Future prospects: Czech youth hockey awards

By Robert Neuhauser
On Friday, May 16th, 2003, there was the annual Czech youth hockey award show held in Brno, Czech Republic. All players are honored according to their stats, so the winners are known already before the event. Some of this year’s
recipients are among prospects who have a chance on a NHL future someday. So let’s have a look at
who the lucky ones are!

Junior Extraleague

Best goaltender trophy: Miroslav Kopriva (HC Vagnerplast Kladno)
Birthdate: December, 5th, 1983
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 187 lbs.
NHL: was eligible in 2002
Stats: 1804MIN 848SVS 1.93GAA .9360SVP

Primarily a stand-up goalie, Miroslav Kopriva covers a lot of net with his size. He boasts solid reflexes and moves well in the crease. A hardworking netminder, Kopriva possesses good athleticism and doesn’t let a bad goal bother him thanks to his above-average mental toughness. Kopriva stays focused and is getting rid of the penchant for occasionally allowing a soft goal. He is tough to beat on all initial shots and has a solid control of the rebounds. The play with the stick isn’t among Kopriva’s strongest assets but he is working in this skill. Has some chances to be picked as a late-rounder in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Best defenseman trophy: Ctirad Ovcacik (HC Bili Tygri Liberec)
Birthdate: October, 17th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL: 2003 eligible
Stats: 55GP 9G 20A 29P 58PIM

Ovcacik moved to Liberec prior to this season after having played his whole previous career in HC Vitkovice. A swift skater, Ovcacik is soft by North American standards and doesn’t play a rough style, he relies more on his finesse. An offensive defenseman, Ovcacik likes to join the rush and he distributes the pucks effectively. He takes advantage of his solid vision and is useful on powerplay units. On the defensive side of his game Ovcacik has to further improve his positioning and work around the walls more. Will have a solid career in Europe but his NHL chances remain very low.

Best forward trophy: Marek Ditrich (HC Minor Prerov)
Birthdate: October, 28th, 1982
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 164 lbs.
NHL: was eligible in 2001
Stats: 48GP 23G 30A 53P 52PIM

The Prerov overager contributed a lot to the surprise of the Prerov team in this year’s edition of the junior Extraleague. Marek Ditrich’s strongest asset is his above-average skill level. He is a good skater and a smooth puckhandler. He can score and pass
equally well and has a very accurate wrist shot. Marek’s drawback is his lack of size and mostly strength. He can be pushed out of the scoring chances by the hulking defensemen and
definitely won’t rule along the boards. Marek can be considered soft and also could use
more aggresivness and a mean streak, sometimes is visible his lack of intensity. The defensive
side of his game isn’t still very developed and Marek has to work on it.

Best goalscorer trophy: Lubor Dibelka (Krokodyli HC Brno)
Birthdate: February, 22nd, 1983
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NHL: was eligible in 2001
Stats: 47GP 37G 23A 60P 18PIM

The former Erie Otters import pick Lubor Dibelka blossomed in his third season with the Brno juniors and managed to get a pro contract with HC Litvinov of the senior Extraleague for the next season. A smooth stickhandler with considerable finishing skills, Dibelka isn’t much of a physical presence but makes up for it with his solid skill level. Blessed with a good portion of vision, Dibelka is a solid skater for his size and can use his teammates well. His defensive play is average and he doesn’t play with much of an edge. Won’t ever become a NHL player but has chances on a decent career in Europe.

Midget Extraleague

Best goaltender trophy: Marek Schwarz (HC Sparta Praha)
Birthdate: April, 1st, 1986
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 171 lbs.
NHL: 2004 eligible
Stats: 938MIN 315SVS 1.47GAA .9320SVP

Schwarz is a resilient goalie with exceptional quickness and reflexes. He uses his pads
extremly well and has a quick glove hand. He also likes to challenge the shooter and plays
the angles well. Marek plays with poise and 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 while.
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 aware of this and working on this skill. Is a highly touted 2004 prospect who can slip into the first round.

Best defenseman trophy: Jakub Vojta (HC Sparta Praha)
Birthdate: February, 8th, 1987
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 172 lbs.
NHL: 2005 eligible
Stats: 48GP 14G 24A 38P 101PIM

Jakub Vojta is a good skater with solid lateral moves and pivots. His strongest asset is his above-average stickhandling and a huge portion of offensive flair. He handles
the puck very smoothly and likes to make nifty moves and dekes. Vojta has very good passing
skills to go along with his vision and hockey sense. His shots need some improvement, he
has to shoot more hard. Lack of toughness may be a problem for him, but Vojta relies on
his smart positional play instead. He isn’t throwing his body around, he just waits for the
right moment and takes the puck away from the opposing forward. Overall a solid 2005 prospect.

Best forward trophy: Vladimir Svacina (HC Sareza Ostrava)
Birthdate: April, 28th, 1987
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 155 lbs.
NHL: 2005 eligible
Stats: 45GP 33G 35A 68P 55PIM

Vladimir Svacina is a slick skater and an intense forward who inspires with his strong attitude. Svacina is a smart passer with a huge portion of vision and hockey sense. He possesses sharp instincts and is particularly lethal around the goal area thanks to his solid nose for the net. He is a crafty puckhandler who takes advantage of his soft hands. Svacina has a good slap shot which only could be more harder, his wrist shot has a fast release and is of decent accuracy. On the downside he could show more defensive awareness in his game, but is a solid 2005 prospect.

Best goalscorer trophy: Radek Smolenak (HC Vagnerplast Kladno)
Birthdate: December, 3rd, 1986
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 173 lbs.
NHL: 2005 eligible
Stats: 50GP 46G 30A 76P 70PIM

Radek Smolenak is a talented offensive forward
with a solid hockey sense and vision. Has a nose for the net and likes to have
the puck on his stick. He is a good skater for a player of his size. Smolenak is a smooth puckhandler who can make many elusive moves to fool the defense and score. He is a superb stickhandler has both his wrist and slap shot hard and accurate plus can make nice passes. He needs to work on play off the puck just like on his defensive awareness. A 2005 eligible prospect, Smolenak could use more toughness in his play.

Vladimir Ruzicka trophy (Top playoff performer): Martin Stefl (HC Vsetin)
Birthdate: May, 18th, 1986
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 158 lbs.
NHL: 2004 eligible
Playoff stats: 680MIN 368SVS 1,94GAA .9436SVP

Martin Stefl covers the net quite well and has a good use of
his fast glove hand. A resilient goalie, he possesses very fast reflexes and is tough to beat on all first shots. More a butterfly goalie, Martin Stefl likes to challenge the shooter. There are still a few things for him to work on. His skating and movement in the crease could be better and he has sometimes trouble with controlling the rebounds. He could avoid making some risky plays when playing the puck, thus bringing himself into trouble sometimes. Doesn’t play for the junior national teams, but should get a look.

NHL chances:
1. Marek Schwarz
2. Jakub Vojta
3. Miroslav Kopriva
4. Radek Smolenak
5. Vladimir Svacina
6. Ctirad Ovcacik
7. Martin Stefl
8. Lubor Dibelka
9. Marek Ditrich