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Czech List, European Edition: Playoffs a Chance for Prospects to Impress

By on March 27, 2014 in European with 0 Comments

By Radoslav Vavřina, Czech Correspondent for All Habs Hockey Magazine

LIBEREC, CZE — The junior hockey season is almost over. In the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), playoffs have just begun, but over here in the Czech Republic, they are in their final stages. And with the U18 World Juniors approaching, it’s about time to update how the top European-based Czech prospects are doing.

kase_ondrej_nove_dresy_top04Over in the Under-20 Extraliga, the semifinals are underway, but there are no real big 2014-draft prospects on any of the four remaining teams. Ondřej Kaše and David Kämpf, highly-touted linemates from Chomutov, are rather wasting their potential in the fourth line among pros up in the Extraliga instead of leading their junior team towards title.

The most interesting team that still competes in the U20 top league is Sparta Prague. This team is probably the front-runner to win it all and it has a roster full of hopeful players, including former CHL’ers Marek Hrbas and Euvstathio Soumelidis. Eyes of NHL scouts are, however, looking at other players.

For example Martin Procházka who was a shining star at the U20 World Junior Championships in Sweden is looking to prove that he is, just like Kämpf, an overage player not to be overlooked anymore.

Hard-working forward Jiří Černoch is also on the team, but he’s considered a real longshot on making the draft, just like defenseman Ondřej Mikliš. Both are members of the U18 national team and they should have long careers among pros, but probably not in the NHL.

Filip Chlapík is the only member of the team who really should be considered a top prospect. He was born in 1997 so his draft year is next year, but he’s already an elite player in the U20 Extraliga and has one start with the first team of the organization. We’ll see next year how high he ranks among draft-eligible prospects, but he’s looking very good at the moment.

Other prominent members of the 2015 Czech draft class are Pavel Zacha, the 16-year-old Extraliga player that we talked about not long ago, fellow forwards Michael Špaček and Ivan Ďurač, tough defenseman Jakub Zbořil and smallish forward David Kaše, younger brother of Ondřej. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all get drafted in fifteen months.

David Pastrňák

David Pastrňák

This year, Swedish-based tandem of forwards Jakub Vrána and David Pastrňák were supposed to be the top two Czech players at the draft and they will be. Linköping’s Vrána opened the season as the top-ranked Czech, in some rankings as high as in top fifteen. However, he struggled with the jump to the Swedish Hockey League and only repeated his performance from last year among juniors. Right now, most rankings have him in late-first or early-second rounds.

That’s about where Pastrňák started the campaign and his ability to make the most of the opportunity to play among pros has only helped him. He led his team of Södertälje in points in the Allsvenskan, the second-highest league in Sweden. But, a back injury sidelined him for a long portion of the finishing stages of the season and it is unknown whether he will return to action for the U18 WJC or not. Anyways, rankings mostly have him between number 20 and number 30.

Looking to grab a spot in the top hundred is Czech-based forward Ondřej Kaše who is fast, skilled and determined. He spent the entire season with his linemate David Kämpf in the Extraliga, the top league in the country. On the fourth line, he did quite well and collected seven points over the course of the season. Also, he plays for the worst team of the league – they have only won six games out of 58 this season and once were on a 24-game-long losing streak.

After that, all players are pretty much questionable whether they’re going to get drafted or not. The list starts with Swedish-based forward Lukáš Vopelka who sure has what it takes to be an elite player. He plays with Örebro and had one start in the SHL, but wasn’t overly impressive among juniors.

Liberec defensemen Filip Pyrochta and Tomáš Havlín are also looking to steal a spot in the late rounds. Pyrochta has spent the season among pros as well and his play has improved. Havlín didn’t get as much time among pros, but he progressed quickly over winter. Pyrochta is more likely to be drafted and Havlín has to have an incredibly strong U18 WJC to get to the top 210.

Also looking to impress the scouts at the U18 WJC will be hard-working forward Pavel Jenyš. He has the size to succeed and good upside when it comes to puck skills, passing and shooting. What helps him a lot is the fact that he gives it all every time he steps on the ice. That can one day separate him from others.

Other hopefuls are goaltenders Vítek Vaněček and Karel Vejmelka who will make the strong duo of netminders at the U18 WJC. So as you see, it will all be determined over in Finland. The U18 WJC starts on April 17 in the city of Lappeenranta and concludes ten days later. After that, scouts will have two months to determined who their NHL teams are going to draft.

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