Czech prospects in the 2003 CHL Import Draft

By Robert Neuhauser

People on both sides of the ocean have different opinions about the European players playing
in the CHL, but the fact is, as long as the CHL exists, the young Czech players will be
eager to try their luck in the major junior leagues. They want to get used to another lifestyle,
another style of play and play in front of NHL scouts every game. In Europe
people complain about young kids leaving for the CHL after their parent clubs invest lots of
money into their development and get nothing in return. Still, from the last year’s CHL crop lots of Czech
players made a name for themselves and got drafted by NHL teams for example Petr Vrana, David Svagrovsky, Martin Lojek, Zbynek Hrdel. It is very likely that this situation will be repeated next year, because CHL teams selected some solid prospects from the Czech developmental system. Here is a list of the 22 Czech prospects taken in the 2003 CHL Import Draft and their attributes.

First round

Petr Pohl
Position: right wing
Team: HC Vitkovice Jr.
Birthdate: August, 28th, 1986
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 174 lbs.
CHL draft: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL), 1st round, 4th overall

Petr Pohl is a terrific skater with a very fast acceleration and a fluid stride. He is
capable of sharp turns and his speed is one of his strongest assets. Pohl handles the puck
extremely well and has very smooth hands. He has a nose for the net and once in a scoring
chance, he doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck. He prefers shooting and has both his slap
and wrist shot very good. Pohl possesses good vision and hockey sense,
which enables him to see the play. He thrives on powerplay units and develops into
a feared scorer. The thing he has to work on is defensive play. More of a finesse winger, Pohl also doesn’t hit very hard and toughness is another thing where he needs upgrading. He can get knocked off the puck by using power but thanks to his outstanding smarts it doesn’t happen very often.
The QMJHL fits him the best of the three CHL leagues.

Vaclav Meidl
Position: center/left wing
Team: HC Havirov Panthers Jr.
Birthdate: May, 27th, 1986
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 195 lbs.
CHL draft: Plymouth Whalers (OHL), 1st round, 9th overall

The good-sized Vaclav Meidl already boasts playing experience from the Czech senior Extraleague. A decent skater for a player of his size, Meidl is
good at fast turns but could use more speed in his play. He is an excellent stickhandler and maneuvers through traffic quite well. Meidl possesses soft hands and drives hard to the net. He isn’t afraid of throwing his body around. Meidl fights for the pucks in the corners and
positions himself in front of the net. 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 is often coming back to help the defense. Vaclav needs to show more intensity and determination, he can be a huge force
at times, but also disappear occasionally.

Patrik Valcak
Position: left wing
Team: HC Sareza Ostrava Jr.
Birthdate: December, 16th, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 187 lbs.
CHL draft: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), 1st round, 11th overall

Patrik Valcak is a slick skater with deceptive quickness. He possesses an effective stride and is able to reach top speed in a few strides. Patrik is blessed with
good vision and is a very smart playmaker. He often finds passing lanes which are unseen by other players, but has also adequate finishing skills. His wrist shot needs further polishing in the accuracy
department, but Valcak has a nice release. His slap shot is solid, quite hard but a bit too telegraphed. He is a hardworking player, playing the games with a high level of intensity. Valcak has a strong attitude and is a very coachable player. He doesn’t shy away from the physical stuff, throwing solid hits and posting himself in front of the opposing net.
Valcak needs to develop the defensive aspect of his game more, even if he isn’t a total liability defensively.

Jan Steber
Position: right wing
Team: HC Ocelari Trinec Jr.
Birthdate: October, 19th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 200 lbs.
CHL draft: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), 1st round, 16th overall

Jan Steber is a very good skater for a big man and possesses a nice
explosiveness and agility. He only needs to gain more strength which will also upgrade his balance. Steber plays well in every game situation and is effective on both powerplay and penalty killing units. More of a passer than sniper, Steber distributes crisp accurate passes. He has a decent hockey sense and is smart and creative with the puck. He is an average puckhandler, but makes up for this with his strong intensity and determination. He takes care of his own end, too, and can’t be labeled as one-dimensional. Steber possesses a strong slapper, but his wrist shot could have a faster release and be more accurate.
He could emerge as one of the darkhorses of the 2004 draft, his development is taking an upward path.

