Czech 2004 prospects: Ladislav Smid

By Robert Neuhauser
The Czech city of Liberec wasn’t known for producing quality prospects till a short time from
now. The local soccer team enjoyed more popularity in Liberec and last season they even won
the championship title in the Czech Elite Soccer League. But also hockey has its roots there
and with the newly established Extraleague franchise its popularity will even grow. However,
the likes of NHL draftees Jan Holub or Memorial Cup champion Tomas Plihal show that Liberec
is already capable of developing its own top prospects. The next bright gem from this city
is the defenseman Ladislav Smid.

Having your dad looking at you in full hockey gear from a poster hanging on a wall can
have a huge influence on the begin of a hockey career. This was the case of Ladislav.
His father was anchoring the defense of HC Dukla Jihlava team in the times when the
squad was ruling Czechoslovakian Elite League and could also get his hands on the
championship trophy several times. It didn’t remain only by the Elite league games, Ladislav
Smid senior also enjoyed a very solid international career. So Ladislav junior was born
in a family of a famous athlete and could really see his father on the posters. But it was
quite a time ago from the Jihlava times, the elder Smid was now retired and Ladislav was
born in the small Czech city Frydlant, the town San Jose Sharks prospect Tomas Plihal also
calls his hometown.

It wasn’t in Frydlant, it was in the nearby Liberec, where Ladislav Smid stood on the skates
for the first time. At the very early age of four his dad brought him to the local rink
and Ladislav made his first strides. He was a quick study and after a short time he was
confident that he can handle the hockey practices. Following his father, Ladislav’s steps
now regularly took the direction hockey arena Liberec. At the hockey practices he improved his
skating and balance more and began to show a huge portion of hockey talent and vision.
He simply had hockey in his blood, but not defense. The small Ladislav fell comfortable at
the forward position and was playing center. His smooth passing skills and deft puckhandling
were useful in creating very solid offense and Ladislav liked to score goals.

But only till the 3rd grade. When Ladislav was eight, coach Jaroslav Kasik took over the
Liberec 3rd grades and this meant a huge change for Ladislav. Coach Kasik saw in him a
good forward, but envisioned him as an excellent defenseman and has slotted him in the back
rows. From that time Ladislav was like his father playing defense. He made use of his tall
frame, solid skating and vision and was really turning into a real force on the Liberec
blue line. He wasn’t known as a tough cookie, but as an exceptionally smart rearguard who
can eventually decide games with his offensive upside. His stock was rising and Ladislav,
who sometimes captained his team, enjoyed the first major success in the 6th grade team.
The Liberec 6th grades participated at the Toyota Cup, played in Sumperk as the top meeting
of the Czech 6th grade teams in the season. Liberec has won the tournament and Ladislav
grabbed the Top defenseman honors. From now on he began to be considered as one of the top
1986 born defensemen in the whole Czech Republic and got offers from various Extraleague
teams, who wanted him to join their system. At that time there was no Extraleague franchise
based in Liberec. Even if he is also a fan of the Pardubice team, Ladislav kept his loyality
to Liberec and didn’t move anywhere. As far as his favorite NHL teams are concerned, Ladislav
is now a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins because of the high number of Czech players the Pens
always have on their roster.

After a stellar season for the 7th grade team Ladislav, already a coveted prospect in the
Liberec region, got a sudden chance to perform in the midget Extraleague as a twice underage.
Liberec midgets coaches Miroslav Dusanek and Ivo Svatos have put their faith into the 13-year
old lanky kid and gave him a possibility to perform at the elite midget level against two
and three years older opponents. Ladislav grabbed his chance and the bigger part of the 1999-
2000 season he skated already with the Liberec midgets as by far the youngest player on the
team. He concentrated on getting used to the faster midget play and solid defense first and
didn’t made many rushes with the puck. But his sound positional play payed the dividends and
overall Ladislav enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign. In 29 games for the Liberec midgets
in 1999-2000 he scored 2 points for 2 assists along with 12 PIMs.

A mainstay on the Liberec midgets defense, the still underaged Ladislav Smid saw a much
increased role on the team in the 2000-2001 season. After showing what he is capable of in
his rookie season he was now logging also quality ice time on powerplay and penalty killing
units, which helped to boost his maturity. Ladislav learned how to handle the pressure of
being on the ice in game-breaking situations and still prefered defense first. In fact, he was
still unsuccesfully waiting for his first goal among the midgets also in 2000-2001. His
defensive savvy with strong passing skills were visible, but no goals. In 47 games Ladislav
notched 9 points for 9 assists besides recording 24 PIMs.

The 2000-2001 season was highly important for Ladislav also thanks to the fact that it was
his first international season. Coaches Karel Najman and Jaroslav Beck have selected him to
perform for the Czech Under-16 team as an underage. After going scoreless in three
exhibition games Ladislav participated at the Four Nations Tournament in Russia, his first
major tourney. Scoreless again and with a +/- of -5, but with the trophy for the winning
team, the Czechs were the champions of the Four Nations tournament.

