Czech 2003 prospects: Martin Foldyna

By Robert Neuhauser
Aggressiveness isn’t an asset Czech prospects are usually known for. They impress more with elusive moves and finesse skill than with toughness. The names of Jiri Hudler or Ales Hemsky have earned a reputation as blue-chippers thanks to their smarts and skill. Among those relying more on toughness is Martin Foldyna, a center for the Prerov Juniors.

As the son of a former hockey player, Martin Foldyna was almost a sure bet to start a hockey career of his own. His father brought him to the rink at a very early age, teaching him how to balance and take his first strides. After young Martin was capable of filling those tasks, his dad suggested he join the hockey team in his native city Prerov. Martin agreed and at the age of six he joined the Prerov team.

If genetics predetermined one’s fate, Martin would be in goaltender’s gear today. His father enjoyed a succesful career as a netminder in the Elite League with Vitkovice and Sparta Praha before finishing his career in Prerov. But Martin didn’t want to prevent others from scoring, he liked getting on the scoresheet more himself. He played center from the very beginning of his career where he could make use of his slick skating and soon emerged as one of the most talented kids on the Prerov 1985-borns team. Almost his whole career he has worn the number 18, which was the number he got in the Prerov 1st grade team.

His father was very helpful in giving him tips from the goaltender’s point of view and guided Martin through the first years of his career, especially in making it clear that to find success as a pro athlete he had to be dedicated to the sport and work more than those who play just for fun. Martin had no trouble with this and he always boasted a good work ethic. He also lists Czech teams Pardubice and Slavia Praha as his favorites because of their belligerent style of play. From Slavia is also Martin’s role model, pesky forward Radek Duda, a Calgary Flames draft pick. Another player Martin admires is former Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild forward Roman Simicek, now playing for Sparta Praha.

One of the first signs that Foldyna’s career was on the right track came as he grabbed the top goalscorer or top forward awards from various tournaments of his respective age category. Prerov 1985-borns participated in many of them and Foldyna worked well with forwards Antonin Sprusil and Martin Zatovic, who even skated with Foldyna on the Czech Under-18 team. Antonin Sprusil, Sr. coached the team along with Tomas Klimecky in the pee-wee category, on the 5th grade and 6th grade level. Foldyna was leading the team in offensive output, but injuries hit him for the first time. When playing for the 6th grade team he broke his collarbone and had to sit out a part of the season, and the same injury was repeated three more times, at least once every year. But he didn’t give up and still could provide solid numbers thanks to his intensity and attitude. Those attributes made Prerov 7th grade head coach Ladislav Chytil name Foldyna the team’s captain, a position he held for three seasons.

In the year when Foldyna entered the 8th grade team of Prerov, his career took an upward path and fortunately he broke his collarbone for the last time. Foldyna enjoyed a career year at the bantam age level and showed lots of his offensive upside. He could score almost at will against opponents of the same age, finishing the year with 76 points (34 goals and 42 assists). Impressive stats for a 13-year old kid and Prerov midgets head coach was aware of that. He promoted Martin to the Prerov midget team for a few games in the Div I midget league even as a twice underager.

In the next season he still played for the Prerov 9th grade team, but saw significant playing time also with the midget team, making use of his playing experience from the previous season. After the 1999-2000 season reached its end, Martin had some deciding to do. Staying in his native Prerov wouldn’t help him much in his development, Foldyna needed a chance to perform in the midget Extraleague. He received an offer from the Vitkovice team to join their developmental system, an offer he finally agreed on.

Foldyna’s aggressive playing style and a solid portion of toughness are his strongest asset. He is willing to play hard and use his frame to hit the opposing players frequently. A belligerent warrior, Foldyna plays two inches taller than his 5’11’, 180 lbs. frame. A good defensive awareness contributes to the upside, as Foldyna quite often returns to help out the defense. Thanks to his lower-body strength is Foldyna blessed with a solid balance and also agility. On the downside he doesn’t read the plays perfectly yet and could stand to develop greater hockey sense. He is an average puckhandler and definitely needs softer hands in order to be more effective. Productivity and consistency are a bit of an issue here too. Foldyna has adequate shooting skills, but has to find the net more regularly.

