Czech 2005 prospects: Tomas Stryncl

By Robert Neuhauser

More known for his famous spa, the Czech city Karlovy Vary has during the previous years also made a name for itself by developing hockey prospects in the local Extraleague franchise. One of the most promising defensemen on the Karlovy Vary midget team is Tomas Stryncl, a 2005 eligible defenseman.

The person who made Tomas Stryncl begin his hockey career was his older brother Lubos, now an university student in Praha. But Lubos Stryncl played hockey in his young days in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, the town where both brothers were born. Tomas wanted to compete with Lubos in every sport and wanted to prove that he is ready to play hockey, too. After seeing his brother practice and play games, he entered the Karlovy Vary entry level team at the age of five.

The coaches to selected the blueline as Stryncl’s new home. “From the very beginning of my career I played defense. I was happy and didn’t want to change it in any way.”

Head coach Vojtech Polak, father of Dallas Stars prospect of the same name, took over the Karlovy Vary 3rd grade team with Tomas Stryncl on the roster in 1995-96. Stryncl focused on developing a defensive savvy and didn’t rush the puck very often. He learned how to improve his skills as a defenseman and developed a strong attitude and work ethic. Stryncl was among the best defensemen on his team, no star, but a reliable blueliner who didn’t make many glaring mistakes in his own end.

Stryncl played under the tutelage of Coach Polak for three years and got the first needed tips from him. These were also particularly useful when playing with his friends and his brother on a frozen pond, a favorite free time activity of Tomas Stryncl during winter. Like his brother, Stryncl began to play with the number 14 on his back. “I liked this number because of him. Now with the midget team the only free number was 18, so I began to play with 18 and feel comfortable with it.”

In the 6th grade under head coach Zdenek Houdek Stryncl captured his first individual award. His play saw a steady improvement and he began to be counted on as a defensive anchor of his team. At a tournament of the 6th grades in Pribram Stryncl left an impression, earning the Top Defenseman honors for the first time.
He tries to pattern his game after Nashville Predators rookie defenseman Marek Zidlicky and after Detroit Red Wings star blueliner Niklas Lidstrom, who are both his role models.

“I think that these players are really great offensive defensemen, I like to watch their games a lot and hopefully learn some things from them.”

The next season Tomas Stryncl made huge strides in his offensive output. Also thanks to Head Coach Jaroslav Kliment he learned how to pass the puck more effectively and how to avoid sudden turnovers when moving the puck. His play got a new boost in his offensive flair and that helped him to grab the Top defenseman trophy at a tournament of the 7th grade teams, played at the Slavia Praha facility. That year Stryncl also had a growth spurt, adding almost three inches to his frame. This upgraded his reach, but he had to cope with new skating and balance demands. Stryncl did well and was even promoted to the one year older category. He didn’t face equal competition on his age level and was ready to face the physically more mature opponents at the 8th grade level.

Tomas Stryncl started to play volleyball as an additional sport to hockey at the age of 13. His father is still an active volleyball player and following his example, Stryncl also began to play organised volleyball.

In the following season was Tomas Stryncl, nicknamed ‘Strudl’ (meaning ‘apple pie’) from his surname, even voted captain of his team. He prefered to lead by example and was already preparing for the jump to the midget level in the upcoming season. He had the season hampered a bit with the broken left wrist, but recovered fully from this injury and was a force on the blueline of his team. At that time he formed a strong unit with defenseman Kamil Charouzek, now a member of the Litvinov junior team.

Karlovy Vary midgets head coach Mikulas Antonik invited Tomas Stryncl to the summer camp prior to the 2001-2002 season as an underaged player, who had to prove that he is ready for the midget Extraleague battles. Karlovy Vary didn’t have lots of depth on defense and Stryncl pulled off a solid showing, so he was promoted to the midget team as an underager while being still 9th grade eligible. He managed to stick with the team for almost the whole season, playing about 80 per cent of the schedule. He displayed his offensive flair and often jumped into the play, which earned him solid point totals for an underaged rookie defenseman. Tomas Stryncl dressed out for 35 midget games in 2001-2002, amassing 10 points for 1 goal and 9 assists, was -4 and had16 PIMs.

He saw that he couldn’t find time for both hockey and volleyball and finally quit attending the volleyball practices in the summer of 2002.

