Czech 2004 prospects: season review Part 2

By Robert Neuhauser

David Krejci, F

2003-2004

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The change of environment paid off for slick center David Krejci, who was transferred from the Trinec junior team to Kladno prior to the 2003-2004 campaign after playing his midget and early junior days in Trinec. Kladno juniors head coach Jaromir Sindel serves also as the head coach of the Czech junior national team of the 1986 borns, so he knew very well what kind of player was going to boost the roster of his team.

He gave the talented forward plenty of ice time as the first line center in most games. This resulted in increased confidence of the player, who developed a strong chemistry with 1988 born prodigy Michael Frolik on the left wing. Krejci was off to a relatively slow start as he had to get used to different linemates during September, but was red-hot during the last four months of regular season play. His best months came in November and December when he amassed 30 points in 19 games against the eastern-based teams.

Krejci scored at a steady pace also during the playoffs, where the Kladno juniors defended the championship title from 2002-2003. He helped with a more than point-per-game average as his team clinched the back-to-back championship title. He registered a good season this year and is hoping of repeating it in the CHL next season.

On the international stage Krejci was an integral part of the Czech Under-18 team. He won a bronze medal at the World Junior Cup in August, even if a bit more offense was expected from him on this tournament. In November he was promoted to the Under-19 team to take part in a three-game series against the Under-19 team of Finland. At Christmas time he was invited to the evaluation camp of the Czech Under-18 team, with four exhibition games against the Czech Div I senior league teams and the Danish Under-18 team. In February he played at the Five Nations Tournament of the Under-18 teams in Finland and was a lock to make the Czech Under-18 WJC team. In Minsk, Belarus he was crucial to the bronze medal success and emerged as a very pleasant surprise with his hockey sense and a smart effective play in the offensive zone.

Stanislav Balan, F

2003-2004

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Stanislav Balan continued his progress from the previous season, which saw him make the jump to the junior Extraleague as an underager. Even if he is still very skinny and doesn’t have the strength to outmuscle the opponents yet, Balan was very effective on the second or third line of the Zlin junior team. He took advantage of his continuing strong chemistry with the twins Roman and Michal Psurny, who are his most frequent linemates already from the days when all three were playing just on the 9th grade team of Zlin.

The deft playmaker Balan impressed with his vision and continued to improve on his close finishing skills and also aggresiveness, surpassing the 100 PIM plateau for the first time in his career. Balan proved that he can handle traffic and in December he earned a promotion to the senior team along with the Psurny twins. Curiously, in December Balan had his only season low when he looked tired in many games and his scoring also particularly tailed off. He dressed out for four senior contests, but he saw significant playing time just in two of those games. In a home game against Trinec, his first in front of TV cameras, Balan scored his first senior goal.

He was returned to the junior team soon after Christmas and was industrial in their playoff run. The Zlin juniors were swept by Kladno in the semifinals, but managed to defeat the Vsetin juniors in the bronze-medal series.

Stanislav Balan registered a breakout tournament at the 2003 World Junior Cup in August. There he led the Czech team in scoring until the final game and even after the Jakub Sindel’s offensive outburst Balan finished second with 8 points in just 5 games. He was invited to all tournaments of the Under-18 team’s schedule and impressed also in the games of the evaluation camp of the Czech Under-18 team, with four exhibition games against the Czech Div I senior league teams and the Danish Under-18 team. Balan remained a strong player also at the tournaments played in 2004 and won a bronze medal with the Czech Under-18 team at the Under-18 WJC in Belarus. He made solid gains this season and can slip to the second round.

Roman Polak, D

2003-2004

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Roman Polak changed teams for the first time in his career before the beginning of the 2003-2004 season. Polak left his parent Sareza Ostrava team and went to Vitkovice. He didn’t need to move very far as both teams are based in his hometown, the third-largest Czech city Ostrava. On the Vitkovice junior team he met more talented teammates and clicked well within the team’s system. Head coach Mojmir Trlicik was willing to play Polak a lot, using him as a top-four defenseman in most games. At the beginning of the season he displayed some trouble with the timing and accuracy of his passes, especially with long-distance outlet passes. But as the season progressed, Polak’s confidence when moving the puck grew and in the second half he began to constantly make safe outlet decisions.

One of the best-balanced skaters on the team, Polak used his swift skating skills to keep the play in front of him and he didn’t hesitate to dish out the occasional hard hit. He couldn’t avoid some downs during the season, when he looked uninspired and didn’t do anything which would really stand out in some games. Fortunately for him, he found his game soon after such an off-game. Polak was one of the candidates for a short-term promotion to the senior team, but the overall depth in the back rows of the Vitkovice senior team caused the fact that Polak spent the whole season at the junior level.

