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Czech List, North American Edition: Focus Returns to CHL Following WJC

By on January 6, 2014 in North American with 0 Comments

By Radoslav Vavřina, Czech Correspondent for All Habs Hockey Magazine

LIBEREC, CZE — This year’s World Junior Championship is over and it was quite short, especially for some teams, like the Czech Republic. It’s hard to judge whether quarterfinals are a success or not. Some games definitely looked even better than that, others worse. After all, the Czech team flew to Sweden with the expectations of making it to quarterfinals and that would make them satisfied.

I’m not sure if they really are satisfied because beating Canada is obviously a huge deal since it had never been done before by a Czech team, only by Czechoslovakia. Then a letdown with Germany kept the confidence where it should be, but there definitely was a feeling that the Czechs could beat Finns. Mistakes cost the team and the result was elimination after the quarterfinals.

Now I could talk all day about the World Juniors, but let’s look ahead as players return to their regular teams. I can say that there were some pleasant surprises, but others failed to deliver.

TEN393ab8_p201102160811201This is the North American version of Czech List so I’d like to end the WJC talk with the statement that defensively, CHL is still very important. Marek Langhamer (Medicine Hat, WHL) had, as I expected, a great tournament, but unfortunately we won’t see any more Czech CHL goalies in the Under-20 national team.

Michal Plutnar (Tri-City, WHL), a 1994-born defensemen  and Petr Šidlík (Victoriaville, QMJHL) who was also team’s captain, were centerpieces of not only the Czech defense, but the entire roster. Plutnar lived up to his potential, at least for this WJC, and showed off great two-way hockey scoring a couple vital goals. Šidlík proved that he’s a great captain and even though he might not have been as solid in action, he might have been just as valuable for the team.

Next year we might see more CHL’ers in the offense for Team Czech Republic, especially Los Angeles Kings prospect Dominik Kubalík (Sudbury, OHL) and 2014-draft prospect Václav Karabáček (Gatineau, QMJHL) should attract attention. Defenseman David Němeček (Saskatoon, WHL) and Jets’ defensive prospect Jan Košťálek (Rimouski, QMJHL) should return for their second WJC.

There were some players who stayed in North America during the WJC simply because they didn’t make the cut. Richard Nejezchleb (Brandon, WHL) was probably the closest to getting a spot on the roster of those who didn’t travel to Malmö if we don’t count those who stayed home because of injuries.

The Prague native, Nejezchleb, is one of the key players for the Wheat Kings of Brandon, Manitoba, and he was lethal in some games while his peers were in Sweden. His numbers are good, he’s got 27 points in 32 games so he’s in top three in points on the team. I’m not saying he’s got NHL potential, but I liked him in the one game he played for the U20 national team.



Radek Faksa (OHL Images)

Radek Faksa (OHL Images)

The main problem might be the ice. You know that in Europe we’ve got much wider ice rinks than you do in North America. That’s probably a problem for a lot of CHL-based players, like David Musil, an Oilers defensive prospect, who struggled last year in Russia. Radek Faksa (Kitchener, OHL) had the same problem this year even though it didn’t affect him as much as it did last year.

Faksa is a beauty and while it’s becoming evident that European hockey doesn’t suit him as much as American, some Czech hockey fans and even others from hockey criticize him and play him down. They don’t believe he has as much talent as Tomáš Hertl does and I think that’s a shame. He’s been an outstanding player at Dallas Stars training camps and I truly do see him in the NHL next year.

Anyways, this is it for this year’s first Czech List. The next one will be a little longer as we’re finally going to take a closer look at Pavel Zacha. I’m going to criticize him and I’m going to tell you why it’s the best thing for him. It’s kind of complicated so stay tuned, we’ll be back in two weeks. 

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