Czech 2005 prospects: Martin Husicka

By Robert Neuhauser

A diminutive forward, Martin Husicka may not be a top prospect for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but is a very interesting player because of his great skill.

“Short in stature, but not skills.” How many players have been labeled with this statement? Today’s NHL requires excellent physical tools and not many mighty mites make the show. One of those who are trying to enlarge the group of diminutive NHLers is Vsetin juniors forward Martin Husicka.

As a son of a former hockey player, Martin Husicka had hockey all around him since he was born. His father, Petr Husicka, pursued a solid career in the Czech lower leagues, performing at center for the Koprivnice and Vsetin teams. When Martin was young, he would watch him to the games and practices. He enjoyed seeing father play and when he was four years old, he laced up the skates for the first time. Martin’s father wanted his son to follow his footsteps and brought him to hockey at a very early age.

Still just four years old, Martin Husicka joined the entry level team of his native city, Vsetin, Czech Republic.

There he took the stick in his hands and began to chase the puck. From the first practices it was clear that Husicka has passion for the game and is a coachable kid. Willing to listen to the advice given to him by his coaches and parents, Husicka’s development was rapid. He could outskate the opposition and his nifty skills propelled him to a leading role on his team. Beginning with the 3rd grade, Husicka captained his team for the next five season.

Offensive output wasn’t an issue for Martin Husicka, who took the youngest grade scoring charts by storm. He was there to provide offense and didn’t worry a lot about filling defensive duties. Vsetin 3rd grade coach Lubomir Dockal has let Husicka play his game and he responded with emerging as the team’s perennial scoring champion. Players of the same age didn’t provide Husicka with an equal competition and he soon began to perform also for the older age categories.

In the 5th grade Martin Husicka tried to do also some other sports than hockey, this time an individual one. He began to play tennis for the Vsetin pee-wee tennis team, but after some time he felt that hockey was simply more fun and stopped attending tennis practices.

About the time when coach Ladislav Marsalik took over the coaching duties on the Vsetin 6th grade team, Martin Husicka had to worry also about other aspects of his performance than just offense. The opposing players could sometimes push him out of the scoring chances and he had to develop strength to avoid this. He also began to contribute offensively more, even if offensive raids still prevailed. His season for the 6th grade was hampered by injuries, Husicka suffered a broken hand and a broken finger, which forced him to miss a part of the schedule. In the meantime he could watch his role model Jiri Dopita play live in the Extraleague games as Dopita was a key ingredient of the Vsetin dynasty, which won six senior Extraleague championship titles.

In the 7th grade Husicka claimed his first major individual trophies. Vsetin 7th graders performed at an international tournament in Slovenia, where Husicka left a huge impression. He won the tournament scoring title and was also selected the best forward. That also led Vsetin midgets head coach Jiri Hudler to a rare move, promoting Martin Husicka to the midget team as a three-time underager. Now had the 12-year-old Husicka to deal with the pace of the midget Extraleague and battle physically more mature 16- and 17-year-old players. Prior to moving up to the midget team, Martin Husicka claimed his fifth consecutive scoring crown on the Vsetin 1987 borns team. He recorded a handful of games with the Vsetin midgets just to get his feet wet in the midget Extraleague and was hoping into a bigger role the next season.

He also made his first trip to North America that season. But it wasn’t the Vsetin team which was coming over, Husicka had to be loaned to Trinec for the tourney, which took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. With Husicka being the son of the current Trinec GM, this move was no problem. Trinec recorded a third place overall and Husicka could see what it takes to succeed on the smaller North American ice surfaces.

Martin Husicka,who likes to wear either number #20, #10 or #9 on his sweater, spent the 2000-2001 full-time in the midget Extraleague as a twice underager and performed mostly on the third line. He didn’t see much powerplay time, but could eventually catch up with the pace of the games, making himself more and more effective. He posted decent numbers for a twice underaged rookie. In 36 games for the Vsetin midgets Husicka recorded 6 points for 1 goal and 5 assists to go along with 16 PIMs, but didn’t impress with his +/- at -18. He had his season showing hampered with a broken ankle, which also prevented him from appearing at the International Pee-Wee tournament in Quebec City, Canada. Husicka was a lock to make the team but didn’t make the trip overseas in the end.

Still 9th grade eligible, Martin Husicka was awarded the ‘C’ on his Vsetin midgets sweater thanks to his leadership qualities and a wealth of experience from the midget level. Husicka was getting ready for his third midget Extraleague term in 2001-2002. He learned enough in the previous two seasons to be one of the most impressive players on the team, along with fellow 2005 eligible forward Marek Knebl. Husicka avoided any slumps and scored at a steady pace, making use of his increased playing time. He also made slight strides in his defensive awareness, but still finished about team’s average in this aspect. In 46 games for Vsetin midgets in 2001-2002, Husicka notched 29 points for 6 goals and 23 assists, along with a +/- of -14 and 66 PIMs.

He also made one trip to Canada with the junior team of Vsetin. It was played in Vancouver, British Columbia again and the Vsetin team finished second, with Martin Husicka rocketing the scoring charts. In 7 games Husicka registered 16 points for 9 goals and 5 assists. From that time the Vancouver Canucks his favorite NHL team.

