Czech 2004 prospects: Adam Lukacovic

By Robert Neuhauser

A perennial Extraleague powerhouse, Sparta Praha is one of the best known teams in Czech hockey, mostly for the many senior Extraleague championship titles, but also for putting out quality players. The team develops lots of NHL prospects, with the likes of David Vyborny, Patrik Stefan or Michal Sivek all from the team from the Czech capital city. One of those who would like to follow their footsteps is Adam Lukacovic, a 2004 eligible defenseman.

Despite the fact that his father was involved in handball more than in hockey, Adam Lukacovic was brought to the game of hockey at the mere age of four. Both of his parents wanted him to be active in his free time and play sports. In his native city Koprivnice, Czech Republic, was hockey the no-brainer. No other sport had such a tradition in this small town in the northeast of the Czech Republic.

He joined a talented team consisting of 1986 born players who were on the beginning of their respective careers. After learning how to maintain balance on his skates and how to handle the puck under the tutelage of coach Jaroslav Kasparek, it was obvious that two players on this squad are shoulders above the rest. Petr Pohl at forward and Adam Lukacovic at defense. In the 3rd grade Lukacovic got the number 4 on his jersey, the one he wears still today.

“It is my lucky number, I like to play with number 4 on my back.”

Lukacovic was happy performing in the back rows, but was never reluctant to jump into the play and support the offense with his deceptive passing skills. This brought him lots of points in the lower age categories, but his defensive zone coverage suffered a bit. Head coach Pavel Miksovsky, father of Czech 2005 eligible prospect Adam Miksovsky, tried to teach the talented two-way blueliner how to take care of his own end better, which made from Lukacovic a coveted pee-wee aged player.

After playing out his season for the 5th grade team of Koprivnice, Adam Lukacovic got the first offers from Extraleague franchises to join their developmental system. The hunt for the potential boosts of the prospect pipeline starts early and the most talented kids from Lukacovic’s region usually were headed the nearby Ostrava to play for the local Extraleague team, HC Vitkovice. Lukacovic got the offer from Vitkovice, too. But unlike Petr Pohl Adam Lukacovic wasn’t wearing the white-blue colors of Vitkovice when all wheeling and dealing was done. Lukacovic’s father landed a coaching job in the handball team of Zlin and took his son with him.

So it came that beginning with the 6th grade was Adam Lukacovic, nicknamed ‘Anci’ or ‘Lukys’ from his surname, was a member of the Zlin team. There he met highly skilled teammates and an experienced coaching staff. He shared the locker room with fellow 2004 prospects, twins Roman and Michal Psurny, Stanislav Balan or Jiri Pilusa. Thanks to his strong on-ice leadership Lukacovic was voted captain of the team, the honor he maintained also in the next three seasons.

In the 6th grade under head coach Eduard Svoboda, Lukacovic’s play took a steady rise. The Zlin team participated in a tournament played at the Vitkovice arena and Lukacovic took home the Top defenseman award for his inspiring two-way performance. This success pulled off a series of more acknowledgements at other youth tournaments. During the next two seasons could Adam Lukacovic hoist the Top defenseman trophy also at tournaments played in the Czech capital Praha at the Slavia Praha facility and in Orlova near his hometown.

“I consider Nashville Predators’ rookie defenseman Marek Zidlicky as the player I look upon most. He supports the offense really well and I like to watch his games.”

Having completed his season for the 8th grade team of Zlin, a new challenge arose for Lukacovic. Zlin midgets head coach Stanislav Prikryl gave him a lift to the midget team summer camp as an underager. Coach Prikryl was eager to see whether Lukacovic’s puck-moving savvy can translate to the midget Extraleague already at this point, when Lukacovic was in the role of an underaged defenseman who had to battle a physically more mature opposition.

