Under-18 WJC: Czech Republic Team Review

By Robert Neuhauser


Jakub Cech
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Birthdate: August, 13th, 1985
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 180 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 2GP 80MIN 35SOG .857 SVP 3.75GAA 0SO

Jakub Cech was slotted as the starter of the Czech team, but after a solid opener against Kazakstan then a shaky first period against Canada, he lost his job to underager Marek Schwarz. Cech didn’t see any more action after this. Primarily a standup goalie, Cech boasts a very solid frame, which enables him to cover lots of net.
He has a good leg speed, which makes him very strong down low. Cech likes to challenge the shooter and knows how to play his angles. He learned how to play in control and upgraded his mental focus. His anticipation of plays also made some strides forward. Cech is getting better in this skill.
Cech has to further improve his skating and movement in the crease if he wants a solid career in pro hockey. His stickhandling isn’t his strongest asset either.

Marek Schwarz
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: April, 1st, 1986
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 173 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 5GP 280MIN 166SOG .9398SVP 2.14GAA 0SO

Schwarz took away the starting job from Jakub Cech to finish with the highest save percentage of all Under-18 WJC netminders. Schwarz had his ups and downs during the tournament, but overall he registered a very good showing and will be relied upon heavily in the next year. He was also voted the Czech player of the game three times.
Schwarz proved that he 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.
On the mental side he seems to be tough, but still sometimes tends to lose focus for a moment.
His drawbacks are average skating and he has to further develop his stickhandling.


Martin Tuma
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov Jr.
Birthdate: September, 14th, 1985
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 202 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 29PIM

The player with the most impressive size of all the Czech players didn’t impress a lot at the Under-18 WJC. Tuma displayed his nasty side with some hard hits, but also took a lot of penalties. He had flaws in the defensive zone coverage and is still raw in the decisions with the puck. His draft stock likely won’t see a rise after the tournament. Tuma posesses a very solid size and is working diligently on making
his frame to his advantage. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and is willing to sacrifice his body when needed.
Tuma has a very hard slap shot and can be used as
a point man on the powerplay, but at the Under-18 WJC he didn’t unleash it very often.

Ladislav Smid
Team: HC Bili Tygri Liberec Jr.
Birthdate: February, 1st, 1986
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 180 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 2PIM

Ladislav Smid, with his good size, was one of the defensive anchors of the Czech team. He concentrated more on the defensive side than on supporting the offense and was very steady even if one year younger than most of the players. In fact he finished with the best +/- of all the Czech defensemen, showing his reliability. He also wasn’t reluctant to fire pucks quite often.
One of biggest assets of Smid is his very smooth puckhandling and an ability to handle huge
traffic extremely well. On defense, Smid
is positionally sound and plays a smart game. He isn’t a hard hitter, but threw a few solid hits at the tournament.
Only his skating is still a
question mark. It is decent for a big man like him, but could definitely use some polishing.
Smid also needs to learn how to keep his game simpler and not to overhandle the puck and cause trouble for himself.

Lukas Pulpan
Team: HC Keramika Plzen Jr.
Birthdate: June, 23rd, 1985
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 181 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 1G 4A 5P 10PIM

The arguably best Czech defenseman, Lukas Pulpan challenged for the defensemen’s scoring crown, but finished second to Brent Seabrook from Canada. Pulpan registered his usual showing with lots of offensive flair and deft passing skills. He was also a frequent shooter and matched the opponents with speed. Size will hold him from being a legitimate prospect, but overall he had a very good showing.
Diminutive Pulpan is a strong skater with good speed, balance and agility. With
these attributes he tries to compensate for his severe size deficiency, but Pulpan won’t probably
ever be much of a physical presence, even if he has precise timing of his hits and doesn’t fear playing hard. Pulpan sees the ice well and is
capable of very accurate outlet passes. If he were at least two inches taller, the scouts would be drooling.

Lukas Spelda
Team: HC Slavia Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 6th, 1985
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 192 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 16PIM

The Under-18 WJC didn’t see the best of Lukas Spelda. The mid-sized blueliner refused to contribute offensively and was erratic in his own zone. This led the coaches to the decision to cut Spelda’s playing time a bit. He saved his performance from being awful with a reliable play in shorthanded situations, but more was expected from him.
Lukas Spelda is a talented blueliner with a decent offensive upside as he can distribute the puck with poise and smarts. An average skater, Spelda has an unusual stride, but is working on making it effective. 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.

