By Margann Laurissa, CHL special for The Czech List
It is amazing to think that November is almost halfway done. As the days go by, and the Movember mustaches start to take shape, it becomes incredible to ponder just how quickly the 2014-15 CHL season is progressing. The many Czech imports in the league are demonstrating their talents and they are making significant impacts. Acclimation can be such a quick process and a lot of these players are truly testifying to it.
In the OHL, it appears that second-year Belleville Bulls forward David Tomášek is starting to rediscover his scoring touch. After a slow start to the season, the Prague native has been more consistent and his statistics are reflecting it. On November 5 against the Mississauga Steelheads, Tomášek had one assist and was plus-3 as the Bulls won 5-1. While Tomášek did not have any points on November 7 against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he truly had his best game in the OHL when he recorded four assists and was plus-4 the next night against the Sudbury Wolves, garnering second star honours. Peterborough Petes rookie defenceman Dominik Mašín did not have the most productive weekend, though. In games against the North Bay Battalion, the Kitchener Rangers and the Oshawa Generals, the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick was a minus-1 and had two penalty minutes. He did play well enough defensively, though, especially only being a minus-1 on November 7 in Kitchener, a game the Petes lost 8-2. First-year Sarnia Sting forward Pavel Zacha continues to impress in his début OHL season and he is a key reason for his team doing so much better than they had the season before. On November 7, Zacha recorded an assist on each of Sarnia’s goals and was plus-2 in a 5-2 loss to the Erie Otters. The next night, against the Niagara IceDogs, he did not record any points but he actually found himself getting a match penalty for slew-footing. Through it all, though, his sixteen points in seventeen games have him second in OHL rookie scoring, trailing only Otters forward Alex DeBrincat. It seems repetitive to keep saying it but the Sudbury Wolves should be so thankful that they have Pavel Jenyš on their team. The Minnesota Wild prospect had an assist in back-to-back games on November 7 and 8, against the Barrie Colts and Belleville Bulls, respectively. The game against Belleville was especially remarkable since the Wolves came back from being down 6-3 to win 7-6 in overtime. Jenyš now has eleven points in his last ten games, and his fourteen points overall have him tied with Matt Schmalz and Nathan Pancel for the Wolves’ team lead.
In the QMJHL, there are no words really to describe the rookie season that Charlottetown Islanders forward Filip Chlapík is having other than remarkable. The Islanders had a busy weekend with three road games against the Gatineau Olympiques on November 7, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on November 8, and the Drummondville Voltigeurs on November 9. On Friday, Chlapík assisted on David Henley’s first goal of the season, scored two of his own 3:03 apart in the third period, including once on the powerplay, and was 9-for-14 on his faceoffs. For his efforts, he was named first star of the game. On Saturday, he recorded another assist and he was 9-for-16 in the circle in a 4-2 loss. On Sunday afternoon, Chlapík had a goal and an assist, in addition to being 11-for-24 in the faceoff dot. For his efforts, he was named the QMJHL’s third star of the week. His 27 points in 23 games have him tied for fourth in QMJHL rookie scoring, too. Second-year Gatineau Olympiques forward Václav Karabáček did not have the most eventful weekend, though. The Buffalo Sabres prospect did manage to score a goal on November 7 against Charlottetown but his most significant dent on the scoresheet came in penalty minutes, recording four in that game and two more on November 9 against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Third-year Rimouski Océanic defenceman Jan Kosťálek also appeared in two games this past weekend. On November 7, the Winnipeg Jets prospect was a plus-1 in a resounding 8-1 victory over the visiting Chicoutimi Saguenéens; the next night, November 8, he had an assist, was plus-2 and had three hits in a 5-1 win over the visiting Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The Saint John Sea Dogs had two games on the road this past weekend and rookie defenceman Jakub Zbořil is continuing to have a solid first season. On November 5, a Wednesday night game, the Sea Dogs visited the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and Zbořil scored the winning goal in a 4-2 victory. He also was plus-1, had four penalty minutes and one hit in the win. On November 7, the Sea Dogs had another 4-2 victory, this time in Halifax against the Mooseheads and the first-year blueliner had four penalty minutes. The Val-d’Or Foreurs breathed a sigh of relief this past weekend as Jan Mandát returned from injury. While he did not record any points on November 5 against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Mandát did record a powerplay assist on November 7, his first game back in Victoriaville since he was traded from the Tigres earlier in the season. The next night, he scored a powerplay goal in a 5-4 overtime loss in Québec City against the Remparts. As for his Foreurs teammate Daniel Krenželok, he did not record any points during the three-game road trip. The first-year defenceman did have a minus-2 ranking and one hit in the three games, though. Victoriaville Tigres rookie blueliner Filip Pyrochta, however, continues to play quite well. On November 7, he recorded one hit and an even ranking against the Sherbrooke Phoenix. The next night, against Victoriaville, he registered an assist and a minus-1 ranking.
