Czech 2004 draft preview, Part 1

By Robert Neuhauser

The Czechs have a strong core of late 1985 and 1986 borns
as far as hockey prospects are concerned and this year’s draft crop should be one of the strongest from the Czech perspective. There are five potential first round picks and the overall depth of the 2004 class is also above average. Expect at least 20 Czech players to hear their names, and 12 of them could be picked on the first day.

Rostislav Olesz
Position: center/left wing
Team: HC Vitkovice Sr.
Birthdate: October, 10th, 1985
Birthplace: Ostrava, Czech Republic
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 202 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 3rd among European skaters

A player without any glaring weakness, Olesz is a character guy who gives everything to the team’s success. He is well-balanced and always showing a nasty edge in his play. Olesz plays a combative style and is a good hitter. He is a valuable asset to both power play and penalty killing units. A solid skater with a decent agility, Olesz impresses with his excellent lower-body strength. He has a sharp hockey sense and vision. Also very good in the faceoff circle, Olesz emerges as both a smart passer and a strong finisher. He possesses a good variety of shots, he could only fire the puck more often. He impresses with his strong defensive awareness as he limits the opposing players’ options effectively. A mature player, he doesn’t tend to take shifts off. Olesz projects as a two-way NHL forward and a lock to be picked in the Top 10 of the 2004 draft.

Marek Schwarz
Position: goaltender
Team: HC Sparta Praha Sr.
Birthdate: April, 1st, 1986
Birthplace: Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 173 lbs.
Catches: R
CSB final rank: 1st among European goaltenders

At 6’0”, 173 pounds, Schwartz already possesses decent size, covers the net quite well and has considerable smarts. He plays a butterfly style which is very effective and makes it tough to beat him low. Schwarz is a resilient goalie with exceptional quickness and reflexes. He uses his pads well and has a quick glove hand. He also likes to challenge the shooter and plays
the angles with remarkable poise. He impresses with his confidence and doesn’t let in many bad goals.
On the mental side he seems to be tough, but still sometimes tends to lose focus for a while.
His drawbacks are average skating and he has to further develop his stickhandling. Schwarz’s play with the puck isn’t very good, but he is aware of this and working on this skill. This season Schwarz developed a penchant to go down sometimes too early, thus leaving the upper half uncovered and vulnerable to shooters. He has to get rid of this habit, but nevertheless he is the most talented netminder from this year’s European crop. Schwarz won’t fall past the Top 15 as he has all the tools of a future NHL starter.

Ladislav Smid
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Bili Tygri Liberec Sr.
Birthdate: February, 1st, 1986
Birthplace: Frydlant, Czech Republic
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 202 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 6th among European skaters

Ladislav Smid possesses a nice frame, but at 6’3”, 202 lbs. he is a bit lanky. One of his strongest assets is his very smooth puckhandling and an ability to handle huge traffic well. He is an above-average stickhandler and is very adept at making accurate outlet passes with precise timing. His solid slap shots contribute to his offensive flair, Smid only needs to unleash it more frequently. On the defensive aspect of his game Smid is positionally quite sound and stays with his man, but he could use some improvement in his defensive zone coverage. He isn’t a hard hitter, he relies more on his strong vision and reading of plays, which enables him to foresee what will happen. Smid doesn’t play afraid and his play doesn’t go south when he is physically challenged.
His skating is decent for a big man. He made strides in his agility and first-step quickness to go along with an upgraded balance. Smid shows an adequate lateral movement and isn’t easy to outskate, even if he still could work on this aspect of his game. Smid also needs to learn how to keep his game more simple and not to overhandle the puck, bringing himself into trouble sometimes. Smid will make his living as a top-four NHL defenseman and looks like a sure bet to hear his name selected among the first 15 picks.

