Czech 2004 prospects: Michal Psurny

By Robert Neuhauser

Brothers playing hockey are quite a common thing. But when they are even twins and blessed with above-average talent, they usually enter the spotlight. The Vancouver Canucks’ Sedin twins are a perfect example of that. This year the Psurny twins are eligible from the Czech Republic. Even if they aren’t so highly regarded NHL prospects as the Sedins, they both are quality players. This is the story about the first one, Michal Psurny.

Just like his twin brother Roman, Michal Psurny was brought to hockey by their father Radek Psurny. Radek Psurny skated at the forward position at the second highest level in the Czech Republic, playing for the Olomouc and Vsetin teams. After he celebrated his 30th birthday, he decided that it is time to hang them up and make good hockey players from his two sons.

Michal Psurny laced up the skates for the first time when he was just four years old. It was a challenge for him to be better than his brother, but they helped push each other. The twins were soon good enough to enter the entry level team in their native city Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic. But besides attending hockey practices Michal and his brother went on to a soccer career. They wanted to play also some other sport than hockey and soccer was most suitable as the second-most popular Czech sport next to hockey.

Michal was preparing two years for the jump to the Uherske Hradiste entry level team. He was set to play forward and he didn’t feel the need to change. He likes creating offense and started to form a strong combo with brother Roman from the very beginning. When Psurny was six years old, he began to play already against kids two years older than him. He performed for the 3rd grade team of Uherske Hradiste and the team had his father as the bench boss. The Psurny twins understood well on the ice and Martin Kotacka, who now skates at the Div I junior level in Uhersky Brod, proved to be the ideal linemate for this dynamic duo.

This line emerged as a scoring threat and one of the members usually took home at least one individual trophy from every tournament the team took part in. Michal Psurny was blessed with the same talent for hockey as his brother and could use of his vision and smooth puckhandling, His smarts and an ability to foresee the plays enabled him to put up very good numbers. Just like his brother, Michal is a very coachable player and a modest guy off the ice. In the 4th grade Michal stopped to play organized soccer so that he could have more time to fully concentrate on hockey practices. At first was Psurny thinking about pursuing a soccer career, but genetics prevailed and he wanted to be like his father a hockey player.

This decision was wise as Psurny worked more on the hockey-related workouts from now and maintained his level of conditioning without much trouble. This enabled him to play still for older age categories. His father coached him for four years and after that Michal felt the coaching methods of Uherske Hradiste 7th grade head coach Mojmir Necas and 8th grade head coach Lubos Jenacek, who won a championship title in the Czech senior Extraleague with Vsetin. Both coaches worked with the twins a lot, which resulted into them being considered as one of the most talented 1986 born forwards in their region.

Extraleague teams were swirling around the talented kids and they expressed the wish to stay together also after leaving their native Uherske Hradiste. Finally the nearby Zlin team succeeded in the hunt and Michal and Roman Psurny joined the 8th grade team of Zlin prior to the 1999-2000 season. It was a step forward for Psurny who had the opportunity of playing alongside top players from their region in the Zlin developmental system.

Michal Psurny is a solid skater with decent speed, but a better acceleration and a more fluid stride would be helpful for him. He handles the puck well with his soft hands and is very adept at both distributing it or finishing the scoring chances. Michal is a good passer and he fires strong, accurate wrist shots. His slap shot needs to be worked on, Psurny’s blasts are not very hard. He sees the ice very well and doesn’t tend to take the odd shift off. He needs to find more defensive awareness, at times Psurny tends to float on the periphery and not limit the opposing players’ options effectively. At 6’0”, 170 lbs., Psurny is a skinny player and he doesn’t excel when the play gets too physical. Psurny has an excellent work ethic and attitude, which is welcomed by the coaches. He uses his skill more than his size, which is no problem in Europe, but battling NHL traffic could be a problem for him.

In Zlin he formed a strong line with brother Roman and another 2004 eligible talent, Stanislav Balan.
Despite battling an injured elbow, Michal Psurny was red-hot for the 9th grade team of Zlin under head coach Zdenek Svoboda. He took advantage of better teammates and trailed only brother Roman in the Zlin 9th grade team scoring. In 28 games Psurny notched 72 points for 38 goals and 34 assists, which was good for 6th overall in the 9th grade teams scoring race in 2000-2001. He also took home a trophy for the best forward from a 9th grade tournament, played in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Michal Psurny was preparing for the jump to the midget ranks next season and showed that he is capable of handling the midget Extraleague duties.
He also made an appearance at the evaluation camp of the Czech Under-16 team and coaches Jaromir Sindel and Zdenek Cech were satisfied with the play they saw from Michal.