Martin Husicka is a terrific skater with explosive changes of pace and quickness. He accelerates well and possesses solid balance. Husicka uses his speed to slip through defenses and generate scoring chances. More of a playmaker, Husicka sees the ice well and is capable of accurate, crisp passes. He boasts a tricky wrist shot with a quick release, but could use a more powerful slap shot. He thrives with his creativity on powerplay units and particularly in one-on-one situations. An aggressive forechecker, Husicka is a character guy and possesses good leadership qualities. He doesn’t tend to take the odd shift off and impresses with his intensity and determination. One look at Martin Husicka is enough to see what is his biggest drawback. At 5’8”, 150 lbs. he is no physical menace and the hulking defensemen can get him out of the scoring lanes. He also needs to show a bigger commitment to the defensive duties. Husicka doesn’t limit the opposing player’s chances very effectively and has to show up more in his own zone.

Vsetin built a powerful squad for the 2002-2003 season, which boasted the likes of 2004 eligibles Lubomir Stach, Martin Stefl, 2005 eligibles Marek Knebl, Ondrej Dalecky and fourth-year member Martin Husicka. Vsetin was steady during the regular season prior to pulling off an impressive playoff run. They also acquired 2004 eligible forward Pavel Rusek, now a member of the Windsor Spitfires late in the season. Martin Husicka, nicknamed ‘Husa’ (which means goose in Czech) from his surname, was one of the main offensive weapons, averaging more than a point per game and also showing more of his nasty side. Husicka performed with more feistiness, not being afraid to hit the players occasionally despite his diminutive frame. The captain Husicka centered the first line all season long and finally guided his team to the midget Extraleague finals.

There they squared off against Kladno and the odds were against Vsetin. They were still able to take the best-of-five series into the fifth and deciding contest after buying into coach Hudler’s system and going 100% from the opening faceoff. But Kladno claimed the game five and also the 2002-2003 midget Extraleague championship title. Martin Husicka hoisted the trophy for the second-placed team, still recalling it a huge team success.
En route to the second place Husicka, the top playoff scorer, dressed up for 57 games, scoring 26 goals and 41 assists for a total of 67 points, an even +/- and 129 PIMs.

He was promoted for two games already to the junior team as a twice underager in order to have a taste of the junior Extraleague, but went scoreless in those two matchups.
During Christmas was Martin Husicka loaned to the Trinec midgets to boost the team’s offensive power for the European meeting of the midget leagues winners. The international event boasted top midget teams from all major European countries and took place in Russia. The Trinec midgets managed to win the event and after that was Martin Husicka returned to Vsetin.

No wonder that Husicka was among the locks to make the Czech Under-16 team after the 2002 summer evaluation camp was finished. Coaches Bretislav Kopriva, head coach of the Vsetin juniors, and Vladimir Bednar invited him to all tournaments of the schedule except of the three-game series against Under-16 team of Russia, because Husicka was competing at the Tournament of the best midget teams at that time. Husicka recorded a hot start on the international stage, he scored 4 points for 2 goals and 2 assists in his first tourney, a three-game series against the Under-16 team of Slovakia. That was followed by an appearance in a three-game series against the Swiss team, where Husicka notched 2 assists. The season’s top, the Four Nations Tournament in Finland saw Husicka record just 1 assist. He closed out the season with a three-game series against the Slovaks, where Husicka scored 2 points for 1 goal and 1 assist. Overall he played in 12 international games for the Under-16 team, recording 9 points for 3 goals and 6 assists.

Martin Husicka wouldn’t benefit from a fifth midget turn in any way and was promoted to the Vsetin junior team as an underager full-time. Head coach Bretislav Kopriva has Husicka skating on the third line and so far Husicka recorded 3 points for 3 assists in 9 games, with a +/- of +3 and 4 PIMs. He is going through a change this season, coach Kopriva is using him at right wing while he spent his entire previous career at center, but is adjusting reasonably well. During the exhibition games he was loaned to his father’s HC Ocelari Trinec again for a while, appearing in two exhibition games even for the senior team of Trinec. In the 3:2 win against Havirov Husicka recorded his first two senior points, scoring a goal and one assist.

After performing at the evaluation camp already of the Under-18 team as an underager, Husicka appeared once on the international stage this season as he was a member of the Czech Under-17 team which performed at the Five Nations Tournament in Prievidza, Slovakia in August, 2003. In four games there Husicka notched 3 points for 3 assists.

Martin Husicka is in the first year of his studies at a secondary school in Vsetin. School duties take a good chunk of his free time, but Husicka still finds time to relax. Besides doing off-ice workouts Husicka prefers to ride his bike or listen to music. He listens to rap and rock. When it comes down to food and drink, Husicka is most happy with chicken and fish and a multivitamine to drink.

Martin Husicka is going to be represented by agent Petr Svoboda, an ex-NHLer who resides in Tampa Bay. He takes the CHL as a challenge for him, but is probably going to stay with Vsetin for the next season. Husicka dreams of wearing the Czech senior national team jersey one day and of winning the Stanley Cup.