Czech 2004 prospects: Matej Kos

By Robert Neuhauser
During the communist regime, the Czech city of Kladno was known for two things: high-quality
steel and developing top hockey prospects. Now nearly fourteen years after the fall of the
iron curtain, only the quality prospects remain. Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Montreal Canadiens talent Tomas Plekanec
and Florida Panthers’ Petr Taticek all hail from Kladno. Another in the long list of NHL prospects from Kladno is Matej Kos.

It was Kos’ grandfather who started him in hockey. His parents wanted their son to spend his free time participating in a sport and not sitting at home. The grandfather knew all the hockey coaches in Matej’s native city Kladno, so everything pointed Kos to the hockey arena. There Kos was enrolled in the entry level team. At that time he was just four years old, but already at the beginning of his career. Even though he had to learn how to skate and hold the stick before he could play, his talent for sports was immediately visible. Kos was among the fastest-learning kids and was eager to upgrade his skills at every practice.

At the very first practices Kos also got his nickname, the one he stills has now. From the first year of his career Matej was called by the coaches and teammates ‘Kosak’ from his surname (Kos means blackbird in Czech). Matej’s dedication to hockey and strong work ethic helped the coaches in the decision on who would serve as the captain for the Kladno 1986-borns team.

Kos used his slick skating and good hockey sense to create a solid offensive output, which helped the team at various tournaments. Kos grabbed an individual trophy at almost every tournament he played in, often going home with a trophy for the Top forward, Top scorer or even Tournament MVP. Kos has a lot of awards from his mite and pee-wee years, like every Czech player who can be counted as a NHL prospect.

Kos’ skills and leadership helped him to gain a reputation as one of the most talented kids in the region. He was already playing in the system of an Extraleague team, so he didn’t need to move anywhere in order to face better competition and take advantage of a better coaching staff, unlike the prospects from non-Extraleague teams. Kladno pee-wee coach Tomas Simacek, who coached the Kladno 1986-borns for three years between the 6th and 8th grade, worked with Kos a lot, recognizing his talent and giving him tips on how to make use of it.

It’s no wonder that when Coach Cihar was gathering the top pee-wee aged players for the 1999-2000 edition of the International Pee-Wee Tournament in Quebec City, Matej Kos was invited to the team. All the top Czech 1986-born players were playing under the name of the Chomutov team. Matej recorded 4 points for 4 assists in the exhibition games before the main tournament, where he went scoreless. The Czech suffered an early exit there. They scored just three goals and were eliminated after two games.

The next season Matej Kos stood out among the Kladno 9th grade players, so Kladno midget coaches Jiri Kopecky and Petr Taticek, father of Florida Panthers first-rounder of the same name, promoted Kos for a cup of coffee with the midget team. In 2000-2001 was Kos an underager on the midget team, learning the tools of the midget Extraleague trade. Kos skated 7 games with the Kladno midgets in his rookie season, recording 3 points for 1 goal and 2 assists, a +/- of +5 and 2 PIMs.

The next season Kos had full-time duty with the Kladno midget team and he showed lots of promise thanks to his smart playing style and an upgraded defensive awareness. Kos got rid of the label ‘one-dimensional’ as he began to show a bigger commitment to the defensive duties. He had to play part of the season at the left wing, even if his natural position is center. On a sub-par Kladno team Kos played 44 games, notching 30 points for 16 goals and 14 assists, a very respectable +/- of +17 and 14 PIMs.

At the end of the 2001-2002 season, Matej made his second trip to North America. The Kladno midgets took part in a tournament played in Seattle. This time the trip was way more succesfull than in the pee-wee category and Kladno won the tournament. Then they made the trip over the Canadian border to play an exhibition game in Vancouver. After Kladno won the game, the whole team was awarded for their play with an invitation to a NHL game of the local Vancouver Canucks. Seeing the NHL with his own eyes was a huge experience for Matej, who is a Vancouver Canucks fan now because of it. He also calls Swedish Canucks standout Markus Naslund his hockey role model, along with Finnish stars Teemu Selanne of the San Jose Sharks and Saku Koivu from the Montreal Canadiens.

Matej Kos is a solid skater who takes advantage of his balance, but could use a bit more agility in his play. A talented playmaker, Kos sees the ice very well and is adept at finding passing lanes unseen by the others. He is blessed with above-average vision but possesses also considerable finishing skills. He drives hard to the net, using his persistence around the goal crease. Kos has an adequate slap shot and a very good wrist shot, which has a fast release. Kos can also take care of his own end thanks to his solid defensive awareness. He is average in the faceoff circle and could also work on his physical play. He stands at 5’10”, 150 lbs. now and doesn’t emerge as a physical presence. Bulking up will be essential in his progress. Right now he is soft by North American standards, but overall a decent prospect.

This season the Kladno midget team was boosted with young rookies from their exceptional 9th grade team and the team had a championship run. Matej Kos had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders as he was selected captain of the 2002-2003 Kladno midgets. He found himself at the center position again, with Radek Smolenak and underager Michael Frolik on the wings. Matej made use of all his midget Extraleague experience and has avoided any slumps during the regular season. He consistently showed up, often creating scoring chances for the sniper Radek Smolenak. The Kladno midgets won the regular season of the midget Extraleague, maintained their spot in the Final group and qualified for the playoff without further trouble. There they made it all the way into the finals against Vsetin midgets. In a tight best-of-five series, the Kladno midgets claimed the championship trophy in the fifth and final contest. For Matej Kos it is the biggest success of his career so far. As the team’s captain he hoisted the trophy for the midget Extraleague first, a moment he treasures. The skilled Matej Kos dressed up for 53 midget games this season and averaged more than a point per game with 69 points for 32 goals and 37 assists, an even +/- and 48 PIMs.

After being overlooked in the Under-16 category, Matej Kos finally made his international debut this season with the Czech Under-17 team. Coaches Jaromir Sindel and Zdenek Cech have invited him to three three-game series. In the first game the young Czechs squared off against the Finns, in the second against the Swiss team and in the last against the German Under-17 team. Kos showed his playmaking talent and a strong vision when he finished his first international season with 9 games and 6 points for no goals and 6 assists.

Besides attending hockey practices and playing games, Kos is still in school. He is in his second year of studies at the secondary school of construction engineering, the same school which future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr attended. In his free time Matej likes to do all kinds of sports, with soccer being his favorite. He spends lots of time resting and rebuilding his strength for the games. Matej likes to listen to hard rock music. He lists the Czech group Kabat and the German group Rammstein among his favorites. Among movies Kos prefers to watch the Australian actor Russell Crowe in the ‘Gladiator’. Foodwise Matej prefers sirloin from his grandmother and a bottle of multivitamin to drink.

For the next season has Matej Kos clear goals. He wants to stay with his parent team and fight for a regular spot on the junior team. He is no longer midget Extraleague eligible in 2003-2004, so he will be promoted to the juniors. After the following season Kos hopes to be drafted. The NHL is his biggest dream and Kos has some chances to hear his name called in Raleigh, Carolina at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

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