Under-18 WJC: Team Czech Republic preview

By Robert Neuhauser

The Czech 2003 Under-18 WJC team:

Goaltenders

Jakub Cech
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Birthdate: August, 13th, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 176 lbs.

Big, agile and very poised, Jakub has learned how to make use of his strong instincts and reflexes. He is tough to beat on all initial shots, but isn’t also vulnerable to many rebounds. Cech has a good glove hand and is working on getting rid of the penchant for allowing relatively soft goals. He possesses fast legs, which make him strong down low. Jakub likes to challenge the shooter, anticipates the game quite well and knows how to play his angles. He learned how to play in control during the last seasons and upgraded his mental focus. On the downside Jakub has to further improve his skating and movement in the crease. His play with the stick isn’t his strong asset, too.

Marek Schwarz
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: April, 1st, 1986
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 173 lbs.

Marek posesses decent size, covers
the net quite well and plays with considerable poise. He shows a mix of stand-up and butterfly style which is very effective for him.
Schwarz is a resilient goalie with exceptional quickness and reflexes. He uses his pads
well and has a very quick glove hand. He likes to challenge the shooter and stays square to him.
Schwarz plays with confidence and doesn’t let in many bad goals.
On the mental side he seems to be tough, but still sometimes tends to loose focus for a moment.
His drawbacks are average skating and he has to further develop his stickhandling. Marek’s
play with the puck isn’t very good, but he is working on this skill.

Tomas Sturala
Team: HC Hame Zlin Jr.
Birthdate: January, 5th, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 167 lbs.

Tomas Sturala is a butterfly-style netminder who is
blessed with exceptionally fast reflexes and a mental toughness, Tomas is a very resilient goalie
with a good dexterity. He is very tough to beat on all initial shots and has a good
control of all rebounds thanks to his quickness. He doesn’t like much traffic in front of him. Tomas has
a fast glove hand and is quickly back on his skates after dropping to a butterfly. Tomas
has a very good focus and doesn’t let a bad goal bother him. He has has an average
stickhandling ability, he isn’t a liability with the puck, but also isn’t great here.
He has a decent movement in the crease and could still work on this skill. Thanks to his
smallish frame size he doesn’t cover much of the net with his body, but makes up
for this drawback with his superb agility and quickness.

Defensemen

Martin Tuma
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov Jr.
Birthdate: September, 14th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 202 lbs.

Martin Tuma posesses a very solid size and is working dilligently on making
his frame to his advantage. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and is willing to sacrifice his body when needed.
Martin is a good warrior along the boards, but can clear the crease with more intensity and toughness.
On the defensive side Martin uses his good reading of plays and solid positioning to
avoid defensive zone gaffs or creating odd-man rushes, but is still quite raw and can use
better decision making with the puck. He is a solid outlet passer, however he can still work
on this skill and show good passes on a regular basis. Martin has a very hard slap shot which is easily tippable and can be used as
a pointman on the powerplay. Mobility and skating isn’t a problem for him as he can rule the
defensive zone with his smooth stride and hockey sense. One more thing for him would be a better
control of his emotions, he tends to loose his temper at times.

Ladislav Smid
Team: HC Bili Tygri Liberec Jr.
Birthdate: February, 1st, 1986
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 180 lbs.

One of biggest assets of Ladislav Smid is his very smooth puckhandling and an ability to handle huge
traffic extremly well. Ladislav is a terrific stickhandler and is very adept at making accurate
outlet passes with precise timing. His solid slap shots contribute to his offensive flair,
Ladislav only needs to release it more frequently. On the defensive aspect of his game Ladislav
is positionally sound and plays a smart game. He isn’t a hard hitter, he relies more
on his superb vision and reading of plays, which enables him to foresee what will happen
and rule the defensive zone without the need of using his nasty side.
Toughness will be a thing for him to work on, just like his skating, which is still a
question mark. It is decent for a big man like him, but could definitely use some polishing.
Ladislav also needs to learn how to keep his game more simple and not to overhandle the puck,
thus bringing himself into trouble sometimes.

Lukas Pulpan
Team: HC Keramika Plzen Jr.
Birthdate: June, 23rd, 1985
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 181 lbs.