Martin Tuma
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Litvinov Jr.
Birthdate: September, 14th, 1985
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 210 lbs.
CHL draft: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), 1st round, 18th overall

Martin Tuma possesses a very solid size and is beginning to show that he learned how to
use this to his advantage. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and is willing to make or take a hit.
Tuma is tough along the boards, but can clear the crease with more intensity and toughness.
On the defensive side Tuma reads the plays adequately and has solid positioning to
avoid defensive zone gaffes. But he is still quite raw and can use
better decision making with the puck. He is a so-so outlet passer, therefore he can still work
on this skill. Tuma has a very hard slap shot 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 acceleration.

Michal Pesek
Position: left wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: May, 17th, 1985
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 200 lbs.
CHL draft: Toronto St.Michael’s Majors (OHL), 1st round, 21st overall

Blessed with a sturdy frame, Pesek is an energetic grinder who works hard every shift and is highly valued by the coaches for his team play and an effective two-way play. He isn’t the world’s best skater, he needs a faster acceleration, but is quite agile for a player of his size. Thanks to his above-average leg strength Pesek is well-balanced and tough to
knock off the puck. He is a solid puckhandler who doesn’t shy away from high traffic areas. Pesek has
decent vision and hockey sense and has a very good ability to find the open man. He has an adequate variety of shots, his shots are quite hard but he could use a faster release and
accuracy though. One of his strongest assets is his diligent backchecking to go along with a reliable defensive play. He doesn’t hesitate to use his
body along the boards, but still has to fully learn how to make his size to his advantage.

Josef Fojtik
Position: left wing
Team: Pittsburgh (NAHL)
Birthdate: September, 11th, 1984
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.
CHL draft: Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL), 1st round, 25th overall

The most unknown name from all Czech Import picks in this year’s draft, Josef Fojtik has already experienced North American hockey in the NAHL. He is a decent skater, but adding more speed to his play would make him more effective. Fojtik possesses a good scoring touch and solid shooting skills, but could use more vision and hockey sense in his play. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and is a good worker along the boards. Fojtik is backchecking quite well, but his defensive play has still some way to go. More of a wildcard, Fojtik wasn’t drawing much of the scouts attention in the NAHL and hopes
to boost his stock in the QMJHL.

Lukas Bolf
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: February, 20th, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.
CHL draft: Barrie Colts (OHL), 1st round, 27th overall

A sturdy blueliner, Bolf is a fluid skater with an effortless stride who brings a nice offensive flair to the table. He is a smart outlet passer and he uses his long reach effectively. Bolf quite often joins the rush and has solid shooting skills which come in handy on powerplay units, 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
make mistakes when pressed by an opponent and is still very raw. The problem here is his slower decision making. He could also show more of a nasty edge in his play. Bolf already played outside Czech Republic when he skated half a year in Finland for HPK Hameenlinna and his transition could be easier thanks to this.

Martin Krayzel
Position: left wing
Team: HC Havirov Panthers Jr.
Birthdate: April, 26th, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 173 lbs.
CHL draft: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL), 1st round, 28th overall

Martin Krayzel’s biggest asset is his great skating ability. He has a fluid stride, turns on
a dime and has a nice burst of speed. Krayzel is an intense competitor who is always involved
in the games, playing them at high determination. He fights for the pucks in the corners
and despite his smallish 6’0”, 173 lbs. frame isn’t afraid of going in front of the
opposing net. Krayzel is a smooth passer and is effective on both powerplay and penalty killing
units. He is also aware defensively and when needed, can fill the grinding role. Martin
isn’t blessed with a terrific vision and sometimes doesn’t read the play very well. Krayzel must also further improve his average puckhandling skills and
play in traffic. Krayzel doesn’t have top-notch skills, but is a versatile guy who
sticks his nose into everything and is coachable.

Ivo Kratena
Position: left wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: May, 7th, 1985
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 180 lbs.
CHL draft: Regina Pats (WHL), 1st round, 32nd overall

Blessed with terrific hands, Ivo Kratena handles the puck very smoothly and is adept at distributing it effectively. He possesses
adequate hockey sense to go along with a solid defensive awareness. He is a good skater, even if a player of his smallish size could use more speed and balance. On the downside Kratena isn’t 
tough, he doesn’t use his body very effectively and sometimes has trouble
handling 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.
He wasn’t expected to come over, but after he went undrafted at the NHL Entry Draft Kratena feels that the CHL is now the best
place for him.

Milan Hluchy
Position: right wing
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: January, 13th, 1985
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 170 lbs.
CHL draft: Belleville Bulls (OHL), 1st round, 36th overall

Despite having a good season, Milan Hluchy went overlooked at the NHL draft thanks to his diminutive frame. Still, Hluchy plays at least two inches taller than his size, he isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and will muck
it up in the corners, looking for players to hit. 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. Hluchy is especially coveted for his team play and versatility, he can play all three forward positions well. Hluchy 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.
Hluchy can reach success in the OHL.

