Three Czechs in the 2004 CHL Top Prospects game

By Robert Neuhauser

The CHL Top Prospects game, which will take place in London, Ontario, on January 21st, 2004, is as usual an exclusive event where the top draft eligible players square off against each other and try to prove that they are the up and coming NHL stars of the future. This game is followed closely by the staff of all NHL teams and fans all over the world. The young Czech draft-eligible prospects are the most successful European participants, marking the seventh straight year when at least one player raised in the Czech Republic has been involved in the Top Prospects Game. Highly regarded Czech prospects have fought their way into this event in the previous years, with virtually every of them hearing his name selected at the NHL Entry Draft, Frantisek Bakrlik being the only exception.

The likes of Jiri Fischer, Pavel Brendl, Filip Novak, Lukas Krajicek, Petr Kanko or Petr Taticek have played in the game. Two Czech prospects, Petr Vrana and Kamil Kreps, competed in the last year’s edition of the event and both became second-round picks at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
This year the number of Czechs in the game is slightly bigger, with three, including Vaclav Meidl, Petr Pohl and Jan Steber.

Vaclav Meidl
Position: Center/Left Wing
Team: Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Birthdate: May, 27th, 1986
Birthplace: Prostejov, Czech Republic
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 198 lbs.
Shoots: L

After playing for three teams within the last two seasons in the Czech Republic, Vaclav Meidl was sure about the fact that he prefers the North American route to the NHL draft. He found a new home in Plymouth and was guided by countryman and San Jose Sharks draftee Jonas Fiedler during his first OHL steps.

A decent skater for a player of his size, Meidl is capable of fast turns and is able to reach top speed quickly thanks to his effortless stride. He is an excellent stickhandler and maneuvers through traffic quite well. Meidl possesses soft hands and drives hard to the net. He isn’t afraid of throwing his body around and even drop the gloves. Meidl fights for the pucks in the corners and positions himself in front of the net. Meidl is a good passer and his wrist shot is released fast, but his slap shot needs to be more accurate. Meidl needs to work on his finishing skills, which are only average. He is aware defensively and isn’t reluctant to come back and help the defense. Meidl made strides in his intensity, but needs to show more consistency, he can be a huge force when he has his day, but also disappear occasionally when he takes a day off.

Petr Pohl
Position: right wing
Team: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Birthdate: August, 28th, 1986
Birthplace: Koprivnice, Czech Republic
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 175 lbs.
Shoots: R

One of the youngest players in this year’s edition of the Top Prospects Game, Petr Pohl spend the previous three seasons in the HC Vitkovice developmental system. He also served as the captain of the Czech Under-17 team at some tournaments prior to his leaving for the QMJHL. On the Gatineau Olympiques team he is accompanied by defenseman Martin Vagner, who was a first-rounder of the Dallas Stars in 2002.

Petr Pohl is a terrific skater with a fast acceleration and a fluid stride. He is
capable of sharp turns and his speed is one of his biggest assets. Pohl handles the puck
well and has very smooth hands. Pohl isn’t afraid of maneuvering with the puck even in heavy traffic, looking for openings to shoot or make a pass. He has a nose for the net and doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck. Pohl possesses a lightning-quick wrist shot and his slap shot is very accurate. Pohl takes advantage of good vision and hockey sense, which enables him to foresee the plays. He thrives on powerplay units and is a slick scorer. From the things he has to work on there is defensive play, which hasn’t come all the way yet. He also needs to work on his play away from the puck.
As a finesse winger he doesn’t hit very hard and toughness is one thing he lacks.
He can get knocked off the puck by using power but thanks to his strong smarts it
doesn’t happen very often.

Jan Steber
Position: center
Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Birthdate: October, 19th, 1985
Birthplace: Orlova, Czech Republic
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 200 lbs.
Shoots: L

Originally a player raised in the HC Ocelari Trinec system and a mainstay on the Czech junior national teams consisting of 1985 born players, Jan Steber decided to give the QMJHL a try this season, when he joined New Jersey Devils prospect Petr Vrana as the second European player on the Halifax Mooseheads squad.
Jan Steber is a good skater for a big man and possesses a nice agility. Even if he isn’t skinny at 6’3”, 200 lbs., he only needs to gain more strength which will also upgrade his balance. His footspeed could see upgrading, too.

Steber plays well in every game situation and is effective on both powerplay and penalty killing units. More of a passer than sniper, Steber distributes crisp accurate passes. He has a decent hockey sense and is smart and creative with the puck. He is an average puckhandler, but makes up for this with his strong intensity and determination. He takes care of his own end, too, and can’t be labeled as one-dimensional. Steber possesses a strong slapper, but his wrist shot could have a faster release and be more accurate.