Diminutive Lukas Pulpan is a strong skater with good speed, balance and agility. It is
extremly hard for the opposing forwards to outskate him or catch him out of position thanks to his very good positional play. With
this fact he tries to compensate his severe size deficiency, at 5’9”, 181 lbs. Lukas won’t probably
ever be much of a physical presence, even if he has precise timing of his hits and doesn’t fear to play hard. Pulpan sees the ice very well and is
capable of very accurate outlet passes. Also useful as a powerplay quarterback, Lukas has
a decent offensive flair, but could work on his shots from the point a bit. He handles the
puck well with his soft hands and has a very good hockey sense. Lukas is a waterbug on the
defense and has everything but size.

Lukas Spelda
Team: HC Slavia Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 6th, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 192 lbs.

Lukas Spelda is a talented blueliner with a decent offensive upside as he can distribute the pucks with poise and smarts. An average skater, Spelda uses a stride which isn’t very typical, but is working on making it effective for himself. Spelda is a deceptive puckhandler who brings in adequate vision and hockey sense. His shooting skills are just average, he could work on both accuracy and hardness to make it better. Spelda is positionally sound and doesn’t make many mistakes here, but isn’t much of a physical force. He needs to use his body more and show a nasty edge in his play. Spelda relies on his skill more than on toughness and possesses solid instincts.

Petr Machacek
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice Jr.
Birthdate: October, 18th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 165 lbs.

If it wasn’t for his size, better to say lack thereof, Petr Machacek would be among the top defensemen of his draft class. Machacek is a slick waterbug on his skates, he is very agile and possesses a deceptive quickness. Positionally quite sound, Machacek uses his hockey sense to keep the opponents off the scoring chances. He has a decent offensive upside, Machacek is able to make crisp passes, but has to work on his decision making with the puck more. His shooting skills are average, his shots are quite accurate but not very hard. The main thing he lacks is size and strength. Even if he does his best, he gets outmuscled by bigger and stronger opponents, who can outplay him. He tries to make up for this evident drawback with his intensity and spirited play.

Lukas Bolf
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: February, 20th, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.

Returned from his stint in the top Finnish junior league, but didn’t register a more than average season. Even then, Lukas Bolf will be counted on to take one of the bigger roles on the Czech team. A sturdy blueliner, Bolf is a fluid skater who brings a nice offensive flair to the mix. He is a good outlet passer and he uses his long reach effectively. Bolf quite frequently joins the offensive rush and has solid shooting skills, he only needs to showcase them more frequently. On the downside Bolf has to further improve his positioning and defensive zone coverage. He tends to do mistakes when pressed by an opponent and is still very raw. He could show more of a nasty edge in his play, too.

Petr Horava
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: July, 22nd, 1985
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 165 lbs.

A smallish defenseman, Horava is a good puck-carrier and has a decent offensive flair. He is a solid skater and can take advantage of his mobility, but balance is one of the things to work on for him, he gets knocked off the puck too easily sometimes. Horava is a smooth stickhandler and a very good passer. However, he doesn’t shoot the puck very often, even if his shots are quite accurate. He is a smart player, but not very physical. The jury is out on his consistency, Horava is still quite raw and tends to be streaky. His major drawback is his diminutive frame and lack of strength, which makes corner battles and clearing the crease tougher for him.

Lukas Vomela
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Birthdate: September, 25th, 1985
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 180 lbs.

Blessed with a tall frame, Vomela concentrates on having his defensive duties done before he occasionally joins the rush and shows his offensive side. A decent skater for a player of his size, Vomela could still use more mobility, which would make his defensive zone coverage more effective. He is a good shooter from the point and has deceptive passing skills. He tries to keep his game simple and is coveted for his reliability. Vomela plays a sound positional game, but for a player of his size he could show a bigger physical edge and a mean streak. Bulking up will be essential for him.

Forwards

Vojtech Polak
Team: HC Energie Karlovy Vary
Birthdate: June, 27th, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 184 lbs.

