Czech 2004 prospects: Karel Hromas

By Robert Neuhauser
Looking at the future talent crop of 2004, bright days are ahead for the Czech Republic. Besides elite 1985 late-borns Rostislav Olesz and Lukas Kaspar there are numerous 1986 born prospects with a solid chance on a NHL career. One of them is Sparta Praha forward Karel Hromas.

Karel Hromas began to play hockey in his native city Beroun relatively early, he was just four years old when he laced up the skates and attended the first practice. He didn’t have anyone in his family playing or coaching hockey, so the beginning of his career was slightly different from the beginnings of kids who have their fathers involved in hockey. It was coach Pokorny, already passed away, who suggested the little Karel to join the youngest grade team in Beroun and play organised hockey. Karel liked this idea and soon started to call the local Beroun arena his second home.

Coach Pokorny has put Karel on the forward position and soon he could see the benefits of this decision. Karel was excited about the fact that his task will be to score goals and not prevent the others from entering the scoresheet. He was a quick study of the first letters of the hockey alphabet and soon gained a reputation of one of the best kids on the Beroun 1986 born kids team. Karel wasn’t blessed with tremendous natural skill, but was always more than making up for this downside with his strong work ethic and a belligerent playing style. He knew that if he wants to be better than the other kids, he has to work out more and his father was supporting him in controlling the workouts. His conditioning took another leap forwards when Karel started attending athletics as second sport to hockey. As a result Karel, nicknamed ‘Piggy’, because of a stripe of black hair in his fair hair, soon had more strength and a better stamina than the opposing players and could make this to his advantage in the games.

He was standing out on his team and finally the coaches have awarded him with the captain’s role when Karel was about to start performing for the 4th grade team of Beroun. He led his team as a captain also in the next season, but after his showing for the 5th grade team was over, a huge change was about to take place in Karel’s career. Extraleague teams, looking to stockpile their prospect pipeline with highly talented kids from their region, have shown serious interest in Karel Hromas and it was evident that his playing days in the provincial Beroun are counted. After some talk with his parents Karel finally accepted the offer from the mighty Sparta Praha team and joined their developmental system.

Karel Hromas’ combative play is one the coaches like. He brings an aggresive style to the table, shutting down the offensive weapons of the opposition regularly with his huge defensive awareness and sticking his nose into tight corner battles. Hromas isn’t afraid to hit and perform in heavy traffic. He emerges as a solid physical presence, utilizing on his impressive 6’2”, 190 lbs. frame. Blessed with a tremendous quickness for a big man, Karel has a good stride and balance. His agility has still some way to go, but Karel’s skating is good. He uses his long reach effectively and is a smart passer. Hromas has a decent vision and hockey sense to go along with a never-give-up attitude. He is always involved in the games, playing them with lots of heart and intensity. On the downside Karel still needs to further improve his puckhandling skills, he doesn’t have the best hands and his variety of shots is also only average. He could work on the accuracy and hardness of both his wrist and slap shots. Overall he is a very solid prospect who has a legitimate shot to be picked in the early rounds of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

He played his first season in Sparta in the 6th grade team under head coach Michal Briza and got used to the new team and more skilled teammates well. Everyday trips to Praha meant one more change in Karel’s life as he couldn’t have the time to visit athletics practices and from now he was concentrating only on hockey. Valuable tips from the coaching staff helped Karel’s development as he posted in his second year in Sparta, playing for the 7th grade under head coach Lubos Bouchner, his best pee-wee season. He upgraded his defensive play but still was among the scoring leaders for his team. At one tournament where Sparta 7th graders participated Karel was the biggest star, claiming both the Top Forward and Top Goalscorer awards. From these times he also prefers to wear the number 17 on his jersey, which should remind him on his first seasons with Sparta.

In the 8th grade he didn’t enjoy such a respectable season, but still recorded a major success, that even against older competition. He managed again to grab the Top Forward and Top Goalscorer trophies at one pee-wee tournament, repeating last season’s success. He ruled with his two-way play and Sparta Praha midget coaches were confident that Karel is ready to face the physically more mature competition in the midget Extraleague even as an underager and promoted him to the team.

Karel Hromas spent the bigger part of the 2000-01 season already with the Sparta Praha midget team. Along with Jan Dusatko he was the only underaged player among the Sparta forward lines. He was brought in slowly to get used to the faster and more physical play of the midget Extraleague, but soon established himself as a regular in the lineup and was earning a solid portion of playing time. Finally in 34 games Karel notched 22 points for 4 goals and 18 assists to go along with 6 PIMs.

The next season he could count on a much increased role on the team. He was skating on the first two lines and was very useful with his hardworking play. Hromas was always winning lots of puck battles, thus helping his teammates and was also able to chip in offensively. He often filled the role of a defensive forward, but still amassed in 33 games 32 points for 18 goals and 14 assists along with 30 PIMs.

His reliable two-way play didn’t remain hidden to the new Czech Under-16 team, at that time the coaches were Jaromir Sindel and Vlastimil Koci. They invited Karel to the selection camp and after he made a strong impression, they invited him to the team. Karel showed up in the three-game series against the Under-16 teams of Slovakia and Switzerland, but the international season’s high came at the Four Nations Tournament in Praha, Czech Republic. The Czechs finished at the third place and Karel Hromas rounded out his international season stats at 15 games played, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, a +/- of +4 and 14 PIMs.

This season Karel made another step in his career with his promotion to the Sparta Praha junior team. Coach Stanislav Berger needed to boost the lineup depleted with departures of the likes of Jakub Langhammer, Zbynek Hrdel or Michal Polak and the underaged Karel Hromas turned out to be a very good fit. He didn’t have significant trouble to adjust to the junior Extraleague and started to impress immediately. So far Karel dressed up for 38 junior games, registering 15 points for 7 goals and 8 assists, with 16 PIMs. He proved his dominancy on the midget level in one game he played for the Sparta midgets this season, registering a four-point contest with 3 goals and 1 assist.

On the international scene Karel managed the jump to the older age cathegory, too. He showed up at the recent Five Nations tournament of the Under-18 teams and has a good shot to make the Under-18 WJC squad, but it will depend on his performance at the selection camp. For the Under-17 team he took part in both the Four Nations Tournament, played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the European’s Youth Olympics in Slovenia. Karel Hromas made an appearance also at the Five Nations Tournament of the Under-17 teams, played in the Czech Repblic last August, serving as an alternate captain.

His non-hockey time Karel mostly splits between school, resting and sitting in front of a computer. A frquent PC user, Karel is in his second year of studies at a pedagogical lyceum in Praha, which takes a big portion of his free time. As far as other sports are concerned, Karel prefers to play soccer and tennis, like most Czech players. For his dinner he mostly chooses fried cheese with chips and to drink a bottle of Sprite. From the hockey superstitions, Karel uses the same warmup before each game, but that is his only superstition.
A Detroit Red Wings fan, Karel Hromas is now deciding where to play in the next season. Along with his agent Jaroslav Jirik he is heavily considering coming over to play in the CHL, but the final word hasn’t fallen yet. Good luck!