Photo: Kitchener Rangers forward and Dallas Stars prospect Radek Faksa will be suiting up for the Czech Republic at the U20 World Juniors for the third and final time (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
He may sometimes feel like a fish out of water, but it’s a sensation that Radek Faksa has had plenty of experience with. But when that water’s frozen and he’s strapped on the blades, few OHL players look as natural — or at home — on the ice as the Dallas Stars’ Czech Republic-born first rounder.
Photo: PSG Zlin forward Petr Holik turned in a strong 2012-13 season with the league runner-up, and he is expected to be one of the better young players in the Extraliga this season (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The 2013-14 Czech Extraliga regular season has already begun, with the first game being played on September 11th. The participation of junior-aged hockey players in the league will now be higher than ever. In hopes of lifting Czech draft and Under-20 WJC success and getting the country back to placing among the world's elite, the Czech Ice Hockey Association has introduced a rule that requires every team to dress at least three players born in 1991 or later, and one born in 1994 or later. That means that fans will be able to watch many Czech prospects, including those eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Photo: Czech forward and 2014 draft prospect Pavel Jenys hopes to make some noise this season with the top team in the Kometa Brno organization (courtesy of Kometa Brno)
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.
Photo: Liberec White Tigers forward Pavel Zacha has the potential to be a first round selection at the 2015 NHL Draft (courtesy of Liberec White Tigers)
The last time a Czech prospect was selected among the top 10 at an NHL Draft was in 2006 when the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Jakub Voráček sixth overall. Since then, the only bigger success for a Czech draft class was a year ago, in 2012, when two forwards, Radek Faksa and Tomáš Hertl, were selected by Dallas and San Jose respectively in the top 20. And, while the 2013 NHL Draft was a huge disappointment for the Czech Republic, this traditional stronghold of hockey is expected to come back.
Photo: 2014 prospect Filip Pyrochta hails from the same Czech hometown as NHL players Patrik Elias and Martin Erat (courtesy of the Liberec White Tigers)
The Czech Republic had one of its least successful drafts this year in New Jersey, but that doesn't mean the next one won't feature any Czech players that could be picked in the early rounds. Swedish-based offensive marvel Jakub Vrána, who will definitely be considered one of the top European skaters, isn't the only one though. Still playing in his homeland and just about to take a leap into the Czech Extraliga is young defenseman Filip Pyrochta.