Roman Polak recorded a poor preseason evaluation camp with the Czech Under-18 team, which forced head coach Jaromir Sindel to leave him off the World Junior Cup roster. But with Polak’s improved play in the junior Extraleague, Coach Sindel gave him another chance and from the Four Nations Tournament in November was Polak a regular with the Czech junior national team of the 1986 borns. He appeared at the Christmas evaluation camp, leaving a much better impression than in summer. After a decent showing at the Five Nations Tournament in February, Polak was considered as one of the two defensive cornerstones of the Under-18 team. Lots of things were expected from Polak at the Under-18 WJC, but he stuck to the safe play in his own zone and didn’t rush the puck very often. After a solid showing in Belarus expect Polak to be picked before the third round will be over.

Roman Psurny

2003-2004

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Roman Psurny built on his previous 15-game experience from the Czech junior Extraleague from the last season. This year he had a bigger role on the team and succeeded in emerging as one of the main offensive forces on the Zlin junior team. He took advantage of his excellent chemistry with his twin brother Michal, a longtime linemate of Roman, and Stanislav Balan, who skates alongside him for the fourth consecutive year. Psurny added an inch to his frame during the last year, but still has to fill that frame out.

This season he showed an increased commitment to upgrading his aggresiveness. Psurny didn’t play as a feared crash and banger, but when he had the obvious chance to dish out a hit, he wasn’t afraid of throwing his body around. Roman Psurny was very consistent during the whole season as he avoided any scoring slumps and scored at a point-per-game average. Zlin juniors head coach Stanislav Prikryl used him mostly on the second unit and Psurny saw playing time on both power play and penalty killing units. The month of December brought a pleasant surprise for him as he was promoted to the senior team along with his twin brother Michal.

He was used sparingly on the fourth line of the Zlin senior team and was there mostly to make his feet wet in the senior Extraleague and gain some experience for the likely full-time promotion next season. Roman Psurny didn’t see any action during the senior Extraleague playoffs, where Zlin won the championship trophy. He was industrial in the junior team playoff run, where he contributed to the bronze medal finish. Zlin juniors lost to Kladno in the semifinal series, but defeated Vsetin in the bronze medal series. Roman Psurny’s scoring tailed off in the playoffs as he went scoreless in five playoff contests.

He was a key member of the Czech Under-18 team in 2003-2004. Psurny performed at the World Junior Cup in August, 2003, and contributed to the bronze medal finish with 6 points. He missed the Christmas evaluation camp of the Under-18 team because of a flu and he didn’t join the Under-18 team till the pre-Under-18 evaluation camp. Along with Michal Psurny was Roman promoted to the Under-20 team in early February to take part in a Four Nations Tournament. His performance at the Under-18 WJC was decent, but in some games Psurny showed only glimpses of his offensive prowess from the previous tournaments.

Lukas Vomela

2003-2004

HC Ceske Budejovice Jr.21GP1G7A8P45PIM

HC Ceske Budejovice Sr.15GP0G1A1P8PIM

Lukas Vomela appeared on the prospects radar screen late in 2002-2003, just in time for the 2003 Under-18 WJC, played in Yaroslavl, Russia, which was his first major international event. His steady defensive performance and a hulking frame caused the fact that Vomela was pegged as one of the better Czech prospects for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and big things were expected from this late 1985 born blueliner.

He picked up where he left with the Ceske Budejovice juniors this season, making adequate strides in his mobility and also beginning to show that he can use his size to his advantage. Vomela played with upgraded aggresivness and a mean streak. He patrolled the defensive zone well and even if he still filled the role of a more defensive-minded rearguard, he joined the rush when his defensive duties were taken care of. Vomela was playing with maturity beyond his age and was a likely candidate for a promotion to the senior team.

This happened after nearly two months of regular season play and Vomela found himself as a regular on the Ceske Budejovice seniors defensive rotation coming November. Departures of proven veterans and injuries opened some roster spots and Vomela made use of the chance he got. He established himself as a top-six defenseman and filled his stay-at-home duties conscientiously. Vomela had to get used to the faster pace of the senior game and even if he struggled with the faster forwards sometimes, he didn’t look out of place on the elite Czech senior level.

However, his progress this season hit a wall after Christmas, when a vicious injury basically ended Vomela’s season. An opponent’s slap shot hit his face from close in and Vomela had to miss a considerable part of the playing schedule with a broken bone in his face. When he was finally healthy, it was too late for him to see any playing action in the Extraleague. He wasn’t playing in the relegation series against Dukla Jihlava, which saw his team being demoted to the Div I senior league in the end.

The injury bug which affected Vomela this season had a major influence also on his international showings. His first international tournament in 2003-2004 came in November, when he was in the roster of the Czech Under-19 team, playing in a three-game series against the Under-19 team of Finland. He wasn’t invited to the 2004 Under-20 WJC and missed the February Under-20 tournament due to injury. He made the trip to the annual Under-20 teams tournament in St.Petersburg, Russia, but was benched for most games. Lack of exposure will push his stock down, but is still worth a look in the third or fourth round.