Czech 2004 prospects: Vaclav Meidl

By Robert Neuhauser

CHL success is an integral part on the way to the NHL for many prospects. Every year talented Czech players try their luck overseas in the major junior leagues, hoping to get more exposure in front of the NHL scouts and get used to the North American style of play as soon as possible. From this year’s crop is one of the most promising, Plymouth Whalers forward Vaclav Meidl.

Vaclav Meidl was born in a family where sport has a long tradition. But surprisingly, no one was involved in hockey. Meidl’s father was enjoying a soccer career in the Czech lower leagues and his mother played volleyball for the Czech women national team. Therefore it was clear that they wanted their son to play some sport, but left the decision up to him what sport to choose. Meidl was born in Prostejov, Czech Republic and this town is well-known for producing elite Czech tennis players. Hockey is the second most popular sport next to tennis there, with the likes of NHL prospects Lukas Krajicek and Jiri Cetkovsky both raised in Prostejov. Meidl decided to join the hockey team rather than the tennis club and was a member of the Prostejov entry level team at the age of five.

The coaches put the tall kid at forward, which Meidl didn’t mind. He had a chance to create offense and nothing made the coaches switch his position. The little Meidl practiced under the watchful eye of his parents and was enjoying being out on the ice a lot. That desire to learn and play helped him soon to emerge as one of the best players of his team. Meidl was born gifted for sports and he could take advantage of his talent with the help of the tips from the coaches.

After some time playing against kids of the same age didn’t provide Meidl with an equal competition as he could easily dominate against the 1986 borns. He was relied upon heavily on his team and from that time he has lots of individual trophies from the youth tournaments where the Prostejov 1986 borns team took part in. But in order to help his development Meidl was promoted to the older category and now had to battle more experienced and physically more mature competition. He withstood the challenge, making use of his smarts and slick skill. At pee-wee age he skated with one year older guys, when there opened a possibility for him to play against kids two years older than him. Meidl took on the challenge and even if he was still 6th grade eligible, he competed already for the 8th grade team of Prostejov.

The next season he ripped the competition at the 9th grade level and that enabled the Prostejov midget coaches to promote Meidl, nicknamed ‘Mejdlo’ from his surname, to the midget team as a 12-year-old kid. In Prostejov he couldn’t perform against the best in the midget Extraleague, but such an early jump to the Div I midget league is also a huge accomplishment. His various off-ice workouts paid the dividends and Meidl could handle the physical rigors of the lower midget level without much trouble. Vaclav spent two years playing for the Prostejov midgets while most of his peers were still lacing up the skates on the 8th grade or 9th grade level and no wonder that Extraleague teams started to present their offers to Meidl’s parents.

It was necessary for Meidl to skate in the midget Extraleague in 2001-2002 and the young prospect drew attention from nearby Extraleague franchises. After some arguing with his parents, Meidl agreed on the Trinec offer and joined their midget team prior to the 2001-2002 season. Head coach Radomir Kuzilek was building a highly talented squad with the likes of fellow 2004 prospects Jan Danecek or David Krejci already on the team and Vaclav Meidl was an useful piece to the puzzle. The team lost to Slavia Praha midgets in the 2000-2001 midget Extraleague finals and was aiming at another run at the championship trophy.

Vaclav Meidl didn’t have such a tough time to get used to the midget Extraleague pace as if he would arrive from the 9th grade level. He had two seasons of Div I midget experience and could contribute immediately. Meidl skated mostly on the second or third line and used his sturdy frame to emerge as a solid physical presence. He also found the net quite regularly, so that when the Trinec junior team was putting together the roster for a trip to Canada, they promoted Meidl from the midget team. Trinec juniors toured the Junior C teams in Canada and Meidl left a good impression, proving that he is well-capable to succeed at the smaller North American rinks.

But the focus was on winning the midget Extraleague championship trophy with Trinec midgets. They fought all their way into the finals again and this time Trinec players squared off against Zlin. Curiously, Meidl had a short loan to Zlin at the beginning of the season. He dressed out for seven games for Zlin, recording 1 point for 1 goal and a +/- of -4 and 2 PIMs. Trinec midgets were the lucky ones as they defeated Zlin midgets 2-0 in the best-of-three final series. Meidl contributed to the success with 40 games played and 24 points for 12 goals and 12 assists to go along with a +/- of +3 and 20 PIMs.

