Czech 2004 prospects: Martin Bucek

By Robert Neuhauser
Toughness isn’t a common factor by many Czech hockey players. They are more known for their nifty moves and finesse skill than for their abilities in the toughness department. But there are some individualities who can handle both of those aspects and become highly coveted prospects. Forward Martin Bucek shows lots of signs that he can be one of them.

Martin Bucek started his hockey career relatively early. He was just three years old when he took his first skating lessons under the watchful eye of his father and the next year he felt that he is good enough to start playing organised hockey. Martin entered the youngest grade team of the HK Poruba team in his native city Ostrava. Vitkovice is the mighty Extraleague franchise of Ostrava, but all kids can’t perform for Vitkovice and Martin chose to play for Poruba instead.

From his father, a former rugby player, Martin had good size and the coaches have put the sturdy kid on defense. Martin didn’t want to play rugby, which isn’t among the most popular Czech sports, but playing hockey was very funny and he felt comfortable in the back rows. He made use of his size and reach and soon was considered as one of the leaders of his team and got promoted to the 1985 borns team. He concentrated on defense, but also didn’t miss the opportunity to join occassionally the rush and support the offense.
Martin soon realised how strength is important in hockey and especially in his game and started doing various off-ice workouts to upgrade his strength and stamina. His father was a very good trainer in this and Martin didn’t need anybody who would force him to do the workouts. He saw the first results in an early time and could outmuscle the opposing forwards who penetrated into his zone.

His overall blend of size, strength, savvy defense and a huge offensive upside brought him respect from both opponents and teammates and entering the 5th grade of Poruba team, Martin was finally awarded with a ‘C’ on his jersey. He has solid leadership skills and could lead on the ice by example. The accomplishment of this feat was even bigger when taking into account that Martin was always playing for the 1985 borns team against one year older opponents. His first year as a captain was also his last as a defenseman. Martin changed his mind and now wasn’t very happy with having to handle the defensive duties and call the blue line his home. He was eager to play forward and when coach Pavel Leksovsky took over the Poruba 6th grade team, he has slotted Martin Bucek to play forward.

That was a thing he was waiting for. Now he could finally make use of his nose for the net and offensive instincts. Martin didn’t need to worry about defensive work and could concentrate on scoring goals. He did that well and immediately grabbed some trophies for the Top goalscorer from the various youth tournaments where HK Poruba 1985 borns participated. He knew that he’ll stay at forward and tried to make use of his strength and add more toughness to his play.
In the 7th grade team he wasn’t honored with the captain’s duties, but had a respectable season overall. Martin scored plenty of goals, carried his team and earned a reputation of a tough cookie who can play the hit-and-go style. The season Martin Bucek was skating with the Poruba 7th grade team was probably his best before reaching midget age. He had success with the number 10 on his back and from that time is this number Martin’s favorite.

After solid campaigns for the 8th and 9th grade teams of Poruba Martin Bucek, nicknamed “Bukos” from his surname, was getting ready for the leap to the midget ranks as an underager in 2000-2001. Poruba (already under the name HC Sareza Ostrava) midgets head coach Jaroslav Vlk liked what he saw from Martin in the 9th grade and just like Martin he felt confident that he’ll handle the midget level even if being underaged. In the Ostrava midgets Martin created a great combo with diminutive speedster Vojtech Klecka and the two were able to score lots of points. Martin maintained his spot on the midget team for the whole season and finally recorded 33 points for 17 goals and 16 assists in 44 games and also adding 30 PIMs.
In 2000-2001 he also made his international debut. The Under-16 team coaches Karel Najman and Jaroslav Beck invited him to a three-game series against the Swiss Under-16 team, played in Trutnov. Even if Martin was one year younger than the other players, his play was solid and mature for a 14-year old player. In the 3 games he went scoreless, with a -2 and 2 PIMs.