He was virtually a lock to make the new Czech Under-16 team of the 1986 borns even before the
selection camp in the cities Pisek and Milevsko began as he was one of the very few players
with already two midget seasons and some international experience under his belt. He showed
his usual strong two-way performance and coaches Jaromir Sindel and Vlastimil Koci named the guy
nicknamed “Smidak” (from his surname) to the team.

Even if he is still only 16 years old, Ladislav already posesses a nice frame, at 6’2”
he is a lanky defenseman, but at 175 lbs. still has to bulk up not to be called skinny.
One of his biggest assets is his very smooth puckhandling and an ability to handle huge
traffic extremly well. He is a terrific stickhandler and is very adept at making accurate
outlet passes with precise timing. His solid slap shots contribute to his offensive flair,
Ladislav only needs to release it more frequently. On the defensive aspect of his game Ladislav
is positionally sound and always stays with his man. He isn’t a hard hitter, he relies more
on his superb vision and reading of plays, which enables him to foresee what will happen
and rule the defensive zone without the need of hard hits or even fouls.
Toughness will be a thing for him to work on, just like his skating, which is still a
question mark. It is decent for a big man like him, but could definitely use some polishing.
Ladislav also needs to learn how to keep his game more simple and not to overhandle the puck,
thus bringing himself into trouble sometimes. By him it’s only a matter of maturity, which
will definitely come as Ladislav will gain more experience.

His goalscoring drought came to a sudden end soon after the beginning of the 2001-2002 midget
Extraleague season. Ladislav was using his provess and maturity and was dominating at this
level. It was clear he has nothing to prove here and Liberec juniors head coach Vladimir
Cermak has penciled him as the next boost to the Liberec juniors lineup. Still, Smid, a
captain of the team, dressed
up for 26 midget games, scoring 12 points for 5 goals and 7 assists. His 77 PIMs indicate
that besides his rediscovered scoring touch Ladislav also made strides in his toughness.
He calls future Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey his biggest hockey role model for his
great overall play and during his stint with the midgets there could be some flashes visible
that Ladislav could also have partly the puckmoving skills his idol had.
Among the Liberec juniors he could relive the role of a twice underaged player again. The
just about to be 16 years old kid battled sometimes four years older opponents and got
back to his increased defensive responsibility again. Along with veteran Tomas Klimenta
Ladislav formed a strong defensive pair and under the tips of his more experienced teammate
Ladislav found out what it takes to succeed at the elite junior level. He spent the past
season with learning and overall he skated 17 games with the Liberec juniors, notching 4
points for 1 goal and 3 assists along with 10 PIMs. The number of games played was limited
also thanks to an injury Ladislav suffered, he had to sit out a month with a broken hand
and missed a portion of games.

But it didn’t hurt his great showing at the international stage. Ladislav wore the Czech
national team jersey at a three-game series between the Under-16 teams
of Czech Republic and Switzerland. In that series he went scoreless, just with 2 PIMs. But
it happened to be his last appearance with the Under-16 team. His superb skill, vision
and an ability to run the powerplay earned him a promotion to the Under-17 team, for which
he was skating during the rest of the season. So it came that the underaged Ladislav got his
taste of another major international event as he was a member of the Czech squad at the
2002 World Hockey Challenge. There he recorded assists in games against Team West and Team
Quebec, his only international points in 2001-2002.
Besides this he also performed at the Five Nations tournament of the Under-17 teams, played
in Sweden.

This summer Ladislav took some practices already with the senior team of Liberec. Coach Josef
Jandac felt that he will benefit
from practicing with the pros, but it is more likely that Ladislav will continue to play
for the Liberec juniors.
The 2002-2003 international season is underway and three weeks ago Ladislav dressed up for the
Czech Under-18 team for the first time. It was at the World Junior Cup, played in the
Czech Republic and Slovakia. Smid was skating on the second line in a pair with more defensive-
minded Litvinov blueliner Martin Tuma and the two formed a very solid duo. After scoring his
first international goal in the exhibition game against USA immediately before the start of
the tournament Ladislav repeated the same success at the World Junior Cup and also finished
the tourney with this 1 point for 1 goal.

Ladislav’s girlfriend plays a very important role in his free time. He likes to spent a lot
of time with her when he isn’t practicing or playing games. Another thing for Ladislav is
school, he just started his second year of studies at the business academy in Liberec and
has to fill school duties besides hockey. From other sports Ladislav prefers to play tennis,
but he has hardly any time left for other sports. He is a huge fan of punkrock music and
calls P.O.D. his favorite group he likes to listen when he wants to relax. Having a rest
is as important for him as for any other professional athlete. When you would want to make
him happy with some food he likes, give him spaghetti with various sauces. Would the case
be some drink, then Ladislav prefers apple juice. He can’t be counted to the superstitious
players, he doesn’t have any exact order of things he does before each game, he just
believes in his lucky number, 7. When there is a chance, Ladislav likes to wear the 7 on his

For this upcoming season Ladislav has clear goals. Help his Liberec junior team as much as
he can and maybe even make his senior Extraleague debut. The next summer he will heavily
consider coming over to try his luck in the CHL. He wants to establish himself as one of
the top prospects for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, along with his agent Jaroslav Jirik he still
didn’t make the final decision, but it is quite likely that Ladislav will cross the sea.
Good luck!