Lukacovic left a solid impression, earning a regular spot in coach Prikryl’s defensive rotation despite battling a nagging shoulder injury. But he had to suit up also for the 9th grade team of Zlin, thus splitting the season between two squads. As the season went on, Lukacovic’s role on the midget team was bigger and he got ice time even on the second defensive unit. He was still rushing the pucks very often and sent the opponents a note that he won’t let them manhandle him with exactly 2 PIMs per game average, a respectable number in the Czech midget leagues. In 42 games for the Zlin midgets in 2000-2001 Lukacovic amassed 11 points for 4 goals and 7 assists to go along with a +10 and 84 PIMs. He also posted above-average numbers for the 9th grade team of Zlin, scoring 46 points, which topped the team’s blueliners.

Before the puck was dropped for the next season, 2001-2002, Lukacovic changed teams. He signed a contract with agent Jaromir Henys, who works for the Rich Winter agency and this agent arranged Lukacovic’s leaving for the Sparta Praha team. Now was Lukacovic a member of one of the most famed Czech teams, getting a little more exposure than in Zlin, because he was playing in the country’s capital.

The 2001-2002 edition of the Sparta Praha midget team boasted some bright individuals like Marek Schwarz, Karel Hromas, Jakub Vojta or at that time highly coveted forward Jan Dusatko. Now wonder that the team was aiming high. Lukacovic picked up where he left in Zlin, getting used to new teammates quickly and providing a solid portion of the Sparta Praha midget team’s offensive output. On the other hand his offensive raids had one of the forwards to come back to help out the defense more to avoid quick turnovers. Sparta Praha midgets enjoyed a long playoff run that season which led to the team winning bronze medals for the third place overall in the midget Extraleague, to which Lukacovic contributed with 31 points for 3 goals and 28 assists in 48 games, a terrific +34 and 73 PIMs.

All his midget Extraleague prowess made impossible for the Czech Under-16 team head coach Jaromir Sindel to omit Lukacovic when the team selection was made. He left an impression at the summer evaluation camp and was even honored with the ‘C’ on his jersey. Lukacovic played the complete schedule of the Czech Under-16 team in 2001-2002, appearing in two three-game series against the Under-16 team of Slovakia, two series against the young Swiss players and also the season’s top event, Four Nations Tournament, played in Praha, Czech Republic. His two-way game was effective also on the international stage as Lukacovic won the Under-16 team defensemen scoring with 9 points for 6 goals and 3 assists in 15 games, along with a +4 and 24 PIMs.

In 2002-2003 Lukacovic’s play took a step back. He spent the summer practicing already with the junior team as an underager, playing mostly in a pair with Daniel Vitu. But he couldn’t fight out a regular spot on the junior team and wasn’t overly happy with his situation in Sparta Praha, so Lukacovic was on the move again. This time he moved to the other end of the Czech Republic, landing a roster spot on the Havirov junior team. From now on Lukacovic wasn’t a member of such a talented team as Sparta, but playing in Havirov gave him more quality ice time and helped him regain his confidence. That all till he tore up his knee in October, an injury which required operation and rehabbing. When he was ready to hit the ice again, Sparta Praha declared that the move to Havirov wasn’t permitted and demanded his return back. This limited Lukacovic’s stats for Havirov at 6 games played with 1 goal and 1 assist along with huge 34 PIMs for the midget team and 8 scoreless games with 14 PIMs for the Havirov juniors as an underager.

Back with Sparta he was assigned to the midget team again to finish his midget Extraleague eligibility. He displayed a lot of his mean streak, throwing his body around and serving as an agitating pest. Lukacovic established himself as a tough guy to play against, but still had glaring holes in his defensive zone coverage. His wrong positioning caused turnovers and reliability was an issue, despite his excellent offensive totals. The Sparta Praha midgets were swept in the opening round of the playoffs by the Vsetin team, which rounded out Adam Lukacovic’s season stats for the Sparta Praha midgets at 21 games played, 5 goals, 13 assists, 18 points and 62 PIMs. After the playoff exit of the midget team was Lukacovic promoted to the junior team for 2 matchups, in which he went scoreless with 2 PIMs.

