacks speed, balance and agility and swift-skating opponents can neutralise him sometimes. If he works on this skill enough, his pro career will be more near.

Jan, a Colorado Avalanche fan, felt that he is mature and physically strong enough to do well at the elite midget level as a 14-year old and Sparta Praha midget coaches Karel Najman and Milan Cerny liked what they saw from him, so they promoted him to the team. And Jan has never made them regret this decision. He had a hot start into the 2000-2001 midget season and kept scoring at a steady pace, emerging as one of the best underaged players of the midget Extraleague. He logged a solid portion of playing time for a rookie and finished with 46 games played, 17 goals, 13 assists for a total of 30 points, a +/- of +12 and 20 PIMs.

He could make use of his playing experience from the previous season in 2001-2002, when he was expected to step up and take a big role on the Sparta midget team. He met the expectations quite well and averaged more than a point per game on a prospect-stocked squad, where the likes of 2004 top prospects Marek Schwarz and Karel Hromas along with 2005 eligible stud Jakub Vojta were among his teammates. Skating on the elite two lines, Jan amassed 49 points for 25 goals and 24 assists in 42 games for the Sparta Praha midgets, with a whooping +/- of +36 and 44 PIMs.

His stellar performance from the previous season and lots of midget Extraleague experience qualified him for the role of one of the leaders of the new Under-16 team. He had a good showing at the selection camp and finally participated in all five tournaments of the Under-16 team’s schedule, including the top tourney, the Four Nations Tournament, played in Praha, Czech Republic. In 15 international contests Jan scored 10 points for 7 goals and 3 points, a +/- of +1 and 4 PIMs.

This season it was clear that Jan wouldn’t benefit from performing on the midget level for the third full season and Sparta Praha juniors head coach Stanislav Berger gave him a lift to the junior team. As a bonus, he could finally watch his hockey role model on a regular basis as slick forward Petr Leska signed with the Sparta Praha senior team. This season meant a slight step back for Jan who didn’t seem to find his game at the junior level and didn’t translate the success from the midgets. He had also to battle a concussion he suffered in November and forced him to sit out for ten days. Used sparingly on the third or fourth line, Jan dressed up for 30 junior games this season, registering 2 goals and 4 assists for a total of 6 points, an even +/- and 14 PIMs. In his last year of midget eligibility he was also occasionally sent down to help the midget team, where he proved his dominancy on this level. Jan played 13 games for Sparta midgets, with a total of 12 points for 3 goals and 9 assists, an even +/- and 8 PIMs.

However, he bouned back on the international level with some solid showings. Jan was among the leading scorers for the Czech team at the summer Five Nations Tournament of the Under-17 teams, played in the Czech Republic. Jan registered 3 points for 1 goal and 2 assists there. This was followed by another three-point effort in a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Finland, Jan notched 3 assists there. In late December the Czech Under-17 team made the trip to the United States, where they took part in the Four Nations Tournament, played in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jan found the net one time, recording his only point there. He wasn’t invited to the Europan’s Youth Olympics games, but was on the roster for the Four Nations Tournament in Podolsk, Russia last month. Also there he scored 1 goal, which remained his only point on this tourney. With one tournament to play in the international season, Jan stands at 8 points for 3 goals and 5 assists so far. He understands himself on the ice well with fellow 2004 prospects Michal Birner and Martin Bucek, which are his favorite linemates.

Jan isn’t a very superstitious player, in some way he even fights against superstitions. He prefers to wear the number 13 on his jersey, because everybody calls this number an unlucky one, but not Jan Dusatko. He wants to show that this superstition is a nonsense. His only superstition is the way how he comes to the blue line to greet the opposing team before each game.
In order to fully concentrate on hockey, Jan turned down his school education. He studied at a bussiness academy in Praha, but completed only the first year and last fall he decided that he needs more time for practicing and relaxing if he wants to become a pro athlete and is only taking English lessons now. Jan sleeps a lot between the games and practices to have enough strength. From other sports than hockey Jan prefers to play soccer of course and also squash. A music fan, Jan prefers to listen to rock music and lists woman singers Pink and Avril Lavigne among his favorites. From food he chooses mostly sirloin or tomato sauce with dumplings for his dinner and to drink a bottle of Fanta.

Having a season of the Czech junior Extraleague under his belt already this after season, Jan has clear plans for the upcoming campaign. He wants to come over to play in the CHL and take the North American route to the draft. From his showing in the CHL will also depend his position at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Good luck!