A dazzling right winger, Polak is probably the most pure offensive player on the Czech team. Having grown nearly two inches over the last year, Polak is bigger now but quite skinny and has some filling out to do. Polak is an extremly talented offensive forward who rules in the offensive zone. Once on the puck, he always looks for a way to fire it using his lightning-quick wrister or his strong slap shot. Blessed with a nose for the net, Polak is a tremendous skater with an excellent agility. A smooth puckhandler, Polak relies more on his top-notch skill than on physical play, he is still soft and doesn’t like the tough style. He has made some strides in his defensive awareness and play away from the puck, but still needs to get better in this skill. An offensive whiz, Polak is looking to make use from his experience already with the senior national team.

Jakub Sindel
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 24th, 1986
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 162 lbs.

Jakub Sindel is most likely going to play center of the line with Vojtech Polak and Ivo Kratena on the wings, even if he is a natural right winger. With this solution the coaches solve the lack of good centers. An explosive skater with an effective stride, Sindel take advantage of his speed to slip through defenses. Blessed with a nose for the net, Sindel thrives in one-on-one situations just like on powerplay units. A very good vision and hockey sense to go along with solid passing skills make from him an excellent offensive package. A crafty stickhandler, Sindel handles the puck well with his soft hands and possesses very good instincts. He is working on improving the defensive aspect of his game, but is no defensive forward. Another drawback for Sindel is his skinny frame, he has to bulk up if he wants to be a force against physical opponents.

Ivo Kratena
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: May, 7th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 176 lbs.

Ivo Kratena is the former left winger of the great line with Petr Vrana at center and Vojtech Polak at right wing. He will be reunited with Polak for the tournament and will look to make use of their chemistry. Blessed with terrific hands, Kratena handles the puck very smoothly and is adept at distributing it effectively to the teammates. He possesses an adequate hockey sense to go along with a solid defensive awareness. He is willing to help out the defense and is a good skater, even if he could use more speed in his play. On the downside Kratena is quite soft, he doesn’t use his body a lot and has trouble to handle the physical aspect of the game. He needs to work on his shooting skills more, he has a decent wrister but his slap shot lacks accuracy. The last thing would be consistency, he can be great but also disappear from the ice in the other game.

Lukas Kaspar
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Birthdate: September, 23rd, 1985
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 190 lbs.

Lukas 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. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and fights along the boards and in front
of the net a lot. Kaspar is a solid skater for a player of his size with a decent burst of speed. He 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. Once on a scoring chance he utilizes on his instincts to be lethal for the opposing goalies.
The things to work on for him are his agility, defensive awareness and consistency, Kaspar has to show up regularly.

Rostislav Olesz
Team: HC Vitkovice
Birthdate: October, 10th, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 198 lbs.

Along with Vojtech Polak has Rostislav Olesz to deal with a leading role on the team. A player without any glaring weakness, Olesz is a character guy who gives everything to the team’s success and is very aware defensively, helping his defensemen quite a lot. He is a solid skater with a good balance and deceptive quickness also thanks to his superior leg strength. Olesz has a superb vision which enables him to control the play of the whole line. He shoots and passes equally well and has an exquisite puckhandling ability. Olesz takes advantage of his sturdy body to rule as a hard hitter and is very solid in the faceoff circle. He doesn’t tend to take an odd shift off and can challenge for the first overall pick next year.

Jakub Petruzalek
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Birthdate: April, 24th, 1985
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 158 lbs.

Not a household name even among the Czech draft followers, Petruzalek has cracked into the international competition relatively lately and is heading for his first major junior tournament. A tremendous skater with a fast acceleration, Petruzalek utilizes on his speed to match for his severe size deficiency. Another of his upsides is his deceptive puckhandling and a good hockey sense. Petruzalek is lethal around the goal area thanks to his above-average smarts and finishing skills. He is dangerous in one-on-one situations and also on the powerplay units. Petruzalek lacks physical strength and isn’t a force in his own zone, the defensive play isn’t among his strengths. He is better suited for a career in Europe, but he can be a factor alongside teammate Lukas Kaspar at the Under-18 WJC. The two form a good duo and with a center like Rostislav Olesz they can turn out to be a pleasant suprise.

Karel Hromas
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 27th, 1986
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 189 lbs.