Jakub Sindel
Position: center/right wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha Sr.
Birthdate: January, 24th, 1986
Birthplace: Jihlava, Czech Republic
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 172 lbs.
Shoots: R
CSB final rank: 15th among European skaters

An excellent skater with a smooth stride, Sindel utilizes on his above-average speed to slip through opposing defenses. He also possesses strong agility and a quick first step. Sindel is a crafty stickhandler, who handles the puck well with his soft hands and capitalizes on his very good offensive instincts. Blessed with a knack for scoring goals, Sindel thrives in one-on-one situations and is a valuable power play threat. He has a very good vision and hockey sense to go along with solid passing skills. Sindel is a coachable player with a solid leadership ability. He prefers to lead by example rather than raise his voice in the dressing room. He is working on improving the defensive aspect of his game, but is no defensive forward. Another drawback for Sindel is his skinny frame, he has to bulk up if he wants to survive against the opposition. He was switched from right winger to center in the previous season, but coped with the new role well. He only should develop a better faceoff technique. The offensive whiz Sindel has a chance to crack the first round, but he certainly won’t be on the board after the second round reaches the middle.

Lukas Kaspar
Position: left wing
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov Sr.
Birthdate: September, 23rd, 1985
Birthplace: Litvinov, Czech Republic
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 202 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 14th among European skaters

At 6’2, 202 lbs Kaspar already possesses a huge frame, which he knows how to use for
his advantage. He is a solid skater for
a player of his size with a decent burst of speed. He handles the puck extremely well with
his soft hands and is blessed with a strong nose for the net. He knows many ways how to
score a goal and uses both of his wrist and slap shots with ease and accuracy. A talented
sniper, Kaspar also delivers crisp passes, but once on a scoring chance he prefers shooting
to passing. He isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and fights along the boards and in front
of the net a lot. Kaspar drives to the net fearlessly and is solid in one-on-one situations. The things to work on for him are his agility and defensive awareness.
Kaspar is raw in his own zone when it comes to positioning and marking his man, even if he did remarkable strides in his defensive play during the last months. Kaspar’s downside is as a third-line NHL forward and this package is too attractive to overlook in the early second round. He can even crack the first if some team likes him enough.

David Krejci
Position: center
Team: HC Rabat Kladno Jr.
Birthdate: April, 28th, 1986
Birthplace: Sternberk, Czech Republic
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 176 lbs.
Shoots: R
CSB final rank: 21st among European skaters

At 5’11”, 176 lbs. David Krejci won’t be a huge physical presence, but still shows that he isn’t afraid of taking a hit to make a play. He drives hard to the net and is willing to dig for the pucks in corners. But Krejci’s strongest asset is his elite skill. He possesses soft hands and is capable of handling the pucks smoothly. Krejci is adequate in the faceoff circle and
is a solid stickhandler. He isn’t afraid of playing in heavy traffic and shows remarkable
poise once on a scoring chance. The defensive side of Krejci’s game is about average, he
won’t hurt you defensively, but also won’t rule as a backchecking forward. Krejci has very
good shooting skills, he only needs to use his slapper more, the wrist shot is highly accurate.
He presents a big portion of vision and hockey sense in his play and is also able of very
smart, crisp passes. On the downside Krejci could use more speed, he sometimes misses that
extra gear. His stride needs some polishing in effectiveness and more acceleration. On the
ice, Krejci could also more control his temper, he tends to lose it and take some dumb
penalties. He can emerge as a solid second line NHL center if everything clicks well for him and he could be picked within the second or third round of the draft.

Zdenek Bahensky
Position: center/right wing
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov Jr.
Birthdate: January, 3rd, 1986
Birthplace: Litvinov, Czech Republic
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 190 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 24th among European skaters

Zdenek Bahensky’s strongest asset is his smooth skating and good quickness. He shows strong bursts of speed along with an above-average agility. He can handle the physical rigors of the game quite well, playing with a solid edge and going regularly into traffic areas. At 6’2”, 190 lbs. Bahensky is still a bit skinny and will need to bulk up, though. He possesses considerable smarts and has decent shooting skills. He could use better stickhandling skills as he sometimes gets into trouble when having to corral a bad pass or deke an opponent in a one-on-one situation. His wrist shot is blessed with a fast release, but could use some improving in the accuracy of his slap shot. Bahensky isn’t a one-dimensional player and has made strides in improving his defensive awareness. He has to further develop his consistency, he can be a real force when on his ‘A’ game, but also disappear in some games. Bahensky can become the player teams make a reach for and the potential NHL second- or third-line center should emerge as a second-round pick.

