Czech players in the 2002 CHL Import Draft – Part 2

By Robert Neuhauser

The profiles of the bottom 15 players of the 30 Czech players selected overall:

No. 38 Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)Jan Velich
Position: center
Team: HC Pojistovna Pardubice
Born: April, 5th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Thanks to a late opt-in the responsible, multi-purpose center Jan Velich was prevented from
being selected in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Now after this mistake Jan is considering
staying in Europe, where he would like to play for some Czech senior Div I team. The Cape
Breton Screaming Eagles still hope that he’ll find the QMJHL more attractive. Known for
his very soft hands and a terrific playmaking ability, Velich is a valuable asset also
thanks to his superb defensive awareness, which allows him to play as a defenseman if needed.
For a player of his size Jan has deceptive quickness and acceleration, but could take some
strides in his aggresivness and overall toughness. Jan is frequently delivering excellent
crisp passes and has also a decent slap shot, which he only could release more often.
The Screaming Eagles have taken flyers on two Czechs and the jury is out on the fact, if they
report. Jan Velich is the more likely, though.

No. 39 Portland Winterhawks (WHL)David Turon
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Havirov Panthers
Born: October, 4th, 1983
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200 lbs.
NHL draft: Toronto Maple Leafs, 4th round, 122nd overall

Toronto Maple Leafs have made Havirov defenseman David Turon their fourth round choice in
this year’s draft and the sized blueliner is now looking to make his North American debut
with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
For a player of his size David has a solid mobility, but his skating could be improved. David
is an average skater and he needs to find the extra gear. He plays a solid two-way game
but concentrates
on defense first. David relies on his sound positional play and doesn’t hit very often.
On the other side he is a good crease-clearer and he doesn’t let the opposing players bother
his goalie. David likes to support the offense and has a very good hard shot from
the point with a fast release. On the downside he could make better decisions when
passing the puck, his shooting is better than passing. Had a cup of coffee with the Havirov
seniors last season but will probably challenge for a WHL job.

No. 40 Kitchener Rangers (OHL)Jiri Visenka
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Hame Zlin
Born: September, 11th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Another of the Zlin ‘big boys’ who wants to try his luck in the CHL, Jiri Visenka is looking
to create a Czech duo with Petr Kanko on the Kitchener Rangers team. Zlin midgets lost to
Trinec in the midget Extraleague finals, but will be loosing more players than the champion.
Jiri is an intelligent blueliner who has found his offensive game this past season. Visenka
takes care of his end first and concentrates on mistake-free defense, but also shows
flashes of a skilled puckcarrier. Jiri steadily makes safe outlet decisions and plays
positionally well. Quite skinny for his lanky frame, Jiri will need to add some bulk if
he wants to succeed in the OHL and also show more of his nasty edge. Visenka is making
strides in his progress but still is more of a wildcard for the Rangers. A defensive
defenseman, Jiri isn’t very known in the Czech Republic and can surprise.

No. 42 Kootenay ICE (WHL)Michal Polak
Position: center
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: January, 11th, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

The defending Memorial Cup champions Kootenay ICE went Czech at the Import Draft again after
striking gold with forward Tomas Plihal last year. This time their pick is Michal Polak,
the feisty Sparta Praha center who has shown a willingness to come over to play for the ICE
next season. Michal is a strong-skating forward who can show up at both ends of the ice
thanks to his sound two-way skills. Polak is adept at stickhandling in traffic and is a
smooth puckhandler. He contributes defensively quite a lot and has a very solid portion
of vision to go along with his playmaking talent. Michal has a very good passing ability
but his shooting could see some polishing. He won’t shy away from the physical contact,
but also isn’t a frequent hitter. The WHL will learn him some toughness, most likely.
The North American way to the NHL seems to be better for Michal at this point.

No. 46 Owen Sound Attack (OHL)Jiri Paska
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Hame Zlin
Born: August, 15th, 1985
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Defensive awareness, grit, determination and a huge frame – these are the main attributes
sized defenseman Jiri Paska brings to the table. Even if underaged, Jiri blossomed into
one of the better defensemen of the Czech junior Extraleague this past season. An
intelligent, stay-at-home blueliner with very solid strength, Paska doesn’t possess
blistering puckhandling skills but has a good mobility for a player of his size. Jiri is
an extremly smart player and doesn’t suffer from defensive-zone gaffs or turnovers. He
takes pride in his superb positional play and thanks to this is also quite soft for a player
challenging for an OHL job. Toughness will be a thing for him to work on, just as on releasing
his blasts more often. Jiri distributes the pucks very effectively and is a very good passer.
Jiri isn’t an absolute lock to come over, but the chances are high that he’ll report.

