LIBEREC, CZE –The Czech Extraliga regular season is already underway here in the Czech Republic and it’s full of stars, from those of the past like Martin Straka and Petr Nedvěd, to those of the future like the players Czech List will be about, turning into a bi-weekly feature. In this issue, let’s focus on prospects who play in Europe and in two weeks there will be one concerning those who play in North American junior, minor and college leagues.
If you want the opinion on the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, this is probably the first season ever when the European part of the Czech crop is what you’re interested more. All the top prospects stayed on the Eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean, but not just in the Czech Republic. The three top Czech prospects play in Sweden, including forwards Jakub Vrána and David Pastrňák who could be both selected in the first round of the draft.
The Swedish Elite League has started already and Vrána is the youngest player on the roster of Linköpings HC. As expected, he will play for the Under-20 team as well, but it’s too early to say how his season will go. So far he hasn’t scored a point and an even plus/minus in three games of the SEL and one point, but stunning minus-4 rating in two games of the Junior SuperElit league.
While Vrána is generally deemed a top-fifteen prospect by most scouts, Pastrňák has nothing guaranteed as most don’t even see him being taken in the first round. But, he played better than Vrána at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and now it looks like Pastrňák will be a full-time player for his team in Södertälje which plays the Allsvenskan, the league one level below the SEL. He’s already got five points in six games which is very impressive.
One of the players who jumped from the Allsvenskan right into the NHL is St. Louis Blues forward Patrik Berglund, who played for Västerås and had 45 points in 36 games the year before he went to America. When he was as young as Pastrňák is right now, he had only four points in 21 games. And they still drafted him in the first round. So whether you subscribe to some kind of a draft ranking newsletter or not, trust me that Pastrňák might be overpassing Vrána at some point of the season if he keeps on playing the way he is.
Back in the Czech Republic, Ondřej Kaše is the one prospect scouts are talking about. He’s in top-100 at almost every list and he deserves it. Last year he was the only underage player who stayed with the Under-18 national team all season long. Now he’s in the Extraliga, playing for the Chomutov Pirates, and already has beautiful two points in five games. Later in the season, media might start talking about him as the new Tomáš Hertl.
Kaše wasn’t the only underage player to play for the U-18 NT last year though. Two players from Liberec played at the Under-18 World Championships in Sochi, Russia, the venue of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The one who’s eligible for this draft is two-way defenseman Filip Pyrochta, who will start getting some attention as the season goes on as well. I’ve been watching him at every home game since he transferred to Liberec two years ago and I’ve been liking what I’m seeing. He led the Czech defense at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament this August and was a big part of why his team won the bronze. Now he had his chance to play for the Under-20 national team and he’s getting attention in a league one level below the Extraliga.
Already up in the Extraliga is the other of the two Liberec players who were on the team in Sochi, big forward Pavel Zacha, who is only 16 years old and eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He scored his first goal in the first minute of his Extraliga debut, but has had no points since then (we’re now five games in). He has all the tools to be an effective NHL power forward one day plus he’s as hard-working as they come, he’s like Jaromír Jágr when it comes to hard work.
Looking further into the future, Pardubice is a hockey town that might produce more stars than just Dominik Hašek and Aleš Hemský. There are three prospects that are worth watching closely. Eligible for the 2015 draft and also already playing in the Extraliga is Zacha’s only competition, Michael Špaček. He’s more of a skilled guy than Zacha, but he lacks the size and when they matched up against each other. Zacha just owned him, hands down.
Other, later prospects coming out of Pardubice, are defenseman Vojtěch Budík (2016 draft) and forward Filip Zadina (2018 draft). Right, they got noticed so early. Why? Budík plays occasionally in the Under-20 Extraliga (at the age of 15) and Zadina is a star in the Under-18 Extraliga (at the age of 13).
That’s pretty much it for the first issue of the European edition of the Czech List. There are seven players that probably will be drafted in the seven rounds of the draft and because I want you to know them better, every issue will contain a closer profile at one of these, starting with number seven in October and concluding with number one in April. Midway through October, there will be new Czech List for you that will bring you the first look at the North American side – not just junior prospects, but also those who play in the AHL and the NCAA. Stay tuned!