Vaclav Fiser
Position: left wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: December, 31st, 1985
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 200 lbs.
CHL draft: Quebec Remparts (QMJHL), 1st round, 37th overall

Fiser didn’t see any action on the international stage and is one of the least known players from this Import draft.
He possesses an intriguing size and is a decent hitter, even if he doesn’t play a crash-bang style. He uses his size when fighting for the pucks in the corners and isn’t afraid of
standing in front of the opponent’s net. Fiser’s strongest asset are his soft hands and smooth puckhandling. He can maneuver well in traffic and fool the opponents with his nifty moves. Fiser has a hard shot, but it needs to be more accurate.
Fiser shows a good commitment to the defensive duties, too. He doesn’t have top-notch vision and could work on his positioning. On the downside Fiser should upgrade his skating skills, he possesses
solid balance but could use more speed and agility in his play. Very raw, but has the tools to turn out as an above-average power forward when he puts the intangibles together.

Martin Lucka
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Hame Zlin Jr.
Birthdate: March, 10th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 195 lbs.
CHL draft: Peterborough Petes (OHL), 1st round, 42nd overall

One of Martin Lucka’s strong points is definitely his hulking frame. At 6’3”, 195 lbs. he has
very solid size, he just needs to bulk up to fill out that frame. Despite being a
big player, Lucka skates quite well. He has nice acceleration and an above-average straightaway speed. The things to work on for him in this skill are upgrading his agility, mobility and gaining more balance. Lucka possesses strong passing skills and can distribute the pucks very effectively thanks to his great reach. He handles the puck well with his soft hands and has a very good vision. When challenged by an opponent, he doesn’t tend to panic and tries to find a
simple way out. Albeit he boasts such a big frame, Lucka won’t jump at you as a huge physical presence. He has to be tougher if he wants to succeed in North American hockey. His shooting also hasn’t come all the way yet,
Lucka’s shots could be both harder and more accurate.

Vojtech Kloz
Position: defenseman
Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
Birthdate: January, 23rd, 1986
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 224 lbs.
CHL draft: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL), 1st round, 52nd overall

Vojtech Kloz is more of a stay-at-home defenseman who concentrates on the defensive aspect of his game. Thanks to his impressive size Kloz emerges as a solid physical presence. He hits hard and plays with a mean streak. Kloz possesses a hard slap shot, but his blasts from the point could still be more accurate. Kloz could use better skating and agility, his mobility still has a way to go. Vojtech doesn’t have much of an offensive upside, he is an average passer and could improve on his vision and reading of plays. Kloz has the physical tools
for an in-your-face style of play, but is quite raw. Unlike most of his import peers he has already one season of North American hockey under his belt.

Milos Schejbal
Position: right wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha Jr.
Birthdate: January, 3rd, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 170 lbs.
CHL draft: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL), 1st round, 54th overall

A gritty forward, Milos Schejbal was a fringe player on the junior national teams and is taking the CHL route to get more exposure in front of the NHL scouts. He is a dilligent player who does the little things well, but won’t impress you with finesse skills. Schejbal is an average skater who could use more speed and balance in his play. He is showing a solid portion of defensive awareness, but isn’t a slick puckhandler and isn’t handling his stick extremly well. On the other side he displays decent toughness for a player of his size, even if bulking up will be necessary in his progress. Schejbal is an average passer who possesses a decent vision. He has a solid slap shot, which only could be more accurate. Won’t ever be a bona-fide prospect, but a reliable grinder who plays with solid intensity.

Jakub Cech
Position: goaltender
Team: HC Havirov Panthers Sr.
Birthdate: August, 13th, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
CHL draft: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), 1st round, 56th overall

Primarily a standup goalie, Cech boasts a solid 6’0”, 180 lbs. frame, which enables him to cover lots of the net. Big and blessed with solid poise,
Cech has learned how to make use of his good instincts and reflexes. He is tough to beat on all initial shots, but is a bit vulnerable to rebounds. He has a solid leg speed, which makes him very strong down low.
Cech likes to challenge the shooter, anticipates the game quite well and knows how to play his angles. He learned how to play in control and upgraded his mental focus a lot. On the downside
Cech has still to further improve his skating and movement in the crease and his play with the stick isn’t
definately his strong asset. Had a sub-par 2002-2003 season and is looking to bounce back in the OHL.