Karel Hromas recorded a growth spurt thanks to which he is already blessed with a huge frame. He brings an aggresive style to the table, shutting down the offensive weapons of the opposition regularly with his above-average defensive awareness. Hromas doesn’t hesitate to get involved into tight corner battles. Hromas isn’t afraid to hit and perform in heavy traffic, too. He emerges as a solid physical presence, utilizing on his frame. He possesses a very good quickness for a big man, Karel has a good stride and balance. His agility has still some way to go, but Karel’s skating is fairly good. He uses his long reach effectively and is a good passer. Hromas has a decent vision and hockey sense to go along with a never-give-up attitude, which is coveted by the coaches. On the downside Karel still needs to further improve his puckhandling skills, he doesn’t have the best hands and his variety of shots is also only average. He could work on the accuracy and hardness of both his wrist and slap shots in order to be a more complete player.

Milan Hluchy
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: January, 13th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 178 lbs.

After going nearly unnoticed in the last season, Milan Hluchy broke through this year with some impressive showings even against the international competition. Hluchy plays at least two inches taller than his size, he isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and will get physically involved in the corners. Hluchy is a very good skater who can accelerate well and is quite agile. He boasts a solid variety of shots but has to unleash his hard slapper more often. Milan could use a bit more of vision in his play, he is an adequate passer, but could be better in this skill. He is making strides in improving his defensive game, so that he can’t be described as a defensive liability. Versatility can be counted to his upsides, he can play both wings very well.

Vaclav Meidl
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Birthdate: May, 27th, 1986
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 195 lbs.

Even if Vaclav Meidl is the youngest player on this year’s edition of the Czech Under-18 team, he has already made his senior Extraleague debut. A decent skater for a player of his size, Meidl needs more speed in his play, but delivers fast turns and emerges as a traffic guy. He is an excellent stickhandler and maneuvers well even through heavy traffic. Meidl possesses soft hands and drives hard to the net. He isn’t afraid of throwing his body around and is a solid physical presence. Meidl fights for the pucks in the corners and positiones himself in front of the net, where he looks for rebounds. He has solid offensive instincts to go along with a nice vision. Meidl is a good passer and his wrist shot is released fast, but his slap shot could use more accuracy. He is aware defensively and shows signs of developing into a reliable two-way forward. Vaclav needs to show more intensity and determination, he can be a huge force when he has his day, but also disappear occasionally.

Michal Polak
Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Birthdate: January, 11th, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 185 lbs.

Michal Polak didn’t have an overly good WHL season and is looking to prove himself at the Under-18 WJC. He will probably fill the grinder’s role, which can suit him quite well. He possesses solid intensity and determination to go along with a good attitude and is a coachable player. Polak isn’t an impressive skater, he could use a smoother stride and a bigger portion of speed in his play. He is a decent puckhandler and can maneuver well through traffic. Polak has a solid defensive awareness and he often comes back to help out the defense. He isn’t a feared physical presence, but his all-round game will be helpful for the Czech team when he shows all his talent.

Kamil Vavra
Team: HC CSOB Pojistovna Pardubice
Birthdate: January, 7th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 176 lbs.

A spot on the third or fourth line is probably here for the smallish winger who will try to make use of his smarts and playmaking talent. Vavra is an average skater who needs to improve on his agility and acceleration, but has soft hands and is able to handle the puck with decent smoothness. Vavra has a decent vision and is able to make solid plays, but is still raw. His finishing skills are considerable, even if he has to work on his slap shot more especially as far as hardness is concerned. He doesn’t refuse to play defensively, but is average in this aspect. More of a finesse forward, Vavra won’t throw thunderous hits on the opponents and his traffic play is only adequate. But he is a versatile player and can be used at center, too.

Zbynek Hrdel
Team: Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Birthdate: August, 19th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 190 lbs.

After his rookie season in the ‘Q’, Hrdel emerges as a solid physical presence, often throwing his body around and fighting for the pucks in the corners. He is a determined forward who is involved in the games, playing them with lots of heart. An adequate skater for a player of his size, Hrdel possesses a solid balance, but could be both more faster and agile. One of his strongest assets is his good variety of shots, Hrdel shoots the pucks quite often and is a hard shooter. He could use more vision and work on his passing skills in order to become an all-round forward. He isn’t a defensive liability but could show a bigger commitment to the defensive duties.