Zlin midgets were stocked with quality prospects in 2001-2002 and the team was thinking high, the midget Extraleague championship title was a possibility. And on that team, coached by head coach Jaroslav Stuchlik, made Michal Psurny his midget Extraleague debut. Both twins were counted on to pick up where they left at the 9th grade level and become offensive boosts. Michal Psurny met the expectations with more than one point-per-game average, a respectable achievement for a rookie forward. He took advantage of his finesse and could outsmart the opposing forwards. He didn’t show much toughness, but could avoid hard hits with his vision.

The Zlin midgets made the midget Extraleague finals and in the final series they faced Trinec midgets. They lost 2:0 in the best-of-three series, but Psurny stil recalls the silver medals one of the biggest successes of his career. Michal Psurny dressed out for 51 midget games in 2001-2002, registering 56 points for 31 goals and 25 assists, an impressive +/- of +33 and 10 PIMs.

Like his brother, Michal Psurny appeared in just one international tournament of the Under-16 team schedule. He performed in a three-game series against the Under-16 team of Slovakia, played in Sumperk, Czech Republic. In 3 games there Psurny notched 1 point for his first international goal, a +/- of +2 and no PIMs.

The next season, 2002-2003, was Michal Psurny along with his brother asked to emerge as cornerstones for the possible run to the back-to-back title. Psurny scored almost at will at the midget level, which didn’t go unnoticed by the Zlin juniors head coach Stanislav Prikryl. Coach Prikryl decided to give Michal a try at the junior level and he was able to stick with the team for the remainder of the season. But before moving up to the juniors Michal Psurny skated 29 games with the midget team, scoring 43 points for 25 goals and 18 points, an even +/- and 24 PIMs.

But junior Extraleague is no midget level and Michal Psurny had to elevate his game in order to maintain his spot. He had his brother playing on the same line and this helped him to adjust better to the elite junior level. Psurny didn’t impress with tremendous size, but with a nose for the net, which he used at all previous levels. In 22 junior games Psurny notched 12 points for 7 goals and 5 assists along with 27 PIMs.

He also became one of the key players of the Czech Under-17 team. Michal Psurny missed only the Four Nations Tournament in Russia in February, 2003, from the Under-17 team in 2002-2003. He went scoreless at the season’s top event, the European Youth Olympic Days in Bled, Slovenia. Psurny scored a goal at the Four Nations Tournament, played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at Christmas. Psurny scored once in a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Swizerland, played in Lenzerheide, Swizterland this past April and scored the same number of goals at the last event of the international season, a three-game series against the Under-17 team of Germany.

Michal Psurny registered an impressive start into the new season of the Czech junior Extraleague. Playing with his favorite number 11, Psurny ranks atop the scoring race from the opening games, recording 15 points for 7 goals and 8 assists in 12 games so far, along with a +/- of +14 and no PIMs. He was also the first of Psurny brothers to make his debut in the senior Extraleague. Till today Michal skated two games on the fourth line of the HC Hame Zlin team.

This past August was Michal Psurny a member of the Czech Under-18 team at the World Junior Cup, played in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Psurny contributed to the Czech bronze-medal success with 4 points for 4 assists in 5 World Junior Cup games. Michal Psurny feels comfortable when he has a chance to play alongside forwards Tomas Mertl or David Krejci on the Czech junior national team.

Michal Psurny has one pre-game superstition, which is common among hockey players, He always puts on his left skate first and does the same with other parts of the gear, always beginning from the left side.

Attending school and doing homework takes the most from Psurny’s non-hockey time. His father emphasizes the need of proper education for Michal and his brother. The two are in their third year of studies at a secondary school for sports in Zlin. When he isn’t studying, Michal Psurny swims, or plays tennis or squash. He likes Czech pop music, just like his brother. Michal Psurny is most happy with eating food from his grandmother, with sirloin his favorite.

Represented by agent Robert Spalenka, Michal Psurny would like to play his entire junior career in Europe. He hopes into cracking the Zlin seniors lineup as soon as possible and only after that think about the NHL.