“I just couldn’t do both sports. I wanted to focus fully on hockey and had to stop playing volleyball.”

The next season, 2002-2003, was Tomas Stryncl asked to build on his previous season experience and take over a bigger role on the Karlovy Vary midget team. He started red-hot, earning the Top Defenseman honors at the annual summer exhibition tournament of the midget teams, played in Karlovy Vary. He also made some strides in improving his positional play and defensive zone coverage as he knew the ropes of the midget Extraleague better. He still contributed offensively a lot, especially during the regular season, and logged valuable powerplay time. Overall Tomas Stryncl played 46 games for the Karlovy Vary midgets in 2002-2003, scoring 12 points for 3 goals and 9 assists to go along with a mere number of 14 PIMs.

After leaving a solid impression at the summer evaluation camp of the new Czech Under-16 team he was invited already to the first tournament of the season, which marked his debut on the international stage. Stryncl played in the three-game series against the Under-16 team of Slovakia, in which he recorded his first international point for 1 assist. After this showing he was invited also to the three-game series against the Under-16 team of Russia in December, but Stryncl suffered a shoulder injury prior to the tournament and couldn’t participate at this event. The injury caused a sudden end to Stryncl’s first international season, but he was eager to bounce back in 2003-2004 with the Under-17 team.

This season he has his eyes set to make the debut in the junior Extraleague as an underager. But until now he is still in his third term with the midget team. New head coach Vladimir Bednar, who coaches also the Czech Under-17 team along with coach Bretislav Kopriva from Vsetin, uses Stryncl as his defensive anchor. Stryncl likes playing on a line with forwards Pavel Kubena and Jan Bauer.

“Both guys are very good offensively and whenever I pass the puck to either of them, I know that something is going to happen.”

Stryncl can make use of all his prowess at the midget level to neutralize the opponents with his smart two-way play. He often rushes the puck and is solid in his back end, a sign that a promotion to the junior team may not be far away. So far has Stryncl appeared in 24 midget games, scoring 17 points for 4 goals and 13 assists, along with a plus/minus of +6 and an increased number of PIMs, 38.

In the first week of November he made the trip to Finland as a member of the Czech Under-17 team, which squared off against the Under-17 team of Finland. The young Czechs won all three games and allowed just one goal to the Finnish players. Tomas Stryncl went scoreless, but with a very solid plus/minus rating at +3.

An offensive blueliner, Tomas Stryncl is an above-average skater with solid acceleration and quickness. He is agile on his skates and moves well laterally. Strycl looks composed out on the ice and distributes the pucks effectively. He sees the ice quite well and possesses a decent hockey sense. Once his defensive duties are done, he never hesitates to join the rush and is useful on the powerplay units as a quarterback. Stryncl is shooting the puck relatively often, but his shots lack accuracy and could be harder. He should focus on improving his defensive zone coverage, which hasn’t come all the way yet and Stryncl could use better positioning. Average built at 6’0”, 175 lbs, adding more toughness to Stryncl’s play would be helpful, Stryncl tends to rely on his skill more than showing his nasty edge. Overall he isn’t among the top Czech 2005 eligible prospects, but is a quality player who may have a shot at selecting in the late rounds.

Not a superstitious player, Tomas Stryncl doesn’t have an exact order of things he would do before each game.

“I don’t do things which would make me superstitious. I just use the same warmup all the time, but that’s it.”

As an accomplished volleyball player, Tomas Stryncl meets often with his friends for a game of volleyball. Besides this he likes to play table tennis and is improving in this sport. A second-year student of the secondary school for logistic services, Stryncl has to fill school duties next to hockey practices and games. Stryncl is aware of how is resting important for a young athlete and relaxes often by listening to various kinds of music, from Robbie Williams to Czech rock icon Kabat, or by watching TV. His favorite movies are ‘Patriot’ or ‘Billy Elliot’. His eating habits are in order with his needs as a hockey player, Stryncl likes to eat all food cooked at home by his mother and to drink a bottle of multivitamin drink.

Stryncl is considering heavily coming over to the CHL next season. “It isn’t sure yet, but I would definitely like to come over as soon as possible. I like the CHL style of play and would like to take the North American route to the NHL.”

He doesn’t have a favorite NHL team which he would like to play for. The dream of Tomas Stryncl is to make his living with playing senior hockey. He has the needed desire to succeed and adequate talent.