Czech hockey is seemingly losing its talent, or at least that's what most recent drafts, except for the 2012 NHL Draft, seem to indicate. Despite that, the Czech Under-18 national team always manages to have a decent or better showing at the annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, which is hosted by the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This year, the team went far and came home with a bronze medal, beating Sweden and Russia along the way.
While there are Czech prospects ranked for the first round before the start of this season, it was not just those prospects that received the attention of fans, scouts and media at this tournament. Big forward Pavel Jenyš, who is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, didn't play big minutes, but was a solid second-line performer for a team that went a long way. He's been around winning for a long time.
Born and raised in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, Jenyš was taught hockey by the Kometa Brno organization that has produced a couple of NHL players already – e.g long-time HartfordWhaler/Carolina Hurricane Robert Kron and recent Dallas Stars' forward, Tomáš Vincour. Brno isn't quite done yet, though, as, along with Jenyš, 2015 draft prospects Pavel Zacha and Jakub Zbořil were raised playing with Jenyš in that organization. Both are currently considered early-round prospects for their draft year.
Although Jenyš isn't likely to receive much attention at the draft, back in the 2006-07 season, something impressive started happening for Jenyš in Brno. Back then, the 10-year-old Jenyš played for Kometa's fifth-grade team that went on to win the national championship in that category. As Jenyš moved to other categories, he won a different national championship every year, including the Under-16 Extraliga crown.
While both Zbořil and Zacha have only won four times with the Brno organization, Jenyš won five straight years before the 2011-12 season. After enjoying success with current Acadie-Bathurst Titan winger Adam Zbořil (older brother of the aforementioned Jakub Zbořil), who captained the Under-16 team in their winning campaign and collected 75 points in 25 games, Jenyš spent the majority of the following season in the Under-18 Extraliga where he had 17 points in 33 games at the age of 15.
Jenyš's impressive performance led to the organization giving the young forward a chance to compete among pros. Jenyš first wore Kometa's first-team jersey during the European Trophy, where he played in two games as a 16-year-old and collected an assist.
Besides that, he played for Brno's Under-20 team where he posted numbers similar to those he had a year before at the U18 level. Also, the Under-18 national team first called him up for duty when they traveled overseas for the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Over there, Jenyš played in four games, but failed to register a point. Almost a year later, he's back with the Under-18 national team and doing much better.
At the Ivan Hlinka, Jenyš played in four games and scored two goals and an assist en route to the bronze medal. As noted above, he wasn't the leader of the team as that might have been one of the first-round prospects for the upcoming draft, David Pastrňák or Jakub Vrána, but he was there when the team needed him. In particular, his game against Switzerland is memorable. The Czechs were down 3-1 with less than a minute left when Jenyš scored to cut the lead to one and then assisted on the game-tying goal scored by blueliner Filip Pyrochta.
Back in Brno, Jenyš might well play a full season in the Czech Extraliga. They gave him a chance in a relegation group game last season and now they're testing him again in the European Trophy. Up in the big league, however, Jenyš will have to perform and score points to get the attention of scouts looking for talent from the 2014 draft class.
At 6-foot-2 and 181 pounds, Jenyš is exactly what you expect him to be. He's big and confident, has a really good one-timer, and has no problem winning physical battles. He'll need to work on his defensive play and passing, but he is a great character forward. The way he plays and shows up when his team needs it the most shows that he needs winning just as much as breathing. He would do all to win – block a shot or just give it more than a hundred percent. Jenyš could be picked in the upcoming NHL Draft, but it depends on the progress that he makes in the coming season.
Hockey's Future interviewed the big winger after a team practice at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament:
Hockey's Future: Pavel, the Ivan Hlinka is a big tournament. What's the feeling of playing in this tournament?
Pavel Jenyš: It is a fantastic feeling, not many people can play there. It's great to play here.
HF: Back home in Brno, the team gave you a chance among the pros. What was it like for you?
PJ: It's completely different hockey. There are big jumps both between the Under-18 and Under-20 levels and between Under-20 and professional hockey. Now I must work hard in order to make sure that I can try playing there again.
HF: Do you think that you'll get the chance next year, possibly in the Czech Extraliga?
PJ: I think so. If I keep working hard, I think I definitely will.
HF: What would you say about your playing style?
PJ: I don't look at my own playing style too much, I just try to play as good as I can. My strengths are speed and shooting. I try to fire often and work hard. I'm strong so I try to play physical, too.
HF: What do you think you need to improve the most?
PJ: Everyone has to keep working on everything all the time even when they're really good at it. Everything needs to be improved and a player isn't ever perfect enough to say that he doesn't need to work on something anymore.
HF: Final question, what about the NHL Draft?
PJ: I hope it will work out, I'd love to try hockey overseas and I'll do my best to get there and get drafted.
Follow Radoslav Vavrina on Twitter via @Pacific4_Rado_V