In Vitkovice under midget coaches Mojmir Trlicik and Bretislav Bochensky, Foldyna played his debut on the Czech elite midget level. He got used to the faster play relatively quickly and could show his aggressive two-way play along with some offensive output. In his first season with the Vitkovice midgets, Foldyna dressed out for 48 games in which he scored 6 goals and added 11 assists for a total of 18 points. Along with those stats Foldyna was -7 and 12 PIMs.
Foldyna’s international career had its start in 2000-2001, too. Czech Under-16 team coaches Karel Najman and Jaroslav Beck invited him to two three-game series, in which Foldyna went scoreless.
Foldyna played six international games with the Under-16 team, no points, a +/- of -7 and 4 PIMs.

The next season, 2001-2002, more was expected from Foldyna. He was no longer a rookie and should put up more points on the boards and guide the younger players while keeping his level of defensive awareness. He was provided with more playing time and played alongside some talented players like Martin Krayzel, Petr Pohl, Michal Gulasi and Michael Kolarz. Foldyna could meet the expectations quite well, finally averaging more than a point per game. He finished the season with 35 games played, 15 goals, 26 assists, 41 points, a +/- of +12 and 34 PIMs.
On the international stage he appeared on two tournaments, played in Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

After the 2001-2002 season came to the end, Foldyna had to decide about his career again. He was no longer midget Extraleague eligible for the 2002-2003 season and in Vitkovice he probably wouldn’t see lots of playing time in the junior team. So he agreed to the offer to return to his native Prerov and play for the local junior team. While Foldyna, nicknamed ‘Fofo’ from his surname, performed for Vitkovice, both Prerov midget and junior teams fought the way to the Extraleague, so Foldyna still had a chance to play at the elite level.

He knew what his role was and he tried to fill it well. Gritty play, toughness and defensive awareness, that was Martin Foldyna in 2002-2003 and Prerov juniors head coach Miroslav Zacek was satisfied with his performance. Unfortunately also lack of offensive power and top-notch skill. Prerov juniors were one of the pleasant surprises of the junior Extraleague this year, qualifying for the playoffs without much trouble. Foldyna was reunited with Antonin Sprusil and Martin Zatovic again. He skated 46 games with the Prerov juniors this season, registering 8 points for 1 goal and 7 assists to go along with an even +/- and 70 PIMs.

Foldyna joined the Czech Under-18 team for the Four Nations Tournament, played in Prievidza, Slovakia in November and made also the trip to Bern, Switzerland for the Five Nations Tournament, played at the break of this and the previous year. Martin was also invited to the selection camp of the Czech Under-18 WJC team, but unfortunately was one of the last cuts. He lost his center spot to underager Jakub Sindel, who emerged as the top Czech scorer at the Under-18 WJC, while Martin stayed at home.

A Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators fan, Foldyna isn’t a superstitious player, the only thing he has to have before an important match are new laces in his skates.
Foldyna likes to spend his free time with his girlfriend Katerina, who plays an important role in his life. School duties take a good portion of Martin’s time as well, he is in his third year of studies at the Jakub Skoda’s secondary school in Prerov. As a gifted athlete, Martin prefers to be active. Whenever he has a chance to do so, he takes part in soccer or basketball games or goes swimming. When he is resting to have strength for the games and practices, he listens to various kinds of music, disco being his favorite. Martin prefers all kinds of chicken, spaghetti, and juices.

Martin has an outside chance to be picked in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, but is ready to come over to play in the CHL. He wants to have a taste of North American junior hockey and hopefully boost his chances on a NHL career, his biggest dream.