In the summer of 2003, QMJHL Gatineau Olympics selected Petr Pohl in the CHL Import Player Draft, making him the first Czech drafted (fourth overall). The 1986-born moved to Canada to increase his chances to reach his ultimate goal, to play in the NHL.
Pohl’s rookie season
Pohl not only managed to make his place in the roster of the strong team from Gatineau but he contributed to help his squad to win the Quebec’s regular season championship and to rank second overall in Canada.
The 5’11″ and 170-pound right winger played all 70 games of the 2003-04 regular season, recording 23 goals and 27 assists for 50 points. These numbers rank him seventh among QMJHL rookie scoring leaders which is very good considering he had to get adapted to a new country and a new type of hockey.
A natural offensive player type, the young Czech played on Gatineau power play units and also killed penalties. He is not a physical player as shown by his mere 16 penalties minutes and 10 hits.
Pohl’s performance was definitely noticed by the scouts, as he ranks 30th among North American players of the 2004 mid-season Central Scouting Bureau rankings.
Coach Groulx pleased
Gatineau Olympics coach Benoit Groulx told Hockey’s Future after the last season regular game in Drummondville that he is very satisfied by Pohl’s game so far.
“You know, this kid had to acclimate to the league but also to a new way of life. Canada is far from Czech Republic,” said Groulx. “Petr became well integrated into his new environment, though he spoke neither English nor French when he arrived in Gatineau last summer,” stated Groulx. “His teammates helped him to get integrated and after two weeks he already felt part of the team,” added Groulx.
About Pohl’s game, Groulx observed that he has improved a lot along the season, especially his defensive game. “He has fast hands, passes the puck brilliantly, has a lot of mobility and is very dangerous on one on one situations,” commented Groulx.
“This guy will have a lot of success with us in the next two seasons,” concluded Groulx proudly.
Pohl on his adjustment
Hockey’s Future met Pohl in the Marcel-Dionne Coliseum on March 14th in Drummondville. That night, the rookie had an assist and worked hard on every shift, despite the fact that this last game of the regular season meant nothing for the league’s champions.
Already communicating very well in English, and looking like a shorter version of Dominik Hasek, Pohl explained that after 70 games, he learned a lot about Canadian hockey. “The rinks are smaller, there is more contact and it is a much more physical game than in Czech Republic where hockey is more technical,” said Pohl.
“I like it here, you always concentrate on hockey and everything is about hockey,” commented Pohl. “You know, in Czech Republic, if you go to a junior game, you will just see players’ friends and family in the stands, so in the beginning in Canada, when I saw that much people cheering for us and sometimes calling my name in the stands, I felt very good,” observed Pohl with a large smile. “People in Canada love hockey for sure.”
Pohl underlined he feels very good in Canada and already learned a lot. “I’m sure I made a great move. I had to do it as I want to play in the NHL one day. It is a dream for me and I’m ready to do everything possible to do it,” he stated.
As all 2004 NHL draft eligible players, Pohl knows that his performance in the upcoming QMJHL finals could have a great impact on where he will be selected. A journey to the Memorial Cup finals could offer him an exceptional chance to show to the scouts what he is made of.
He is not very big, but NHLers like Martin St Louis who leads the NHL scorers, show there is still a place for talented players who are under six feet.
Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.