Czech 2004 prospects: Roman Polak

By Robert Neuhauser

Czech 2004 eligible defenseman Roman Polak does not get much attention on the world stage, but has most of the tools needed to become a NHL player some day.

Unlike most NHL prospects, Roman Polak wasn’t brought to hockey by anyone in his family. None of his relatives played organized hockey, therefore Polak didn’t have a straight way to the hockey rink paved for him from the time he could walk. But among friends of his parents was hockey youth coach Novak, who suggested them that little Roman should play some sport. Hockey was of course the frontrunner and after some talk it was decided that Roman Polak will begin to play for the entry level team of Sareza Ostrava. In his native city Ostrava he could choose between the famed Extraleague franchise Vitkovice and Sareza Ostrava, but Coach Novak was working for Sareza and could supervise Polak’s first strides on the rink.

The five-year-old Roman Polak was slotted to play defense and felt comfortable in the back rows from the very first practices. He learned quickly how to maintain balance on the skates and showed solid gift for sports. The opposing forwards had a tough time meeting him and Polak emerged as one of the defensive anchors of his team.

Sareza Ostrava 3rd grade coaches Martin Peslar and Zdenek Otava provided Polak with a huge workload, he was on the ice for most of the important game situations, so that he could learn responsibility. But Polak wasn’t a top-flight player from the very beginnings, one that would be talked about already at pee-wee age. He just kept a steady improvement every year, sticking to his workout plan and listening to the advices given to him by the coaches. Polak developed a feisty physical style, using his strength to keep the opposition scoring chances down and trying to finish his checks. He was tough to play against and that earned him respect.

Even though he played defense, Polak’s hockey role models were always quality forwards. He especially respects the achievments of Washington Capitals’ star winger Jaromir Jagr. Polak’s friend and fellow 2004 eligible prospect Rostislav Olesz is another player he looks upon. Powerskating lessons were useful for Polak, who developed a powerful stride and an impressive balance. He did various exercises to improve his leg strength and when new coach Podborny took over the coaching duties in the Ostrava 8th grade team, he could be happy about Polak’s fitness results. But he had holes in his game to fill in order to succeed in the midget Extraleague now, mainly vision and puckhandling. He couldn’t play the complete schedule of the 8th grade teams because of a broken hand, but the next season he bounced back with a more all-round showing.

Polak’s improvement took an upward path in the 9th grade. He recorded his best season before moving up to the midget ranks and took home an individual trophy for the first time. At a tournament of the 9th grade teams, where also Ostrava participated, was Roman Polak voted the Top defenseman. That was followed by a promotion to the midget team for a cup of cofee in the midget Extraleague in 2000-2001. Polak dressed out for 7 midget games, recording 1 point for 1 assist, a +/- of +1 and 2 PIMs. He looked ready to make the full time jump to the midget Extraleague and was eager to prove it in 2001-2002.

A smooth skater, Roman Polak impresses with his leg strength and balance. He is extremly tough to get knocked off his skates and possesses also solid acceleration and agility. At 6’1”, 190 lbs. Polak has a good frame and is willing to get physical it when fighting along the boards or clearing the crease from opposing forwards. He is a tough cookie who throws good hits with precise timing. Polak is positionally quite sound, but could make some strides in this aspect. He possesses a cannon of a shot, which he unleashes regularly. An adept player on both powerplay and penalty killing units, Polak passes the pucks smoothly, but is still prone to the odd bad decision. He could use a bit more vision in his play. Overall is Roman Polak a very solid NHL prospect who has the needed attributes to succeed in the North American style of play.

Sareza Ostrava midget coaches Karel Metelka and Petr Rambousek liked what they saw from Polak at the 2002 summer camp. Always with his favorite number 8 on his back, Roman didn’t have any trouble with handling the midget Extraleague pace and could also showcase glimpses of his offensive upside. He was steady during the season, missing just two games and playing with a solid edge. Roman Polak played 46 midget games in 2001-2002, notching 13 points for 4 goals and 9 assists, a +/- of +2 and 84 PIMs.

The next season Polak took over the ‘C’ on his sweater as the Sareza Ostrava midgets captain. After spending the summer with workouts he reported in a very good shape, taking the opening games of the midget Extraleague by storm. It was clear that Polak wouldn’t benefit from competing in the midget Extraleague all season long, so he was promoted to the junior team after the opening month. Polak appeared in 13 midget games in 2002-2003, scoring 17 points for 5 goals and 12 assists, an even +/- and 26 PIMs, numbers which would make even forwards look impressive.

Sareza Ostrava juniors head coach Milos Holan, an ex-NHLer with the Philadelphia Flyers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, has let Polak show what he can do. Polak adjusted to the junior Extraleague without further trouble and looked composed on the ice. He didn’t rush forward so much as like on the midget level and concentrated more on his defensive role. Polak met the expectations set on him by the coaches and recorded a good season. He played in 33 junior games, notching 4 points for 1 goal and 3 assists, an even +/- and 20 PIMs.

After being overlooked at the Under-16 level, Polak bursted onto the international stage in 2002-2003 with the Czech Under-17 team. Coaches Jaromir Sindel and Zdenek Cech invited him to a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Finland and Polak responded with scoring his first international goal and playing solid in his own end. His another international showing came at the Four Nations tournament of the Under-17 teams, played in Russia. Polak was asked to focus on defense and not rush forward, therefore he went scoreless at this event.

Roman Polak, nicknamed ‘Poly’ from his surname, participated at the summer evaluation camp of the Czech Under-18 team, but wasn’t very impressive there. His sub-par performance led to him being cut from the Czech World Junior Cup team, which won bronze medals at the 2003 World Junior Cup, played in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Polak is eager to bounce back at the next international events.

The summer of 2003 meant a major change for Polak. His strong play for Sareza Ostrava juniors didn’t go unnoticed among Extraleague teams, looking to boost their prospect pipeline. Polak didn’t need to move away from home, Ostrava-based Vitkovice team presented its offer to him and Polak agreed on it. This season Polak is a member of Vitkovice junior team and is hoping into cracking the senior lineup soon and play his debut in the senior Extraleague. Mostly on a pair with Filip Onderka, Polak has appeared in 14 junior Extraleague games for Vitkovice so far, matching his last season’s totals with 4 points for 1 goal and 3 assists, a +/- of +3 and 6 PIMs.

Almost every player has some superstitions and Roman Polak is no exception. He uses always the same warmup before each game and he puts on his gear from the left side first, beginning from the left kneepad.
An active guy, Roman Polak prefers to play sports also in his free time. Like most Czech prospects, he is a very good soccer and tennis player. But life isn’t only about sport and Polak is aware. He attends an engineering training institution and is in the third year of his studies. A music fan, Polak lists techno and rap styles among his favorites. His eating habits are welcomed by the coaches, Polak is most happy with chicken and rice for dinner.

Roman Polak has two goals he would like to achieve in his career. He would like to play in the Czech senior Extraleague and then hopefully in the NHL.

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