Czech 2005 prospects: David Kuchejda

By Robert Neuhauser

The Czech Ceske Budejovice team has a long history in developing
hockey prospects and many of them now belong to the household names among
NHL fans including Tampa Bay’s Vaclav Prospal and Edmonton’s Radek Dvorak.
One player eager to follow in their footsteps is David Kuchejda, a forward with the Ceske Budejovice junior team.

Kuchejda didn’t start playing hockey until he was seven years old. His older brother Jakub was playing hockey, and David didn’t want to be left out. He persuaded his father to
enroll him to the hockey team in his native city Opava.

David tried out his older brother’s goalie gear. But he filled the netminder’s role at only one practice, and it was evident that he wouldn’t become a premiere puck-stopper and Opava entry level team coach Petr Beranek slotted him on the forward position.

Kuchejda joined the Havirov Extraleague organization’s developmental system prior to his 8th grade season, but Havirov midgets coaches Jaroslav Beck and Ivo Pestuka didn’t leave
him on the 8th grade level. They liked what they saw from him in the
summer camp and promoted him to play in the midget
Extraleague as a twice underager. There he faced opponents sometimes four
years older than him, who were getting ready for the leap to the junior
ranks. The 13-year old Kuchejda was a small kid, but not on the ice. He got used to the elite midget competition in a relatively short time and ruled with his slick skating and
deceptive puckhandling skills. In 19 games for Havirov midgets, he recorded 6 points for 3 goals and 3 helpers to go along with a -2 and 4 PIMs.

In his first season in Havirov, Kuchejda also made his first trip to North
America to have a taste of Canadian pee-wee hockey. He joined the
Havirov 8th grade team who traveled to Vancouver to a tournament which
turned out to be a huge success for him. He took advantage of his
playing experience in the midget Extraleague to emerge as the team’s on-ice
leader. He was voted the first star in two games and returned home with
a good feeling about his showing. Kuchejda didn’t travel to
Quebec City to participate at the international pee-wee tournament because
he made an appearance already at the tourney in Vancouver.

‘Kuchec’ began the 2001-02 season with the Havirov midgets as an underaged player, but didn’t remain there for long, only for the first quarter of the season. During
that time he dressed up for 15 games, amassing 8 points for 4 goals and 4
assists, a +11 and 8 PIMs. But meanwhile he received a serious
offer from the Ceske Budejovice team to change the team and begin to
perform in the Ceske Budejovice system. That meant also moving to the
other end of the Czech Republic, but Kuchejda agreed to this
challenge.

Ceske Budejovice midgets head coach Milan Starek knew that in David he
had gotten a quality prospect and a boost to the lineup, which resulted into
solid ice time and plenty of chances to showcase his talent. Kuchejda
replied with an increased offensive output, scoring at a nearly one
point per game pace. Finally in 29 games for the Ceske Budejovice midgets
David notched 8 goals, 15 assists for a total of 23 points, a -7
and 51 PIMs.

His stellar play wasn’t a secret for the new Czech Under-16 team
coaches Bretislav Kopriva and Vladimir Bednar. They invited Kuchejda to
the selection camp and had an easy decision after he was turning
heads with his inspiring performance. He made his first appearance in
the Czech national team jersey in a three-game series between the
Under-16 teams of Czech Republic and Slovakia, played in Humenne, Slovakia,
in August of 2002. Kuchejda found himself among the top Czech
scorers with 2 points for 1 goal and 1 assist in the 3 games. His second
and last international tournament with the Under-16 team came in the
three-game series against the young Russians. He skated mostly on the
line with Martin Husicka and Petr Kalus and scored one marker, which
was his only point at this tourney.

In 2002-03, Kuchejda could count on
a much increased role on the team with already two midget Extraleague
seasons under his belt. A regular on the top two lines, he
created a great duo with fellow junior national team player Martin
Hanzal. Kuchejda hit the ground running from the very beginning of the
season and exceeded the point per game plateau for the first time in his
midget career. He avoided considerable slumps and thanks to his
previous experience was a leading force on the front lines of the Ceske
Budejovice midgets. Kuchejda proved that he is ready to the jump to the
junior Extraleague in the next season as an underager with his strong effort
for the midget team. Even though he sustained a sprained ankle in December
and missed a few games, he got back to full swing soon and finished the
season with respectable numbers. He dressed out for 39 games,
registering 42 points for 19 goals and 23 assists, an even +/- and 30 PIMs.