Petr Machacek
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice Jr.
Birthdate: October, 18th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 165 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 2PIM

Machacek played on the first line alongside Lukas Vomela and tried to mix solid positional play with decent offensive flair. His lack of size and strength was visible against the more physical opponents, but Machacek made up for this with his intensity. He would be more effective if he would keep his game more simple and control the puck more.
Machacek showed that he is a slick waterbug on his skates. 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.

Lukas Bolf
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: February, 20th, 1985
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 190 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 1G 2A 3P 30PIM

Lukas Bolf had an average tournament by all standards. He put his solid offensive upside on display, but also was relatively slow in his own zone as far as decision making is concerned. His defensive zone coverage was suspect at times and the opposition could outplay him. If he were a bigger force defensively, he would be among the best Czech players.
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. On the downside Bolf has to further improve his positioning and defensive zone coverage, which was visible at the Under-18 WJC.

Petr Horava
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: July, 22nd, 1985
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 165 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 6PIM

Petr Horava impressed with an above-average performance. He wasn’t afraid to mix things up despite his smallish size and he frequently unleashed his shot. Only more speed would make him better, but he did everything what was asked from him.
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 solid passer. The Under-18 WJC was a success, but Horava has to show up more consistently.

Lukas Vomela
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Birthdate: September, 25th, 1985
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 180 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 1A 1P 6PIM

Big and steady, Lukas Vomela was paired with Ceske Budejovice teammate Petr Machacek. Vomela played his defensive role quite well, without many mistakes and used his frame occasionally.
He didn’t join the rush many times, but was reliable in his own end. One of the more pleasant surprises and a possible 2004 pick.
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. 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.


Vojtech Polak
Team: HC Energie Karlovy Vary
Birthdate: June, 27th, 1985
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 184 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 3G 2A 5P 18PIM

The team’s captain and a leading personality on and off the ice, Vojtech Polak filled his role quite well. He was firing the pucks a lot, scoring three goals and also getting quality chances. The only mark on his performance was the fact that he didn’t score the game-breaking goals when it was needed most, especially in the quarterfinal game.
A dazzling right winger, Polak is probably the most pure offensive player on the Czech team. He is an extremely talented forward who rules in the offensive zone. Once on the puck, he always looks for a way to fire the puck using his lightning-quick wrister or his strong slap shot. 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. Also doesn’t contribute defensively a lot. Is on the edge of the first round, may be drafted lower than previously expected.

Jakub Sindel
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 24th, 1986
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 162 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 4G 1A 5P 4PIM

A pure finsher, Jakub Sindel was asked to score goals, a job he did well, emerging as the best sniper of the Czech team. He didn’t impress on the defensive aspect of his game, but was counted on to create offense. Even if the center position isn’t for the natural right winger a favorite one, Sindel registed a good performance and helped his stock.
An explosive skater with an effective stride, Sindel takes advantage of his speed to slip through defenses. He is a crafty stickhandler who handles the puck well with his soft hands and possesses very good offensive 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 bigger force against the more physical opponents.

Ivo Kratena
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: May, 7th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 176 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 2G 3A 5P 0PIM

Ivo Kratena wasn’t counted on to be a leader of the team, but he did his best at this tournament. He gave an intense performance with good defensive awareness. He had an all-round role and could chip in offensively.
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’s not that fast. On the downside Kratena is quite soft, he doesn’t use his body a lot and has trouble handling the physical aspect of the game.

Lukas Kaspar
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Birthdate: September, 23rd, 1985
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 190 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 2G 2A 4P 6PIM

Lukas Kaspar was expected to form a lethal duo with Rostislav Olesz, but this time this combo didn’t click well. Kaspar wasn’t in the best playing shape and even though he notched four points, a player of his caliber should also step up as a leading personality, which he unfortunately didn’t. Kaspar is 2004 eligible, so it won’t affect his draft stock that much, he still can show up in the next season and earn first-round consideration.
Kaspar 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. He handles the puck extremely well with
his soft hands and is blessed with a good nose for the net. He knows many ways to
score goals and uses both his wrist and slap shots with ease and accuracy.
The things to work on for him are his agility, defensive awareness and consistency, Kaspar has to show up regularly, which was proved once again at the Under-18 WJC, where he had his down.