No. 47 Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)Ondrej Wantulok
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Vitkovice
Born: March, 1st, 1984
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 220 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

If the Acadie-Bathurst Titan were looking for a big, mean, physical defenseman, they
obviously got their man in Ondrej Wantulok. He won’t leave you raving about his skill,
Ondrej plays like a rugged Canadian and hits everything that moves. He has excellent
physical skills to succeed and can step up as one of the toughest players on the Titans
roster. After being overlooked at the NHL Entry Draft, Wantulok wants to make a name for
himself in the QMJHL and is coming over definitely. A defensive type of defenseman, Ondrej
is just an average skater and passer, but has a cannon of a shot and shows signs of a mean
streak. Wantulok always stays with his man and is an intense blueliner. He doesn’t
contribute offensively a lot but makes up for this fact with his intimidating physical
presence. He could avoid some stupid penalties, but that’s a guy who can surprise.

No. 50 Spokane Chiefs (WHL)Jakub Langhammer
Position: center
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: August, 17th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Another victim of the late opt-in case, Jakub Langhammer has now to make up for his agent’s
mistake with an impressive WHL season if he wants to be labeled a top 2003 prospect.
The lanky center Langhammer plays a very smart, gritty two-way game with very solid
puckhandling skills. A talented player, Jakub has a superb vision and hockey sense and
plays a mature game for his age. Langhammer can play defensively well and he useful on
both powerplay and penalty killing units. He is an all-round player who gives a lot
to the team and plays with determination. On the offensive side, Jakub is solid in the
faceoff circle and is a great playmaker. He is still inconsistent in finding the net
but there is a good sign that his scoring touch may be rediscovered with better skating.
The new Spokane Chief sees no point in staying with Sparta and is very likely to report.

No. 51 Erie Otters (OHL)Tomas Galasek
Position: center
Team: HC Olomouc
Born: September, 9th, 1985
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Without any experience with international junior hockey, Tomas Galasek is going to leave
Olomouc and join the Erie Otters of the OHL. One of the few players who stayed in the
Olomouc team, which plays only the Div I junior league, Tomas displayed his undisputed
sniper instincts in the midget Extraleague. A nice blend of size, offensive talent and
determination, Galasek has the tools to succeed if he puts the intangibles together.
He is still very raw, but handles the puck with remarkable poise and once on a scoring
chance, he capitalizes on his knack for scoring goals. Tomas is working dilligently to get
rid of the label “defensive liability” and is developing into a hardworking two-way center
Solid in the faceoff circle, Galasek isn’t a ferocious checker but has the talent to make a
splash with the Otters. Still can also easily be a bust, simply a gamble pick.

No. 55 Oshawa Generals (OHL)Jakub Koreis
Position: center
Team: HC Keramika Plzen
Born: June, 26th, 1984
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 205 lbs.
NHL draft: Phoenix Coyotes, 1st round, 19th overall

The Oshawa Generals went high-risk with selecting Plzen center Jakub Koreis, who is expected
to stay in the Czech senior Extraleague for the next season before he will be trying to
challenge for a roster spot with the Phoenix Coyotes.
A star in the making, Jakub uses his big frame well and has the tools of a great playmaking
center who plays an all-round game. Koreis is an average skater but his uncanny ability
to read the plays allows him to foresee the situations and be at the right place in the right
time. Energetic and fearless, Koreis handles the puck well with his soft hands.
Jakub won’t probably ever
be a huge goalscoring threat but a top-notch playmaker who can fight along the boards and in
front of the net where he looks for rebounds. Jakub also helps the defense a lot and plays
as a tremendous competitor. The Yotes first-rounder won’t probably ever wear a Generals uniform,

Round Two

No. 58 Tri-City Americans (WHL)Josef Vavra
Position: left wing
Team: HC Vsetin
Born: March, 17th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NHL draft: Ottawa Senators, 8th round, 246th overall

A bit of a surprise pick of the Ottawa Senators at the NHL Entry Draft, Josef Vavra is now
feeling ready to make the jump to the North American hockey and start playing in the WHL.
The newest Tri-City American enjoyed a succesfull season for the Vsetin juniors and will
try to translate his smart game also to Amerks.
Vavra is an agile winger with lots of offensive flair. He is a swift skater and
he can make fast turns, just his balance could be improved. Josef is a finesse
winger with a solid vision and hockey sense and is blessed with great hands.
Josef only needs to learn not to overhandle the puck and shoot it more often. He likes to
make smart passes and he is a very good passer but sometimes hesitates to shoot the puck.
Vavra tends to leave his position on the left wing and to fly on the ice, he has to avoid
these lapses. Will be looking to add some maturity to his game and prove the Sens that he
can be a hidden gem.