Kuchejda was promoted full-time to the Ceske Budejovice junior team in
2003-04 along with his longtime linemate Martin Hanzal. He got
accustomed to the pace and physical demands of elite junior hockey quickly
and even if he saw a limited ice time, he could chip in offensively from
time to time. He had his best months in November and December when he contributed regularly on the attack and found his confidence, which resulted into an increased productivity. However,
Kuchejda’s scoring tailed off in February as he was in a slump and was
eventually send down to the midget team to help the team in an attempt
to reach the playoffs. In 5 midget games Kuchejda amassed 4 points for
3 goals and 1 assist along with a +1 and 48 PIMs. He spent the
vast majority of the season with the junior team, appearing in 47 games
and registering 19 points for 7 goals and 12 assists along with a +4 and 40 PIMs.

Kuchejda was one of the key members at forward for the Czech
Under-17 team in 2003-04. He began his season with an appearance at the
Five Nations Tournament, held in Slovakia in August. At the next
tournament, a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Finland, he was
tied with Tomas Svoboda for the best Czech goalscorer with two goals. At
Christmas time he was named to the team which was about to compete at
the Viking Cup, where the Czechs played as the only team consisting only
from 1987 borns. Kuchejda didn’t look lost on the smaller ice surface
and registered a decent showing with two goals for the fourth place
Czechs. At the following tournament, a Four Nations Tournament played in
the Czech Republic, Kuchejda emerged as the top Czech scorer with 3
points for 2 goals and 1 assist and was arguably the best Czech forward.
Overall Kuchejda dressed out for 15 international games in 2003-04,
scoring 13 points for 9 goals and 4 assists, along with 14 PIMs.

The Ceske Budejovice junior team is counting on him to provide a good
part of the offensive punch in 2004-05. Kuchejda is only meeting the expectations at this point. He needs to find consistency as he can be a non-factor after an impressive game. Kuchejda is asked to fill a role of a set-up player on the Ceske Budejovice junior team and
right now he leads the squad in assists by a decent margin. He
takes advantage of his solid vision and awareness of his linemates to
create quality plays. As a player who has size against
him at 5’10, 173 lbs., Kuchejda has still to prove that he is able to battle traffic
effectively with regularity. So far he appeared in 11 games, registering 6
points for 1 goal and 5 assists, an even plus/minus and 12 PIMs.

Kuchejda has recorded an impressive beginning into the 2004-05
international season. In his draft year he could pull off a very good
performance at the highly-scouted Under-18 Junior Cup. He made a good name
for himself with his creativity and an ability to find the open man even
if battling heavy traffic. In five Under-18 Junior Cup games Kuchejda
notched 4 points for 4 assists, a +1 and 6 PIMs.

Kuchejda is a slick skater with solid agility and first-step
quickness. He displays above-average speed, which helps him to outskate the
opposing defensemen. Kuchejda is blessed with solid puckhandling
skills. He covers the puck well despite the size deficiency. Kuchejda is
involved in the games, willing to execute in traffic. He battles in the
trenches, but isn’t much of a physical force thanks to his frame. Kuchejda still needs to bulk up and gain more strength. He is an imaginative passer who utilizes his good vision and hockey sense. He possesses adequate
finishing skills, but has to upgrade on his variety of shots and fire a more
accurate slap shot. On the downside he needs more intensity in the
defensive zone. He has to stay with his man in his own zone all the way.
Kuchejda is an average hitter and doesn’t throw his body around very
often.

Resting takes most of Kuchejda’s free time. He knows that strength is
important for the games and he relaxes a lot. That also by listening to
music, he prefers to listen to the latest hits played on the radio and
doesn’t have any special style he would like. Kuchejda is learning the cabinetmaker’s trade.
He probably won’t install new locker rooms on his own, but is aware that he has to visit school regularly.

Kuchejda lists former Ceske Budejovice forward and a current San Jose Shark Milan Michalek his hockey role model and now he could see Michalek play live many times and learn from this player, which was an useful lesson for Kuchejda. Among the other NHL players
Kuchejda admires Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk and the New York
Rangers’ Jaromir Jagr.

Once this season is over, Kuchejda will decide whether to
come over to play in the CHL or not. Represented by agent Milan
Kasparek, he is likely to stay home and take the European route to the NHL, but
there is still plenty of time left before he’ll finally decide. No
matter what route he’ll take, he’ll definitely be considered as one of the
better Czech prospects for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.