Rostislav Olesz
Team: HC Vitkovice
Birthdate: October, 10th, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 198 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 2G 3A 5P 4PIM

The player with the most experience from senior hockey of all the players on the team, Rostislav Olesz was expected to support Vojtech Polak in the captain’s role. Olesz showed lots of character, but couldn’t avoid some ups and downs in his play. He has put grit, toughness and skill on display, but there was a bit of showing up in the most important games missing in calling this a real success of Olesz.
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 solid in the faceoff circle.

Jakub Petruzalek
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Birthdate: April, 24th, 1985
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 158 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 1G 0A 0P 0PIM

Jakub Petruzalek was invited to the team to boost the offense, but he didn’t produce as expected. His smallish frame prevented him from having success against the more physical opponents. On the defensive side he was almost a non-factor, so his play at the tournament was disappointing.
Jakub Petruzalek utilizes his speed to make up for his severe size deficiency. Another of his upsides is his deceptive puckhandling. 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. Petruzalek lacks physical strength and isn’t a force in his own zone. Defensive play isn’t among his strengths. He is better suited for a career in Europe and his Under-18 WJC showing contributed to this judgement.

Karel Hromas
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 27th, 1986
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 189 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 6PIM

Hromas edged out Michal Pesek to secure a spot on the Czech Under-18 WJC team and never made the coaches regret their decision. Hromas showed up as a grinder and played a feisty all-round game. He displayed a strong attitude and a willingness to help out the defense. Overall a very good performance, only the offensive output lacked.
He brings an aggresive style to the mix, shutting down the offensive weapons of the opposition regularly with his above-average defensive awareness. Hromas isn’t afraid to hit and perform in heavy traffic either. He possesses a very good quickness for a big man, and has a good stride and balance. His agility has still some way to go, but his skating is fairly good. 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 Hromas still needs to further improve his puckhandling skills. He doesn’t have the best hands and his variety of shots is also only average. But his 2004 draft stock will rise, he will emerge as an early-rounder.

Milan Hluchy
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: January, 13th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 178 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 1A 1P 6PIM

The Under-18 WJC saw Milan Hluchy start on the fourth line with minimum ice time but a spirited play and versatility propelled him to first-line duty. Hluchy showed a fearless style and could play on all three forward positions when needed. Also blessed with a commitment to the defensive aspect of the game, Hluchy turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and boosted his questionable draft chances.
Hluchy 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. He could use a bit more 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 as one of his upsides, too.

Vaclav Meidl
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Birthdate: May, 27th, 1986
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 195 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 2PIM

Vaclav Meidl should have provided feistiness and a physical presence thanks to his sturdy frame, but was only moderately successful. He also didn’t see much playing time on the fourth line, where he played both center and left wing. Meidl is a hard worker, but should use his size more in order to be more effective.
A decent skater for a player of his size, Meidl could use better speed, but turns quickly and does well in traffic. He is an excellent stickhandler with soft hands who drives hard to the net. He has average 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. Vaclav needs to show more intensity and determination, he can be a huge force when he has his day, but also disappear occasionally. The Under-18 WJC proved more the latter.

Michal Polak
Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Birthdate: January, 11th, 1985
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 185 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 6PIM

Michal Polak tried to make the most from his limited ice time. He was effective in the faceoff circle and was willing to take care of his own end, too. However, he wasn’t very succesful in providing offensive punch. He needs to work on his conditioning, too. Polak seemed to run out of steam in the late stages of the games.
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. He is an average stickhandler, but can maneuver quite 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, which makes his draft chances less likely.

Kamil Vavra
Team: HC CSOB Pojistovna Pardubice
Birthdate: January, 7th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 176 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 0G 0A 0P 2PIM

Almost a non-factor at the tournament, Kamil Vavra wasn’t able to find his game against the top competition of his age. A lack of agility and explosivness was visible and those things led to an offensive output equal zero. Not very helpful on the defensive side, Kamil Vavra had a bad tournament.
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 somewhat smoothly. 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 the hardness of his slapshot. 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. NHL teams will look elsewhere.

Zbynek Hrdel
Team: Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Birthdate: August, 19th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 190 lbs.
2003 Under-18 WJC stats: 6GP 1G 0A 1P 29PIM

A character guy, Zbynek Hrdel emerged as a valuable team player. He gave everything to the team’s success and didn’t hesitate to use his impressive frame. A tough cookie, Hrdel drew some unnecessary penalties thanks to his abrasive style of play. But his intense play was needed and Hrdel also chipped in offensively. He had a good tournament.
Hrdel is a determined forward who is involved in the games, playing 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 better 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. His draft chances are boosted with this showing.