A mainstay on the blue line of the Czech Under-17 team, Adam Lukacovic anchored the blue line on the second youngest junior national team also in 2002-2003. He took part in the Five Nations Tournament, played in the Czech Republic in August and a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Finland. During Christmas he made the trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to participate in the Four Nations Tournament and the following European’s Youth Olympic Games played in Bled, Slovenia. He closed out his international season with an appearance in the Four Nations Tournament, played in Podolsk, Russia. He missed only two events due to the knee injury, a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Switzerland and a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Germany.

This season is Adam Lukacovic a regular on the Sparta Praha junior team. Playing mostly in a pair with another 2004 eligible rearguard Tomas Protivny Lukacovic isn’t such a physical menace as in the previous season on the midget level, yet still he didn’t loose anything of his offensive upside. Positionally raw, he enjoys a better first half than last year, but his holes in the game are still visible. So far Lukacovic dressed out for 31 junior games in 2003-2004, registering 10 points for 3 goals and 7 assists, an even plus/minus and 38 PIMs.

Lukacovic played on his first major international junior tournament this past August when he was a member of the bronze-medal winning Czech Under-18 team at the World Junior Cup. There he displayed a solid but unspectacular performance when his game got better as the tournament progressed. Overall in 5 World Junior Cup games Lukacovic recorded 1 point for 1 assist.
In November he made the trip to Prievidza, Slovakia, for the Four Nations Tournament. There he scored 1 goal in the final game of the tournament, a 4-3 win over the Under-18 team of Germany.

“Playing for the junior national teams is always something special for me. I consider this as the biggest success of my career.”

An offensive-minded rearguard, Lukacovic’s strongest asset is his ability to join the rush and support the offense. He needs to learn when to jump into the play and when to stay in the defensive position, though. Lukacovic is a deft passer who is capable of making strong plays. A solid skater, Lukacovic possesses above-average straightaway speed, but has to further develop his acceleration and first-step quickness. His lateral movement is adequate. He doesn’t hesitate to unleash his slap shot, but has to keep it lower on the ice in order to make his shots more tipable. A player with lots of heart, Lukacovic brings natural leadership to the mix thanks to his fiery competitiveness. He only needs to play all of his games at full intensity and determination. At 6’0”, 178 lbs. his frame is average by North American standards, but Lukacovic makes up for this deficiency with his tenacity and an ability to play the body. From the things to work on for him there is mostly his defensive zone coverage. Lukacovic tends to loose his position for a chance to make a play and has to stay with his man all the way. He is a prospect who went through motions during the last three seasons and has to play up to par if he wants to be considered a possible late-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

A player fully dedicated to hockey, Lukacovic gave up on his secondary education in order to concentrate more on hockey and isn’t attending any school now. This leaves him more free time for relaxing and working out, a thing Lukacovic often does in his free time. He prefers to be active also in his free time, often meeting his friends for a game of soccer or tennis. Because his father is a handball coach, Lukacovic is also an accomplished handball player. A huge fan of the hip hop style, Adam likes to be surrounded by music. His eating habits are similar to those of other young athletes, Adam Lukacovic prefers to eat chicken and drink multivitamin drinks or coke. He isn’t a player who would have any pre-game superstitions.

“No, I’m not superstitious at all. There is nothing I would do before each game.”

Ranked 18th among Czech skaters by the CSB Preliminary rankings, Lukacovic is suited to handle the physical rigors of the CHL quite well thanks to his abrasive playing style. He considers seriously coming over to play in the CHL next year.

“It is a challenge for me, I would like to try playing major junior in Canada, hopefully for some WHL or OHL team.”

Lukacovic doesn’t have any NHL team he cheers for, he treats them all equal. His goal is to make his living playing hockey.