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Czech List: Ivan Hlinka Memorial Approaching, What to Expect from Czechs

By on August 2, 2014 in European with 0 Comments

By Radoslav Vavřina, Lead Writer, The Czech List

One week is left until the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup begins and the Czechs pretty much know what their roster is going to be and they sure know their goals as well. Following an amazing year for the Under-18 national team in the last season, eyes are set on the prize yet again and this time, a golden medal wouldn’t be unrealistic. However, just days ago, some obstacles were put in their way.

Most of you have probably heard about Pavel Zacha, the big forward who turned pro at the age of 16 in Czech Extraliga, alongside Petr Nedvěd in Liberec. He was stellar for the Under-18 national team last season and even appeared at the Under-20 World Juniors as one of the youngest players of the entire event.

Pavel Zacha playing for Liberec in European Trophy. Courtesy of hcbilitygri.cz

Pavel Zacha playing for Liberec in European Trophy. Courtesy of hcbilitygri.cz

Ranked around number ten for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by most talent-evaluating services, Zacha was expected to be the leader for the Czechs at all big events this upcoming season, including Ivan Hlinka. Břeclav, however, won’t see any of his game for a couple of months now because he decided not to participate.

The reasons of the decision are unknown at the moment, but there are speculation it is connected to him still not having a clear home for the upcoming year. Following the CHL Import Draft, which saw him picked by the Sarnia Sting first overall, Zacha stated that he will need a month to resolve things with his people and decide where to go.

Right now, two options look most likely. Either his CHL rights get traded by Sarnia and he goes to the team that retrieves them or he might end up playing in the USHL, both great choices for the top prospect. Well, at least it looks like both of these are better than playing five minutes a game in Czech Extraliga.

Zacha may not be the only player missing for the Czechs as the second-ranked Czech-based offensive prospect for the next draft, Michael Špaček, is also unlikely to participate. While there is a chance he will come to Břeclav, it is believed he will have to stay out of action for some time now following an unspecificed surgery.

With or without Špaček and definitely without Zacha, other prospect will have to take over as the leaders for this promising crop of players. Apparently, one of the most suitable players for this position is David Kaše, the younger brother of Anaheim Ducks seventh-rounder Ondřej Kaše.

David Kaše v dresu reprezentační osmnáctky. Zdroj: piratichomutov.cz

David Kaše at the Under-18 WJC in Finland. Photo courtesy of piratichomutov.cz

Not big by size, Kaše sure is big by heart and character and he proved to be a clutch player for the Under-18 national team in the last season and at the Under-18 World Juniors in particular. In semifinals against Canada, it was him who capitalized on a overtime error by one of Canadian defensemen and scored the winning goal to send his team to the final.

The Czechs would only get silver back then in Finland, but that was still a huge accomplishment that wouldn’t be achieved without Kaše. However, he won’t be the only go-to player on the roster. Prague native Filip Chlapík has all the tools to become an offensive weapon as well and following a rather weak showing in Lappeenranta and Imatra, he will need to step it up in Břeclav and prove himself to the scouts if he wants to get drafted next June.

Looking for a spot at the draft as well will be many more players, including yet another fine Czech goalie, Daniel Vladař. At 6′ 5”, this young man is as big as they come and that really helps him in the crease. He’s the kind of goalies that won’t make any highlight-reel athletic saves, but he will stand tall in the net and just stop every shot coming his way.

Vladař was a member of the Under-18 national team last year as well and he ended up backing up Vítek Vaněček at the WJC in Finland. It is believed he’s got what it takes to replace the current Capitals prospect and he will be definitely looking to prove that. He’s also supposed to turn pro, at least part-time, with the Kladno franchise of the Czech First League.

Zbořil v dresu juniorky Komety. Zdroj: hc-kometa.cz

Zbořil playing in the Under-20 Extraliga. Photo courtesy of hc-kometa.cz

The defensive corps will be led by Jakub Zbořil who will fight for a best possible position at the draft, eyeing the first round, with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in the upcoming season. Big versatile D-man, Zbořil was a star for his Under-20 team in his hometown of Brno last year and might as well turn out to be the most valuable player of the tournament in Břeclav.

Other players to watch will include Finnish-based 2016 draft prospect Radek Koblížek, up-and-coming forward Ivan Ďurač, soon-to-be QMJHL blueliner Daniel Krenželok and a couple other goalies, Aleš Stezka and Jan Růžička. Břeclav will be the place where these guys slug it out with their peers from abroad, namely USA, Russia and Finland in the group stage.

The Czech List will be there and provide you with daily coverage, post-game interviews and scouting reports throughout the tourney, right from the very beginning with pre-tournament games on August 9 until the final that takes place August 16. Also, tune back in for Czech List in two weeks when we’ll take a look at some intercontinental transactions that happened earlier this summer.

Top photo courtesy of hokej.idnes.cz

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