After an impressive performance at the evaluation camp of the Czech Under-16 team in summer, 2001, Meidl was invited to his first international tournament. He dressed out for the Czech Under-16 team in a three-game series against the Under-16 team of Slovakia. That was followed with an appearance in a three-game series against the Swiss Under-16 team and also at the season’s top, the Four Nations Tournament played in Praha, Czech Republic. There the Czechs claimed a third place. Overall in 12 international games in 2001-2002 Meidl scored 5 points for 2 goals and 3 assists, an even +/- and 6 PIMs.

Meidl, who likes to wear either number 12 or 14 on his sweater, earned a remarkable success at the beginning of the 2002-2003 international season, being invited to the 2002 World Junior Cup already with the Under-18 team. There he skated mostly on the fourth line, going scoreless in all five games, but showing glimpses of talent with his good play in traffic. In late December he joined the Under-17 team for the Four Nations tournament, played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the only time Meidl performed in North America last season. In February, 2003, Meidl took part in the Five Nations Tournament of the Under-18 teams and made the trip to the evaluation camp of the Under-18 team before the 2003 Under-18 WJC, played in Yaroslavl, Russia. He made the team as a fourth-line grinder and was one of the five underagers on the Czech Under-18 WJC squad. Meidl saw a minimum of playing time, not registering any single point or shot at goal, but contributed defensively and was mucking in the corners. Even if the team finished just on the sixth place, Meidl recalls performing at the 2003 Under-18 WJC as a huge learning experience.

Before the 2002-2003 season, coach Radomir Kuzilek sayed goodbye to Trinec and moved to Havirov. Meidl followed him, hoping to play for the Havirov junior team regularly and practicing with the senior team. In Trinec he would probably have to spend another full season in the midget team, so he decided to move on. The season began for Meidl on the midget team of Havirov, but he made clear that he has nothing to prove in the midget Extraleague and that he deserves a full-time promotion to the junior team. In 13 games for the underdog Havirov midgets Meidl registered 23 points for 10 goals and 13 assists, with an even +/- and 30 PIMs. He was a regular with the Havirov juniors soon and head coach Jaroslav Beck has provided him with a good portion of playing time. Meidl had a smooth transition to the junior Extraleague as an underager and looked composed out on the ice. In 36 games for the Havirov juniors he notched 15 points for 4 goals and 11 assists and just like on the midget team along with an even +/- and 30 PIMs. But the best was still ahead for Meidl. The Havirov senior team was by far the worst team of the 2002-2003 senior Extraleague and all the talented prospects could play at least a handful of games in the senior Extraleague. Vaclav Meidl appeared in the senior Extraleague on five occasions, registering 1 assist, a +/- of -1 and 4 PIMs.

However, this couldn’t prevent Havirov from being relegated to the Div I league and Vaclav Meidl had to move on again. Represented by agent Jaromir Henys, he decided to give the CHL a chance. The Plymouth Whalers picked him 9th overall in the 2003 CHL Import Draft and Meidl came over in mid-August. He wanted to be better prepared for the new OHL season and also improve his English skills before he hit the ice with the Whalers squad. After a fearless showing in the exhibition games Meidl made the Whalers team and is scoring at a point-per-game pace now, notching 4 points for 4 assists in his first four OHL games.

A decent skater for a player of his size, Meidl is capable of 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 and even drop the gloves. Meidl fights for 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. Meidl needs to work on his finishing skills. 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 when he has his day, but also disappear occasionally. He lists Colorado Avalanche star winger Milan Hejduk and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr from the Washington Capitals as his role models.

Vaclav Meidl likes to be active also during his free time. When he isn’t playing hockey, you’ll usually find him playing soccer or basketball, where is his size also useful. He is also a good tennis player and during winter he enjoys skiing a lot. Before his arrival to Plymouth he studied at a secondary school in Prostejov, where he was often missing because his team’s schedule didn’t coincide with the classes schedule. Meidl’s favorite food is still pork with sauerkraut and dumplings.

This season is very important in Vaclav Meidl’s career. He wants to help his Whalers team as much as he can in the OHL and then hopefully hear his name selected in the NHL Entry Draft.