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Czechs in the Canadian Hockey League Still Flexing their Muscles

By on October 1, 2014 in North American with 8 Comments

By Margann Laurissa, CHL special for The Czech List

Three weeks into the 2014-15 CHL season and it appears that the trend of Czechs doing well in the three member leagues is continuing. It has been remarkable to see how quickly acclimated this group has been in such a short time and it bodes well for the rest of the campaign, especially with so many of these players eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to take place next June in Florida.

In the QMJHL, Charlottetown Islanders rookie forward Filip Chlapík is still going strong. He even managed to put together a five-game goal-scoring streak from September 13 to 26. On September 24, he was named second star in a road game against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan after recording a goal and an assist in a 4-3 Islanders victory. Two nights later, in the home stand of the two-game series, Chlapík scored another goal in a second consecutive 4-3 win for Charlottetown. His goal-scoring streak was snapped, though, two days later as the Islanders lost 5-3 against the Moncton Wildcats. Despite it, his ten points in seven games have him tied for sixth in league scoring. Speaking of goals, though, a milestone was reached for Saint John Sea Dogs first-year defenceman Jakub Zbořil as, on September 27, he scored his first QMJHL career goal. The powerplay marker, the fifth of seven that Saint John tallied against the Halifax Mooseheads, was assisted by Boston Bruins prospect Mitchell Dempsey and rookie blueliner Luke Green. Val-d’Or Foreurs rookie defender Daniel Krenželok tallied an assist on a goal by Julien Gauthier with a minute left in regulation in a 7-2 loss to the Gatineau Olympiques. On the topic of the Olympiques, Václav Karabáček returned to the Gatineau lineup this past weekend from the Buffalo Sabres camp. He recorded two assists in his first game back, garnering helpers on snipes by Alex Dostie and Elie Bérubé, the latter being the overtime winner in a 5-4 victory over the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Jan Kosťálek also returned to the QMJHL this weekend, he from the Winnipeg Jets camp, to start his third season with the Rimouski Océanic and he has four penalty minutes in two games; he made his season début at home on September 26 against the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The Victoriaville Tigres are also getting great contributions from their Czech players. Jan Mandát and Filip Pyrochta both recorded assists in a 4-3 road win against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies; Mandát assisted on a goal by Samuel Blais while Pyrochta assisted on a powerplay marker by Antoine Marcoux., his first QMJHL career point. (Note: Mandát was traded by Victoriaville to Val’d-Or just before the article was submitted. He will now join fellow Czech Daniel Krenželok as a new Foreur.)

In the WHL, Kelowna Rockets rookie forward Tomáš Šoustal is starting to acclimate himself quite nicely. In addition to his natural centre position, he also has found himself playing on the wing at times. Šoustal recorded his second career assist on September 26, tallying the helper on a goal by Tyson Baillie in a 7-2 win over the Prince George Cougars. The next night, also against Prince George, he recorded four penalty minutes in a game that saw the two teams record 92 combined penalty minutes. Moose Jaw Warriors rookie winger Jiři Smejkal is also starting to come alive during his Canadian major junior career, too. He recorded a pair of assists on September 27 to help Warriors captain Brayden Point record a natural hat trick in a 7-1 home victory over the Saskatoon Blades. Prince Albert Raiders first-year forward Šimon Stranský is playing steadily and often but he has yet to record any points since his WHL début; that being said, though, his brother Matěj has set a good example for him and points should come in time. The other Czech player on the Raiders is truly showing his offensive potential; second-year defenceman Tomáš Andrlík has three points in as many games thus far, recording a pair of assists on the first goals of the season for Jordan Tkatch and Craig Leverton. Perhaps the most incredible news regarding Czech WHL players came when the Arizona Coyotes reassigned overage goaltender Marek Langhamer back to the Medicine Hat Tigers. In two starts this past weekend against the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings, Langhamer had a 1-1 record, allowing only four goals. His 2.03 goals-against average and .926% save percentage to start the season is quite impressive. (It should be noted that Brandon Wheat Kings right winger Richard Nejezchleb still has yet to return from the camp of the New York Rangers.)

In the OHL, the season started this past weekend and all four Czech players have already made impacts. Sarnia Sting rookie forward Pavel Zacha made his long-awaited début this past weekend and he has shown that he is capable of becoming a legitimate power forward. He received a penalty for charging at the end of the first period of his first game. Unfortunately, the opposing Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds were too strong and the Sting lost 7-3. The next night, down in Saginaw, Zacha managed to record his first OHL career point, an assist on Vladislav Kodola’s first goal of the season. The Peterborough Petes only played one game, their season opener on September 25, allowing for Dominik Mašín to make his own OHL début. Even though he was a -1 that night, on which the Petes lost 5-3 against the Kingston Frontenacs, the Tampa Bay Lightning second-rounder in 2014 showed that he has incredible skating ability and poise that will only get better as he gets used to the North American game. David Tomášek and his Belleville Bulls teammates started their season on the road against the defending league champion Guelph Storm and came out with a 6-0 victory; he was a plus-1 in that contest. The next night, Belleville had their season opener against the Sudbury Wolves and Tomášek recorded an assist on a goal by overager Brett Gustavsen, the latter’s first as a member of the Bulls after three and a half seasons with the Ottawa 67’s. On the topic of the Sudbury Wolves, Pavel Jenyš made his own OHL début this past weekend. He actually managed to score his first OHL career goal in his first game against the Niagara IceDogs; the Minnesota Wild 2014 draft pick can be one of very few to say that he scored his first major junior goal into an empty net as he helped seal a 3-1 home opener victory for the Wolves.

With all three leagues’ seasons now underway, the contributions should be coming fast and furious this year. All of the Czech players are doing extremely well and October should be even more spectacular than what has been a rather impressive September.

Photo courtesy of Derek Leung/Getty Images

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