Draft eligible prospects in the Czech Extraleague

By Robert Neuhauser

It is common in European hockey that the most talented
prospects clinch playing spots on the senior teams long before their junior
eligibility runs out. In the Czech Republic, the likes of Jaromir Jagr,
Robert Reichel, Tomas Kaberle or Martin Havlat were established regulars
on the elite senior level long before they entered the center stage at
the NHL Entry Draft. The 2004-05 is no exception and
several players are stepping over the threshold to the elite senior
level. Let’s have a look at the top undrafted players born between 1986 and 1988 who
are already playing or making a strong push to play in the Czech senior
Extraleague.

Michael Frolik
Position: right wing
Team: HC Rabat Kladno Sr.
Birthdate: February 17th, 1988
Birthplace: Kladno, Czech Republic
Height: 6’0
Weight: 178 lbs.
Shoots: L
Eligible: 2006

Michael Frolik is currently one of the fastest progressing young
players in Czech hockey. Frolik accomplished a
rare feat in reaching the senior Extraleague just three seasons after
skating with the 13 and 14-year-olds at the 9th grade
level. Frolik needed just one season to get accustomed to the midget and
junior levels and even show that he won’t benefit from a longer stay on
those levels. Besides performing regularly for the Czech Under-18 and
Under-20 teams, Frolik joined the Kladno seniors for the summer camp. He
succeeded in earning a playing spot alongside former fringe NHL players
Pavel Patera and Martin Prochazka, both seasoned senior Extraleague
veterans who should teach the youngster big lessons in how to make use of
all his natural talent to his advantage on the elite Czech level.

Frolik is a solid skater with deceptive quickness. He possesses
strong agility and a smooth stride to go along with good balance
and lower-body strength. Frolik impresses with his above-average
puckhandling skills and hand-eye coordination. Frolik can bring the
defensemen out of position with his nifty stick moves and plenty of finesse
skills, which enables him to maneuver effectively even in traffic. He
boasts an excellent hockey sense and an ability to find the open man. Frolik
is a very strong playmaker who possesses a rare sixth sense for finding
a passing lane unseen by others. He shows a good array of shots, but
prefers passing to shooting. Frolik unleashes a quick wrist shot with
solid accuracy, but could upgrade on the accuracy of the slap shot. He
isn’t very big, but is solidly built and willing to dig for pucks
along the boards. He doesn’t play an overly aggressive style, but isn’t a
liability in traffic. The top Czech 2006 eligible prospect is blossoming
into a real blue-chipper and is the only Czech midget-eligible player
to skate in the senior Extraleague player right now.

Vladimir Sobotka
Position: center/left wing
Team: HC Slavia Praha Jr./Sr.
Birthdate: July 2nd, 1987
Birthplace: Trebic, Czech Republic
Height: 5’10
Weight: 173 lbs.
Shoots: L
Eligible: 2005

The smallish Trebic native really turned heads during the 2003-04
campaign which turned out to be his breakthrough year. Sobotka, who was
just a slightly above-average midget player two years ago, took the
midget Extraleague by storm in the first half of the previous season,
creating a lethal one-two punch with linemate Tomas Svoboda. Sobotka’s
strong all-round play made concerns about his frame look out of place as he
was able to hit, shoot and score almost at will against midget
competition and led the midget Extraleague in scoring until his promotion to the
junior team at Christmas time. He adjusted to the junior level rapidly and now is among the top 2005 eligible Czech forwards. In the last game of the regular season at Pardubice Sobotka, the fitness testing winner from the Czech Under-17 team in 2003-04, even
played his senior Extraleague debut. This season he is expected to split
time between the junior and senior teams of Slavia Praha, where he should
see fourth-line duty.

At 5’10, 173 lbs. Vladimir Sobotka won’t jump at you with a huge
frame, but still he plays two inches taller and isn’t afraid of taking a
hit to make a play. He drives hard to the net and will dig for the pucks
in corners. Sobotka possesses soft hands and emerges as a smooth
puck carrier. Sobotka is solid in the faceoff circle and gets the job done on
both power play and penalty killing units. He isn’t afraid of playing in
heavy traffic and shows remarkable poise in scoring chances. Sobotka possesses a heavy slap shot which he unleashes regularly.
A tenacious forechecker, Sobotka presents good vision and
hockey sense in his play. He is a solid passer, but on the downside
Sobotka could use more speed, he sometimes misses that
extra gear. His stride needs some polishing in effectiveness and more
acceleration. Overall he seems to be a promising player who could do well
in the North American system, if he grows some inches and adds more
bulk.

Tomas Pospisil
Position: right wing
Team: HC Ocelari Trinec Jr.
Birthdate: August 25th, 1987
Birthplace: Sumperk, Czech Republic
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 162 lbs.
Shoots: R

Tomas Pospisil is one of the players who keep crossing their fingers
for an early end of the NHL lockout. With the NHL players performing for
the senior team of Trinec, the slick offensive winger won’t be invited
to play on the elite level and has to stay with the junior squad.
Pospisil, a regular with the Czech junior national team of the 1987 borns,
usually played against one year older opposition since arriving in
Trinec from Sumperk. He spent the complete 2003-04 campaign with playing
on the junior team as an underager and this year is off to a hot start
in the junior Extraleague. But the overall depth at forward on the
Trinec senior squad would still limit him to a fourth-line duty and Pospisil
is considering heavily to come over to play in the CHL next season.