The next season he could make use of all his experience, strength and and terrific sniper instincts to establish a region of doom over the midget Extraleague. Martin scored at a steady pace, using his hard shot very often and showing a nasty edge in his play. Finally he averaged more than one goal per game and became the top goalscorer of the whole midget Extraleague after the regular season with 57 points for 40 goals and 17 assists in 35 games to go along with 52 PIMs.
This was something for the Extraleague franchises. Teams were hunting for bringing the young talented sniper, whose hockey role model is Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk, into their system and after some talk Martin has accepted the offer of Ostrava-based Vitkovice team, so that he didn’t need to move from home. He joined Vitkovice immediately after the regular season was over, for 2 games he was sent to the midget team, scoring 1 goal, but mostly was performing already for the Vitkovice juniors as a twice underage. In 9 games he found the net 4 times and added 2 helpers for a total of 6 points and 4 PIMs.

His international season in 2001-2002 consisted of two tournaments with the Under-16 team of the 1986 borns. The first was again a three-game series against the Under-16 team of Switzerland, played in the Czech cities Kralupy, Rakovnik and Slany. The second tourney was then the main tournament of the Under-16 teams in the season, the Four Nations Tournament, played in the Czech capital Praha. Overall in 6 international games in 2001-2002 Martin recorded 1 point for 1 assist, an even +/- and 8 PIMs.

After the season was over Martin, a Detroit Red Wings fan, felt problems with his knee and had to do some re-habbing, but got well during the summer and nothing is bothering him now.
At 6’2”, 190 lbs. Martin Bucek posesses a respectable frame already at this time and he is willing to stick his nose into everything. He is a feisty, competitive player who doesn’t fear to throw hard checks and can be a punishing force along the boards. He often parks himself in front of the net, where he looks for rebounds. His strongest offensive asset is his booming slap shot, which is of high accuracy and a relatively fast release. Martin likes to shoot the puck once on a scoring chance and he also does various workouts on improving his blast. His wrist shot is also very solid and Martin fits the mold of a belligerent sniper. He has a decent vision and hockey sense and he uses it when maneuvering into scoring positions. He has a hard drive on the net and can make use of his upper body strength to cover the puck. Martin plays his games at high intensity and doesn’t tend to take the odd shift off. His passing skills are decent, Martin is more of a sniper than a playmaking passer. From his drawbacks there is his sub-par defensive play which needs improvement so that Martin won’t vanish in his own zone. And he could use better skating, he has a solid balance but needs an effective, more explosive stride and a better first-step quickness. Improving his speed will be essential for Martin, he only seldom can outskate the defensemen and relies more on his strength.

In this season Martin is playing as an underager for the Vitkovice juniors, often on a line with also 1986-born forward Petr Pohl and the two form a duo simillar to the one with Vojtech Klecka.
On the international scene Martin participated at both tournaments of the Under-17 team in the season so far. He played at the Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic, where he notched 2 points for 2 goals and in a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Finland, also in the home Czech Republic. At this tournament he even became the top scorer and goalscorer of the Czech team, with 4 points for 4 goals in those 3 games.

His free time Martin spends mostly at home. He is aware of the fact that relaxing plays an important role in the life of an professional athlete and prefers just to lean back and watch movies on TV at home. He hasn’t a favorite movie, though. When it’s time for some active relaxing, then Martin chooses between soccer and tennis, which can be counted to his favorite sports, too, even if Martin played only hockey at an organised level. But life isn’t only hockey and relaxing and Martin continues his education as a businessman at school. Among food he would choose escalope with pommes frites for his dinner, with a bottle of either coke or juice to drink. He is also a fan of music, but just like with TV movies, he doesn’t have one popular group, he prefers to listen to the songs played on the radio.

His plan for this season is helping his Vitkovice team in the junior Extraleague as much as he can. For the next season Martin still hasn’t decided whether to stay home or come over to the CHL, he’ll talk about it with his agent Josef Machala in the coming months. But Martin has the physical tools, determination and skill to do well in North American hockey. Good luck!