Jakub Lev – The lion in the net

By Robert Neuhauser
During the communistic regime the Czech city of Kladno was known for two things. High-quality
steel and developing of top prospects. Now twelve years after the fall of the
iron curtain only the quality prospects are remaining. Just remember the names of Jaromir Jagr
or Patrik Elias, both risen in Kladno, or these days Montreal Canadiens draftee Tomas Plekanec.
But forget all the forwards. This will be a story of a goaltending

Jakub Lev was also born in Kladno, the city of steel. At first it didn’t look like he was heading
for a hockey career. He didn’t have his dad or relatives playing or coaching hockey and didn’t
make his first strides as soon as he could make first normal steps. Jakub only liked the
game but that was enough for him. He is a proof that advertising is highly important. Even
if it is advertising of a sport, in this case hockey. Hockey coaches of the youngest grades
sometimes attend kindergartens or the lowest grades of elementary schools to look for guys
eager to play hockey. And now those two sides met. Jakub Lev, willing to play hockey, and
a coach looking for little players. Jakub’s career had a green light.

From the very first moment he fell in love with pads, glove and blocker. Players often try
all three positions in the youngest grades before they finally see what position suits them
best. Take for example Roberto Luongo. But not Jakub Lev. The player nicknamed “Lefa” positioned
himself between the pipes and started stopping the pucks. It was soon evident that he does
it with exceptional poise and talent. Jakub Lev was born with terrific reflexes and he could
make use of this advantage. That was for the beginning, but now it was up to Jakub to work
hard and develop his own playing style. As a netminder, he had to do lot of gymnastic workouts.
but it didn’t seem to bother him much.

Since performing for the youngest grades Jakub Lev was constantly among the top netminders
not only in his region, but also the whole Czech Republic. His savvy performances brought
him lots of individual trophies from various youth tournaments, where Lev was often selected
the top goaltender. He worked his way through the age cathegories in Kladno steadily. When
an older grade’s team was looking for goaltending help, it was Jakub Lev who was promoted.
One of the important moments in Jakub’s career appeared when he was performing for the
8th grade team of Kladno. That year goaltending coach Pavlik has put all his faith into
Lev, recognizing his natural puck-stopping ability. He did a lot of special workouts with
Lev, put a lion’s portion of playing time on him and Jakub came to realize that he can
reach success in hockey. From now on he began to look at hockey as his future job.

That season, in 1999-2000, Jakub Lev also celebrated his debut in the midget Extraleague.
It wasn’t even for one game, it was just for one minute and Lev did make only one save, but
it was enough to record the first game played.
As one of the top Czech goaltending prospects, Jakub Lev was invited to the selection camp
of the Under-16 team in the summer of 2000, where he was the only underaged goaltender.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t outplay any of the 1985 born goalies and he was cut from the team.
Havirov’s Jakub Cech and Pardubice’s Vladislav Koutsky were the lucky ones who played the
most with the Czech Under-16 team last year.
So Jakub concentrated on his underage season in the midget Extraleague. He backstopped the
poor Kladno squad in 24 games, playing 1036 minutes. His numbers are somewhat influenced by
a porous defense in front of him, Lev posted a 3.71 GAA and a .8801 save percentage, which
aren’t great numbers, but very solid for an underaged rookie on a team that finished just
one place apart from relegation to the Div I midget league.

As a goalie who will turn just 16 this year his playing style isn’t still definitely developed,
but a lot of things are evident. Jakub covers the net very well and has a superb use of
his fast glove hand. He has very fast reflexes and is extremly tough to beat on all first
shots. His play could be described as a mix of stand-up and butterfly style and Jakub likes
to challenge the shooter. There are still a few things for him to work on. His movement
in the crease could be better and he has sometimes trouble with controlling the rebounds.
His stickhandling skills are just average, but Lev is working on this a lot.

Jakub did also a lot of practices with the coach of his regional selection team and coach
Simacek had also an influence on Jakub Lev’s improvement during the last seasons.
No wonder that he was again one of the invitees to the selection camp of the Under-16 team,
now finally of his 1986 birthyear. This time he made the team and performed also at the
opening tournament of the season, a three-game series against Slovakia. He was scratched
from the roster for the three-game series against the Swiss Under-16 team, but was one of
the key factors of the Czech team at the main tournament of the season, the Four Nations
Tournament. Jakub Lev posted a win and a tie and his sure saves, including a penalty shot
save against Sebastian Karlsson of team Sweden, were instrumental in the third-place finish.
In the midget Extraleague Jakub was again carrying the Kladno team on his young shoulders.
He played almost all the games of the regular season, missing just 8 games. His numbers didn’t
change very much, this year Lev stands at a 3.78 GAA and a .893 save percentage. On a better
team the numbers would be better, but with Kladno Jakub Lev is often left alone to face
the opposing raids.

Jakub Lev is a fan of NHL teams with quality Czech goaltenders, Detroit Red Wings and Calgary
Flames, because of Dominik Hasek and Roman Turek. Despite this fact he doesn’t have a hockey
role model, he just tries to watch all the good goalies and take the best from their styles.
When he isn’t facing the flying pucks, then you can see him either playing soccer with his
friends or just relaxing at home. He is also aware of how education is important in his life.
He started attending the secondary school of construction engineering. Besides hockey and
school Jakub has hardly any time for other activities, but he seems not to worry about
that very much. Jakub is determinated in working on his hockey career, the next step should
be making the junior Extraleague and after that the CHL could be waiting for him. Jakub tends
to take the North American route to the NHL Entry Draft and it is likely that he’ll hear
his name selected at the 2003 CHL Import Draft.
Jakub Lev misses the 2004 NHL Entry Draft just by four days, he is born September, 19th, 1986,
which makes him 2005 eligible. Let’s hope that Jakub’s NHL career will be on its beginning
coming the draft day of 2005!