Pospisil uses his solid smarts and offensive instincts to
generate offense, he can score and pass equally well. He can be lethal
around the goal area and has no trouble with putting the puck into the
net thanks to his persistence and elusive moves. He possesses solid
stickhandling skills and can maneuver through traffic quite well. Pospisil
is a smooth puckhandler, but could use more polishing of his shooting
skills, his shots aren’t very hard. Another thing to work on for him is
the defensive play, which is sub-par at this time. Pospisil is a solid,
but unspectacular skater and for a player of his current size 5’11,
162 lbs. he should take some lessons here, especially in agility and
balance. Pospisil has solid straightaway speed, though. On the
physical side he tends to be very nervous before important matches
and this fact spoils his performance sometimes.

Tomas Kudelka
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Hame Zlin Jr.
Birthdate: March 10th, 1987
Birthplace: Zlin, Czech Republic
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 176 lbs.
Shoots: L
Eligible: 2005

Tomas Kudelka’s strong dedication to the game and above-average work
ethic is paying off as the talented defenseman is working his way through
all age categories of his Zlin team. Kudelka, along with Jakub Vojta
from Sparta Praha the top Czech 2005 eligible defenseman, began the
2003-04 campaign on the midget level, but the coaching staff, seeing his
efforts and two-way progress, ultimately assigned him already to the
junior team. Kudelka quickly found a home in the junior Extraleague and
even earned top-four duty. During the late stages of the season he was
promoted for a cup of coffee with the senior team and played his first
pair of games on the elite senior level. Kudelka, a key defenseman of the
Czech junior national team of the 1987 borns, spent the summer of 2004
practicing with the Zlin seniors full-time and impressed the coaches
with his stamina as he was the winner of the 12-minute running drill.

Kudelka is a good skater for a player of his size. He
displays solid backwards skating and lateral movement, adequate acceleration, but a better top-end speed would make him more effective. Kudelka has a solid offensive upside and shows good poise when jumping into the rush. One of his strongest assets is his creativity with the puck, but is prone to the odd mistake when moving it up-ice. Kudelka tends to be careless with the puck at times and those mistakes lead to occasional turnovers. He possesses adequate puckhandling
skills and can quarterback a power play. Kudelka often uses his
fast-released slap shot, but needs to work on accuracy of his shots and keep
them lower on the ice. He doesn’t show much aggresiveness in his own zone,
where he relies on his smarts and vision. Kudelka should develop a
nasty side to his play and learn how to make his size to his advantage.

David Kveton
Position: center
Team: HC Vsetin Jr.
Birthdate: January 3rd, 1988
Birthplace: Novy Jicin, Czech Republic
Height: 5’10
Weight: 166 lbs.
Shoots: L
Eligible: 2006

The slick Novy Jicin native David Kveton doesn’t get as much attention
as some of his 2006 draft peers, but is quietly appearing on the verge
of breaking into the Czech senior Extraleague. Kveton joined the system
of the Vsetin team not earlier than in the summer of 2003 after playing
his whole previous career in his hometown. Vsetin juniors head coach
Bretislav Kopriva knew what he is getting as he coaches Kveton as an
underager also on the Czech junior team of the 1987 born and let him
skating in the junior Extraleague as a twice underager. Kveton could
contribute from the beginning and this summer he was invited to the camp of the
Vsetin senior team. The physical demands of the senior hockey stand a
bit too high for Kveton to skate on the senior team full-time at this
point, but he is ranked as the fifth center on the Vsetin senior team and
should get the occasional callup when injuries strike.

David Kveton is a solid skater with a fast change of pace and deceptive
quickness. He shows a good acceleration, but could use a bigger top-end
speed. An extra gear would enable him to drag himself into scoring
chances with a bigger ease. Kveton is a swift puckhandler with soft hands
and a good hand-eye coordination. He likes to penetrate into the
offensive zone with the puck on his stick and create plays. Kveton is blessed
with above-average smarts and is capable of good tape-to-tape passes.
He fires an accurate wrist shot with a fast release, but he doesn’t use
his slap shot very often. He possesses adequate in-close finishing
skills and a scoring touch. Kveton is very skinny at this point and not a
significant physical force when having to battle heavy traffic. Kveton
doesn’t dish out many hard hits and prefers to play a finesse style
rather than play aggressively. He is average on his defensive awareness,
Kveton is willing to return to his own end, but is raw at marking his man
and positioning.

Michal Psurny
Position: right wing
Team: HC Hame Zlin Jr.
Birthdate: February 23rd, 1986
Birthplace: Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic
Height: 6’0
Weight: 176 lbs.
Shoots: R

Michal Psurny played alongside his twin brother Roman for the whole
duration of his previous career, but with Roman’s departure to the WHL’s
Medicine Hat Tigers, Michal was left alone in the task of finding a home
in the Czech senior Extraleague. The twin duo played against players of
the same age till the 2002-03 season, when they were both promoted to
the junior Extraleague as underagers and after some adjustment time
they turned out to be solid contributors in 2003-04. Michal Psurny
gained the first senior Extraleague start over his brother at mid-season,
but served only fourth-line duty and saw more playing action on the
junior team. He already managed to score his first senior goal, but with the
strong depth at forward of the Zlin senior team Psurny doesn’t stand at
a high chance to play regularly for the seniors unless he will be
loaned to another team.

Michal Psurny is a solid skater with decent speed, but a better
acceleration and a more fluid stride would be helpful for him. He handles the
puck well with his soft hands and is very adept at both distributing it
or finishing the scoring chances. Psurny is a good passer and he fires
strong, accurate wrist shots. His slap shot needs to be worked on,
Psurny’s blasts are not very hard. He sees the ice very well and doesn’t
tend to take shifts off. He needs to find more defensive
awareness, at times Psurny tends to float on the periphery and not limit the
opposing players’ options effectively. At 6’0, 176 lbs., Psurny is a
skinny player and he doesn’t excel when the play gets too physical.
Psurny has an excellent work ethic and attitude and uses his skill more than his size, which is no problem in Europe, but battling NHL traffic could be a problem for him.

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