Second round

Martin Ruzicka
Position: center/left wing
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: December, 15th, 1985
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 180 lbs.
CHL draft: Everett Silvertips (WHL), 2nd round, 57th overall

The smallish forward has won the junior Extraleague championship title with Kladno and is looking to upgrade his draft stock in the WHL now. A swift skater with a fast acceleration, Ruzicka takes advantage of his speed to overcome his size deficiency. Another of his upsides is his deceptive puckhandling and solid hockey sense. Ruzicka is effective around the goal area thanks to his smarts and good finishing skills. Ruzicka isn’t much of a force in his own zone, the defensive play isn’t among his strengths. He also needs to bulk up and show more aggresivness in his play. Ruzicka is no physical menace and the transition to the WHL will take him some time.

Lukas Pulpan
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Keramika Plzen Jr.
Birthdate: June, 23rd, 1985
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 180 lbs.
CHL draft: Vancouver Giants (WHL), 2nd round, 60th overall

Lukas Pulpan is a strong skater with a great burst of speed, balance and agility. It is
hard for the opposing forwards to outskate him or catch him out of position. Pulpan
takes pride in his very sound positioning. Pulpan won’t ever be much of a physical presence, even if he has precise timing of his hits. He beats the opposition with his smarts and hockey sense. Pulpan sees the ice very well and is
capable of very accurate outlet passes. Also useful as a powerplay quarterback,
he 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 solid vision. Pulpan is a waterbug on the
defense and has everything but size.

Tomas Fojtik
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Havirov Panthers Jr.
Birthdate: July, 12th, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 188 lbs.
CHL draft: Portland Winterhawks (WHL), 2nd round, 61st overall

A sized blueliner, Fojtik focuses on having his defensive duties done before he occasionally joins the rush. A decent skater for a player of his size, Fojtik could still use more mobility, which would make his defensive zone coverage more effective. He is an average shooter from the point who could use a faster release and more accuracy. Fojtik possesses decent passing skills, but doesn’t read the plays well and could use more of a hockey sense. He tries to keep his game simple and is coveted for his reliability. Fojtik doesn’t shy away from the physical play, but for a player of his size he could show a bigger physical edge and a mean streak. Fojtik plays a solid positional game and hopes that coming over will help to boost his slim NHL draft chances.

Michal Gulasi
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Vitkovice Jr.
Birthdate: July, 18th, 1986
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 180 lbs.
CHL draft: Lethbridge Hurricanes, 2nd round, 62nd overall

Michal Gulasi doesn’t rush forward without having his defensive duties
done first. He is an adequate skater, even if his pivots and lateral movement still need some
improvement. He takes his man and stays with him all the way. Gulasi also
himself quite well and has a solid use of his stick. Gulasi is a tenacious blueliner who has no trouble with the rough going. He likes to play with an edge and is a good hitter. His drawback
is his agility which needs some improvement. Also even with blessed with solid stickhandling
ability, he has to further develop his decision making when carrying the puck out of
his own zone. In his case it looks like a thing which will come with more maturity. The WHL style should suit him well.

Kamil Vavra
Position: left wing
Team: HC CSOB Pojistovna Pardubice Jr.
Birthdate: January, 7th, 1985
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 185 lbs.
CHL draft: Regina Pats (WHL), 2nd round, 67th overall

In the previous season Kamil Vavra emerged as a midget Extraleague revelation and after a so-so 2002-2003 campaign he wants to upgrade his draft stock by coming over to the WHL. 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. His finishing skills are considerable, but he has to work on his slap shot, which isn’t very hard. 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. Coming to the WHL will be a tough challenge for him.

Pavel Rusek
Position: right wing
Team: HC Vsetin Jr.
Birthdate: January, 9th, 1986
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 175 lbs.
CHL draft: Windsor Spitfires (OHL), 2nd round, 68th overall

Pavel Rusek is a smallish waterbug on his skates. He accelerates
well and is capable of making sharp turns. He has a good straightaway speed and
can make plays at top speed. Rusek is smart and has nice vision and
hockey sense. He handles the puck well and can make good, accurate
passes. The stocky Rusek is also a feisty player, he shows his nasty edge quite often
and likes to hit hard, despite his 5’10”, 175 lbs. frame. He plays with lots of heart and
determination and doesn’t tend to take a shift off. Rusek fights for the pucks along
the boards and displays lots of grit. On the downside, Pavel has to improve his shooting
skills, both wrist and slap. The accuracy of his shots is still only average. The other thing
to work on for him is his defensive awareness, which could be better.