Leaving home…Final Part

By Robert Neuhauser
Well, the puck is dropped and now we know who left the Czech Republic to hone his skills in the CHL. It’s time for the last part of this series, but first let’s summarize a bit.

All of the 11 players featured in the first two parts chose to play in the CHL. I’m sure they won’t regret it as it looks like they have adjusted to the Canadian juniors quickly and are playing significant roles on their respective teams. (just like Toronto’s Frantisek Lukes, the St.Mike’s could hit the jackpot here!) Watch those players play and you’ll see that they can look forward to being drafted at the next NHL Entry Draft. So what about the rest of the list?

Good-sized sniper Martin Vymazal is now a Red Deer Rebel, along with former Plzen’s ELHD league star Ladislav Kouba. Vymazal proved he has a nose for the net when he recorded 21 goals in 28 games for Vsetin in the ELHD and was 21G + 6A in those games. Kouba was even better with 48 points (28G + 20A) in 29 games, that number of games played was enough for him to claim the team’s second-best scorer title. Both are offensively gifted wingers, 2001 eligible.

The new Oshawa General Ladislav Kolda was the best scoring defenseman for ELHD league champion HC Ceske Budejovice. 2002 eligible Kolda (born 10-16-1983) claimed two ELHD titles before leaving for the OHL. The former Under-16 and Under-17 teams member is a mobile defenseman with an offensive gift.

Center Petr Preucil left the Litvinov team for the Quebec Remparts. Wise thing to do for the creative and defensively responsible center, who went 14G + 18A for 32 points in 22 games for Litvinov in the last ELHD season.

Two more of Preucil’s former teammates call the OHL their home league. Right wing Frantisek Bakrlik is a Barrie Colt, but he won’t see a lot of playing time. That wouldn’t happen in Litvinov, where his numbers last season’s were 29G + 11A for 40 points in 42 games, along with 107 PIM’s.
ELHD Litvinov’s top scoring defenseman Ladislav Reznicek is now a Sudbury Wolve. 12-27-1983 born Reznicek was the youngest of the guys taken in this year’s Import Draft. Hope he can develop his aggressive game and passing skills well enough in Sudbury, in 48 games last season Ladislav was 3G + 14A.

Even though left winger Tomas Netik looks to be born for North American hockey, he went undrafted in Calgary. Excelled at this year’s Viking Cup, the good scoring former HC Sparta Praha forward is a Medicine Hat Tiger now.

Right wing Jan Micka of the HC Kometa Brno is a rookie for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Jan was second in team scoring last season with 25 goals and 10 assists in 36 games. He is a hard nut and a possible darkhorse.

Drummondville Voltigeur Martin Frolik played well in the last Under-18 WJC. He was the top line center before an injury ruined his play. He showed great creativity, confidence, and vision. I’m sorry for Kladno, Martin could have helped them this season in the Elite league, now he’ll shine as a Voltigeur.

David Koci was the Pittsburgh Penguins 5th round draft choice this June. The hulking blueliner (6’6”, 210 lbs.) needs WHL experience. With the Prince George Cougars he’ll find out what the WHL is all about and this will allow him to develop faster. In four years David can wear the Pens jersey, he is a future prototypical NHL rearguard. The hard-hitting defenseman is quite the same player as Atlanta Thrashers prospect Libor “Drago” Ustrnul and David could follow in the footsteps of former Prince George Cougar Zdeno Chara into the NHL. Four years ago they both were in the system of HC Sparta Praha and it’ll be interesting to see them playing against one another when the Isles meet the Pens in the future.

Petr Prochazka missed this years draft only by two days (born 09-17-1982). Former Zlin right winger has developed steadily into a top prospect in Saskatoon, but this great two-way forward didn’t put up impressive numbers last season for Zlin Jr., where he had only 4G + 5A in 30 games.

Defenseman Ales Cerny was the alternate captain with the Under-18 squad at the last WJC. Overlooked in Calgary, Ales hopes he improves his game in Swift Current well enough to hear his name called in Florida. A very hard job he faces, but not impossible.

I must admit that I don’t know anything about Calgary Hitmen center David Vrbata. He is 2001 eligible (born 07-25-1983) but came out of nowhere. Could be a relative to Colorado Avalanche prospect Radim Vrbata, but I really don’t know.

Premysl Duben is with Baie-Comeau Drakkar now. The NY Rangers 4th round choice in the 2000 draft split the last season between the Jihlava’s senior and junior team. Premysl played 30 games (2 assists) for the Div 1 champion HC Dukla Jihlava in a pair with his brother Miroslav, former Rookie of the year in the Czech Elite league. In juniors, Premysl added 27 games (4G + 2A). The QMJHL is the most logical way to the NHL for Premysl, who is a reliable stay-at-home defenseman.

Martin Liba, a left wing for HC Sparta Praha scored regularly in the ELHD last season, amassing 53 points (21G + 32A) in 54 games. A lesser-known prospect he can only make a name for himself in Tri-City, where he plays with former teammate Martin Podlesak.

Victoriaville Tigres rookie Zbynek Michalek was an anchor of the defense of the Karlovy Vary Jr. team in 99-00. This defensive defenseman appeared in 43 games, registering 3 points for 2 goals and 1 assist.

Lukas Chaloupka was drafted by the Lethbridge Hurricanes but he hasn’t played a single game there yet. He has the defensive tools for North American hockey but must further develop his skating and hitting. He went undrafted in Calgary and I’m afraid that if a miracle doesn’t happen he’ll be missed in Florida again. Though, he was the second best scoring defenseman for HC Ceske Budejovice Jr. team last season with 12 points for 3 goals and 9 assists in 47 games.

The last choice of the 2000 CHL Import Draft was winger Tomas Tesarek of Kladno who went to the Prince George Cougars. This 2001 eligible player is a good two way forward who has put up solid numbers in the ELHD last season, when he was fourth in team scoring with 44 points (22G + 22A) in 51 games.

And that is the end. We’ll see which of these players will be drafted and who can make it to the NHL. Some of these guys will surely succeed and we’re about to find out who!