In the WHL, it appears that there may be some hope for Kelowna Rockets rookie forward Tomáš Šoustal after all. His struggles this season have been well-documented but it seems that he is starting to find his niche. The Rockets had a four-night, three-game home stand this past weekend and Šoustal was instrumental in their success. He recorded an assist on Justin Kirkland’s game-winning goal, was plus-2 and had a penalty in Kelowna’s 5-1 win over the Victoria Royals on November 5. He had an even ranking and a penalty on November 7 against the Spokane Chiefs, a game the Rockets won 4-2. The next night, Šoustal recorded an assist on Tyrell Goulbourne’s hat trick goal as the Rockets shut out the visiting Vancouver Giants 5-0. Medicine Hat Tigers overage goaltender and Arizona Coyotes prospect Marek Langhamer appeared in only one game this weekend. He made 26 saves in a 4-3 overtime win over the Moose Jaw Warriors on November 7, which gave him his ninth win of the season. Langhamer’s 2.30 goals-against average is now fifth in the league while his .910% save percentage is eighth. Moose Jaw Warriors first-year winger Jiří Smejkal is, unfortunately, still continuing to struggle. He did not have a bad weekend defensively, only recording a minus-2 ranking in a home-and-home series with the Medicine Hat Tigers. That being said, though, Smejkal has not recorded a point in over a month, which is showing that his acclimation is not going as smoothly as possibly hoped. Prince Albert Raiders rookie forward Šimon Stranský had an intriguing weekend, too. He was a minus-1 and had a penalty on November 5 against the Calgary Hitmen but he followed that up with a two-assist performance on November 7 against the Seattle Thunderbirds, helping on both goals in a 6-2 defeat. Second-year Raiders defenceman Tomáš Andrlík did not have an eventful weekend, going minus-2, but he did manage to keep himself out of the penalty box in what were feisty games against Calgary and Seattle. Newly acquired Tri-City Americans overage forward Richard Nejezchleb has not wasted any time endearing himself to his new team. On November 5, the New York Rangers draft pick recorded an assist on the Americans’ only goal in a 1-0 win over the defending Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings, earning him second star honours. Two nights later, on November 7, he truly demonstrated his ability to the Toyota Center faithful, recording a goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers en route to a first star selection. While he did not record any points on November 8 against the Red Deer Rebels, it is apparent that Nejezchleb is fitting in with his new team quite handsomely.
November is starting to shape up to be a fantastic month. Many of the Czech CHL players are doing so well and it appears as though the trend of their success is continuing to be a great one. There are going to be many more opportunities for these players to show what they are made of as, in November, there are many times where their teams will play games during the week in addition to their regularly-scheduled weekend contests. The fact that these players are coming in and playing as though they have been in their leagues for years has been incredible and one can only hope that it will continue well into the rest of 2014 and into the new year.
Photo courtesy of hokejreports.wbs.cz