The 2014 World Junior Championship is set to begin Thursday in Malmö, Sweden with the Czech Republic squad looking to surprise some observers. The Czechs performed well last year in Ufa, Russia, beating Latvia, Switzerland and Finland before being eliminated by the United States in the quarterfinals following a 7-0 victory for the Americans. The Czechs ended last year's WJC in fifth place, but may be hard pressed to equal that accomplishment this year.
It looks like it could be a solid draft year for the Czech Republic in 2014 with David Pastrňák and Jakub Vrána, two upper round candidates based in Sweden, and many more potential later round prospects playing either in Sweden, Canada or in their homeland. Thanks to a new rule implemented by the Czech Ice Hockey Association, prospects are also getting much more ice-time in the Extraliga than in recent years.
Unable to create many opportunities for young players, Czech youth hockey is slowly losing influence. The system has been collapsing, with the main problems being economics and training methods. It's no wonder that talented Czech players try their luck abroad, not just in Canada or the United States, but also in Sweden, a country that has recently produced loads of big-time NHL prospects.
The Hockey's Future Calder Trophy poll for November reflected the depth of the 2013-14 rookie class as 22 players received votes from members of the staff. This month's Top 10 was impacted by several early season call-ups who have emerged while a handful of players who opened the season with a bang but then cooled off are no longer in this month's Top 10 (actually eleven since there was a tie for the 10th spot).
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