No. 60 Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)Michal Barinka
Position: defenseman
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Born: June, 12th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Along with Slovak behemoth Richard Stehlik, Michal Barinka was the biggest name of the
well-known late opt-in case. Supposed to go in the first round, Michal has to wait one more
year before he really will be drafted. But he tends to stay in Europe more than to try his
luck with the Screaming Eagles. He fights for a roster spot with the Ceske Budejovice
seniors and will report only if he won’t make the team. A risky pick,
Michal Barinka is primarily a stay-at-home defenseman, but his strong outlet passing and
hard shooting contribute to his nice offensive flair a lot. He can throw hard hits and
often dominates along the boards. Michal is very reliable and keeps his play simple.
His drawback is his average skating and agility, but Michal is working on these things a lot.
With a more fluid stride he could skate more effortlessly and handle the game situations
with a bigger ease. But he has definitely the chance to play in the senior Extraleague.

No. 64 Portland Winterhawks (WHL)Roman Prazak
Position: center
Team: HC Energie Karlovy Vary
Born: August, 7th, 1984
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Couldn’t crack any of the junior national teams of his age full-time, so Roman Prazak is
now hoping that a strong season with the Winterhawks will help him to be picked in next
year’s NHL Entry Draft after being overlooked this year. A fast, fluid skater with a
very good creativity and playmaking abilities, Prazak has evolved as a solid two-way pivot
who was among the best on his Karlovy Vary junior team. Roman accelerates well and takes
advantage of his excellent strength on the puck, which helps him compensate his not very
lanky frame. Roman has a solid hockey sense and is also able to find the net quite
regularly. Prazak is also able to contribute defensively, but isn’t really perfect here.
The jury is out on the fact if he isn’t too soft for the tough WHL, Roman won’t provide
much of a physical presence. Still, the skill is here definitely.

No. 67 Swift Current Broncos (WHL)Jan Lojek
Position: left wing
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: September, 3rd, 1985
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

Not a relative of defenseman Martin Lojek, picked by the Brampton Battalion in the first
round, Jan Lojek will probably be trying his luck overseas next season as he was selected
by the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. Jan maintained a steady improving course during
the last season and has elevated his skating to very acceptable levels. He uses his agility
and deceptive puckhandling skills to handle huge traffic well and has also found a commitment
to the defensive aspect of the game. Lojek is developing into a reliable two-way winger
without many weaknesses. He is an adequate passer and an opportunistic scorer who shows up
for the team every game. Jan has to find his consistency and add a bigger portion of nasty
edge to his play in order to survive in the WHL. Didn’t play for the junior national teams
and if he can stick with the Broncos, his draft chances will be rising.

No. 73 Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)Petr Jelinek
Position: center
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: June, 19th, 1984
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

The son of former Ottawa Senator and current Calgary Flames scout Tomas Jelinek, Petr Jelinek
has inherited lots of his dad’s style of play. Although if not blessed with such a portion
of skill, Petr is also a fierce competitor and his belligerent style is a coveted asset
for every team. Jelinek is very intense, always involved in the games. He is just an average
skater and won’t leave an impression with elusive stick moves, but Petr can help
the defense a lot. He has very solid two-way skills and has a fast release on his quite
accurate shots. A typical third-line grinder, Petr will step up as a determined depth
player. A tenacious forechecker, who sustains a high work rate every game, will probably
create a Czech duo on the Warriors team with Tomas Fleischmann. This is Petr’s only chance
to be picked in the next NHL draft and he’ll need to impress with the Warriors.

No. 78 Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)Zbynek Hrdel
Position: center
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: August, 19th, 1985
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: 2003 eligible

The last Czech player selected in the Import Draft, Zbynek Hrdel was picked by a team
which doesn’t boast an impressive history with drafting Czech imports. Not a regular with
the junior national team of his age, Zbynek will probably come over as he feels that the
North American road to the NHL Entry Draft is less bumpy than the European one. Hrdel
probably won’t be among the QMJHL’s rookie scoring leaders next season, but will excell
as an irritating forechecker and can occasionally surprise with his nice touch around the
goal. A powerful skater, Zbynek is also adept at making smart plays and is solid in the
faceoff circle. He is a decent playmaker who is helping out the defense quite frequently.
Hrdel has the raw skills to succeed, he just needs some polishing and putting that skill
together. Will report most likely, even if the offensive QMJHL isn’t the best league for him.