ICE draft Czech Import

By Jeff Bromley

The names of recent Kootenay ICE
European members of their club read
somewhat like a whose who of able
scorers, deft puck-handlers and flashy
offensive moves, Stanislav Gron,
Jaroslav Svoboda, Zdenek Blatny and
most recently, Marek Svatos. Needless
to say, the Kootenay ICE’ first pick
(16th overall) in Wednesday’s CHL’s
Import Draft is going to have some very
big shoes to fill.

The pick, the result of
compensation from the Tri-Cities
Americans luring former ICE G.M. Bob
Tory to fill the same position in
Kennewick, was used to select Thomas
Plihal, a 6′ 1″, 180lb, seventeen-yr-old
left-winger from the Czech Republic.
Roy Stasiuk, Director of Player
Personnel for the ICE says that the club
has known about the lanky winger for
some time. “We’ve known about him for
two years,” said Stasiuk on the phone
from his Edmonton home. “He played
with the Czech under-17 team in
Timmins, Ontario (host of the ’99 World
Under-17 Tournament) two years ago,
playing against two of our young players
at the time, Dan Blackburn and Tyler

Stasiuk figures that the Czech Republic
native could come in and make an
impact with the ICE right away. “He’s
got pretty good size, he’s got excellent
stick skills and he’s a good skater, not in
the pure speed aspect but Plihall is very
strong on his skates with great balance
and someone who can handle the puck
very well coupled with a very good
shot,” said Stasiuk. The club’s head
scout also offered a glimpse of where
the lanky import would fit in a
somewhat revamped ICE line-up that
figures to offer a more balanced four-
line system.

Bearing a striking
resemblance to the design the Red Deer
Rebels used in their capture of the
Memorial Cup. “He’s going to fit in
terms of an offensive type player,” said
Stasiuk. “I don’t know if we are going to
go with set lines like we had last year
but certainly he’s somebody who could
replace Zdenek Blatny by maybe moving
him into the middle and maybe moving
somebody outside to the wall.
“What we are going to try and do with
our line-up is to try and get some
balance so it’s not necessarily a one,
two, three, four-line situation as
opposed to each line being able to
contribute, taking a page out of the Red
Deer book.”

The concept of the European Draft itself
is something a ‘crap shoot’ in
comparison to the WHL’s Bantam Draft
in which each WHL club has its own
staff of scouts to sift and search through
the prime candidates almost on a weekly
basis. The import draft has no such
luxury as the junior clubs don’t have the
budget or staff of scouts to scour the
European hockey landscape. “It’s a lot
more difficult in the sense of getting a
read on a player and with the Bantam
players we have access them and it’s a
lot easier to find out whether or not
their plans include the Western Hockey
League. Whereas with the Euro Draft
you have to go through agents, you have
to go through NHL teams and whatever
networking you can just to find out what
the player’s thoughts are number one
and, number two, are they under
contract to their club teams back home.”So yes, it is a crap shoot in the sense
whether or not you can get them over
but in terms of their ability and so on,
there is a lot of NHL teams that have
seen them so based on the skill and
ability, it’s easy. Whether or not they’ll
come, that’s the tough part.”

Of course the ICE have had their share
of misfortune when it comes to their
drafted imports making the trip over to
Canada to play for Kootenay. Two
years ago, Peter Szaglia from the Czech
Republic was drafted and never came
over. Last season the stellar start of
Marek Svatos’ season was marred by
Svatos being under contract to his
Czech club and in turn missed more than
thirty games due to CHL rules not
allowing imports to play without the
proper transfer documentation. In the
case of Thomas Plihal, who’s also an
NHL fifth round 2001 draft pick of the
San Jose Sharks (140th overall), Stasiuk
is assured that issue won’t be a problem
come training camp. “We feel quite
comfortable that Thomas will be
reporting,” said Stasiuk. “In fact he’s in
Montreal right now where he’s going to
doing some training over the next
couple of weeks.”

From the standpoint of high
expectations, Stasiuk admits that it will
be a tall order for Plihall to fill the void
left by Zdenek Blatny’s departure. “From
an offensive standpoint we don’t him to
come in and put up Zdenek Blatny
numbers right away. Possibly as a
nineteen-yr-old but for now we expect
him to bring a high skill level, which we
think he will.
“The one advantage he has is that we
think we’ve got some pretty good
players to surround him with too.”

Quick Hits

– It was announced on last
Tuesday that ICE forward Jarret Stoll
will not attend the Canadian National
Junior team’s summer evaluation camp
due to wrist surgery. The second round
pick of the Calgary Flames in 2000 had
the surgery in early May in Calgary
performed by the Flames’ doctors. It is
thought that Stoll first suffered the
injury at the 1999 Four Nations Cup in
the Czech Republic. The injury is not
thought to be serious enough to keep
the Yorkton, Sask. native from
attending training camp in September.
Stoll will be evaluated throughout the
first have of the season in anticipation of
an invite to the National Junior Team’s
main camp held in December.