Karel Hromas
Position: left wing
Team: HC Sparta Praha Sr.
Birthdate: January, 27th, 1986
Birthplace: Beroun, Czech Republic
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 189 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 45th among European skaters

Karel Hromas’ combative in-your-face style of play brought him lots of respect. He displays an above-average aggresiveness, shutting down the offensive weapons of the opposition regularly with his huge defensive awareness and sticking his nose into tight corner battles. Hromas isn’t afraid to hit and perform in heavy traffic. He emerges as a solid physical presence, utilizing on his solid 6’2”, 189 lbs. frame. Blessed with a tremendous quickness for a big man, Hromas has a good stride and balance. His agility has still some way to go, but his skating is fairly solid. He uses his long reach effectively and is a smart passer. Hromas has decent vision and hockey sense to go along with a never-give-up attitude. He is always involved in the games, playing them with lots of heart and intensity. On the downside Hromas still needs to further improve his puckhandling skills, he doesn’t have the best hands and his variety of shots is also only average. He could work on the accuracy of both his wrist and slap shots, which are released with a good hardness. He won’t develop into a scoring threat at the NHL level, but a reliable checking line player. Hromas has potential NHL third-liner written all over him and look for him being picked in the late second or early third round.

Vaclav Meidl
Position: center
Team: Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Birthdate: May, 27th, 1986
Birthplace: Prostejov, Czech Republic
Height: 6’4.5”
Weight: 198 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 28th among North American skaters

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. He 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 the 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 and display a bigger productivity. 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. Could make his living as a NHL third liner in the future years and teams will consider picking him late in the second round.

Stanislav Balan
Position: center
Team: HC Hame Zlin Jr.
Birthdate: January, 30th, 1986
Birthplace: Hodonin, Czech Republic
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 165 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 48th among European skaters

Stanislav Balan is a good skater for a player of his size. He takes advantage of his fluid stride and possesses a solid agility. He has an adequate first-step quickness and is able to execute at a high velocity. Balan is a tremendous puckhandler who sees the ice well. He is a deft playmaker who utilizes on his strong hand-eye coordination. Balan has an above-average hockey sense and plays well in position. He is capable of finishing the scoring chances, too, as he boasts a good wrist shot with a fast release. His slap shot could see some improvement in accuracy and hardness. Balan doesn’t refuse to help out the defense thanks to his solid defensive awareness, but still could block the opposing passing lanes more effectively. At 6’1”, 165 lbs. Balan has a very skinny frame at this point. He doesn’t play a physical style and relies on his finesse more than on his toughness. Should be breaking out on the senior level next season. Not physically strong now, but definitely smart and skilled – such a package makes some teams drool and Balan won’t fall past the third round of the draft.

Roman Polak
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Vitkovice Jr.
Birthdate: April, 28th, 1986
Birthplace: Ostrava, Czech Republic
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 198 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 49th among European skaters

A smooth skater, Roman Polak impresses with his leg strength and balance. He is extremely tough to get knocked off his skates and possesses also solid acceleration and agility. At 6’1”, 198 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 tough and 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 power play and penalty killing units, Polak passes the pucks smoothly, but is sometimes prone to the odd bad decision when moving the puck. 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. Polak fits the mold of a potential sixth or seventh NHL defenseman and could be picked during the third round of the draft or early in the fourth.

Lukas Vomela
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice Sr./Jr.
Birthdate: September, 25th, 1985
Birthplace: Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 189 lbs.
Shoots: L
CSB final rank: 44th among European skaters

With a gangly 6’3”, 189 lbs. frame, Vomela has a nice size but has some filling out to do before he can emerge as a feared physical menace. More of a stay-at-home defenseman, he concentrates on having his defensive duties done before he occasionally joins the rush and displays his offensive side. A decent skater for a player of his size, Vomela could still use more mobility and balance, which would make his defensive zone coverage more effective. He is a solid shooter from the point and has adequate passing skills. He tries to keep his game simple and is coveted for his reliability, but has to further improve his decision making with the puck. Vomela plays a sound positional game in his own zone and he marks his man effectively. He made strides in his toughness during the last season and is capable of throwing solid hits with good timing. He is also a solid crease-clearer who plays his games at a good level of intensity and determination. Vomela projects as a third-unit NHL defensive blueliner if he fulfills his potential. He can reach the third round if some team likes him that much, but the fourth round seems more likely.