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Zacha, Mašín Highlight Czech 2014 CHL Import Draft Class

By on September 16, 2014 in North American with 0 Comments

By Margann Laurissa, CHL special for The Czech List

The 2014 CHL Import Draft was a good one for players from the Czech Republic. Out of the 71 players selected, thirteen of them were Czech, making them the second-highest demographic next to Russia. In fact, all but one of them were chosen in the first round of the draft. It is an incredible accomplishment, especially since the CHL has historically been good to Czech players; the likes of Aleš Hemský, Michal Neuvirth, David Krejčí and Michal Rozsíval, among many others, can thank the CHL for making them the players they are today. This year, the talent pool that was chosen in the CHL Import Draft out of the Czech Republic is one of the deepest in recent memory. With the graduations of players such as Radek Faksa and Patrik Bartošák from the CHL, the group that is coming into the three member leagues is going to be one to be reckoned with.

Dominik Mašín at the Tampa Bay Lightning rookie camp. Courtesy of thescout.ca

Dominik Mašín at the Tampa Bay Lightning rookie camp. Courtesy of thescout.ca

In the OHL, four Czechs were selected, all in the first round. The league is readily awaiting the début of Pavel Zacha, who was chosen first overall in the 2014 CHL Import Draft by the Sarnia Sting. While, at first, it seemed that Zacha was not going to report to the team, opting instead to stay behind in Europe, the highly-touted prospect for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft retracted to join the rebuilding Sting. As a big forward at 6’3″ and nearly 210 pounds, he will not only bring his trademark talent to Sarnia but he will give them added beef up front, something that they significantly lack at the moment. With the tenth overall pick, the Belleville Bulls selected Boston Bruins 2014 first-round pick David Pastrňák. Unfortunately, the chances of him playing in the OHL are quite minimal, as he is expected to play professionally in 2014-15, either with the AHL’s Providence Bruins or back with Södertälje in Sweden. With the 25th overall pick, the Peterborough Petes selected defenceman Dominik Mašín, a second-round selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014. The Petes are losing quite a few of their blueliners from last year, especially Nelson Armstrong and Clark Seymour, so Mašín will be joining a young yet talented defence corps that also includes Matt Spencer, Cameron Lizotte and Rylee McKinnon. With the 31st overall pick, the Sudbury Wolves chose 2014 Minnesota Wild seventh-rounder Pavel Jenyš to help a forward group decimated by graduation. In addition to an offensive style of play, he will also bring significant size up front to the Wolves, as well.

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

Zbořil with his hometown team, Kometa Brno. Courtesy of hc-kometa.cz

In the QMJHL, five Czechs were selected, one more than each of the other two leagues. With the fifth overall pick in the 2014 CHL Import Draft, the Saint John Sea Dogs chose defenceman Jakub Zbořil, who is one of the most promising blueliners eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft due to his size and his two-way play. In Zbořil, the Sea Dogs are bringing in a significant scorer from the point who will make fans remember the likes of Pittsburgh Penguins rearguard Simon Després. With the eleventh overall pick, the Charlottetown Islanders selected Filip Chlapík, a tall, offensively-skilled centreman who played in Prague for Sparta last year after leaving Pavel Zacha’s Liberec. Islanders fans should be happy about this pick because he, like many others chosen in the 2014 CHL Import Draft, is highly touted for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and he could be the highest player from this incarnation of the franchise (which used to be the PEI Rocket) to be drafted to the NHL. With the 23rd overall pick, the Victoriaville Tigres selected defenceman Filip Pyrochta, another graduate of the Liberec junior program. Unchosen at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the two-way blueliner knew that reporting to CHL will provide him with the best shot at making the NHL. With the 41st overall pick, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada selected forward David Kaše, who captained the Czech under-18 team at the most recent Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. His smaller frame would actually make him fit in quite well in the QMJHL but the Kadaň native, who is eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, is expected to remain home. With the 104th overall pick, the Val-d’Or Foreurs selected defenceman Daniel Krenželok, making him the only Czech chosen in the draft’s second round. A tall, rangy blueliner, Krenzelok will be joining the Foreurs this season, a team that developed Kris Letang into the rearguard he is today; it also helps that Krenzelok is incredibly sound defensively right now, something that will help immensely in a purely offensive league as the QMJHL is.

Šimon Stránský in a game with Vítkovice Steel.

Šimon Stránský in a game with Vítkovice Steel.

In the WHL, four Czechs were selected, all of them being picked in the first round. With the twelfth overall pick, the Moose Jaw Warriors selected Jiří Smejkal, a big defensive forward who has shown that he is capable of big things offensively. Smejkal was born in late 1996, making him eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. With the 24th overall pick, the Prince Albert Raiders selected Šimon Stránský, who played for the under-18 team of HC Vítkovice last season. The offensively potent yet smallish winger will become the second in his family to play in the WHL; his older brother Matěj, a Dallas Stars draft pick, played three seasons for the Saskatoon Blades between 2010 and 2013, recording 192 points (93 goals, 99 assists) in 213 career games. With the 51st overall pick, the Medicine Hat Tigers selected Michael Špaček, another 2015 draft eligible forward who already has four games of professional experience to his credit. Špaček, however, is expected to stay home this season and turn professional in the Czech Extraliga. With the 60th overall pick, the last selection in the first round, the Kelowna Rockets selected Tomáš Šoustal, who is a considerable point producer despite his diminutive frame. Šoustal is eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and, even though the Rockets are better known for cultivating defencemen, it would be nice to see him on a forward unit that includes Justin Kirkland and Rourke Chartier, who were chosen by the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks, respectively, in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

As the season progresses, it will be amazing to witness just how impressive this impact will be. These players are some of the best of the best from the Czech Republic and their contributions will be quite significant. The teams who selected many of them were smart in drafting them a year before they are expected to be drafted once again, this time to the NHL. Eight players from the Czech Republic were chosen in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft but, with all of these players coming over to North America this season, it will not be farfetched to see that number reach double digits in 2015. The path to the NHL, at times, seemed to be like climbing a mountain with many jagged edges and boulders along the way. It appears now, though, that the ascent is now a lot smoother, and it just keeps getting better.

Top photo courtesy of sarniasports.com

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