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Czech List, European Edition: Prospects Battle for NHL Draft Attention

By on October 28, 2013 in European, Player Draft with 0 Comments

By Radoslav Vavřina, Czech Correspondent for All Habs Hockey Magazine

LIBEREC, CZE — Battles for places at the NHL Entry Draft are epic, year after year. Sometimes there’s friends battling like Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon last year, other times teammates square off like Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk the year before. This time, two Czechs are in a head-to-head race to become the top Czech-born drafted player in 2014. That race, however, doesn’t take place in their homeland neither overseas, but in cold Sweden.

czechlist1bSweden has always been a country of skilled hockey players, some of them with big hearts, others with Hollywood aspirations. The Swedes always have a high pick in the draft, with names like Adam Larsson, Elias Lindholm or William Nylander coming up. Oh wait, Nylander has actually yet to be drafted high, but the question is, will he?

Sure he will, forget about his character and the fact that his start to this season was super slow. The son and current teammate of former long-time NHL’er Michael Nylander scored his first point of the season seven games into the campaign, his first among pros. Courtesy of Örnsköldsvik’s MODO, the team that produced Peter Forsberg and the Sedins, but also Markus Näslund, the 17-year-old playmaker is on loan in the Allsvenskan, Swedish second-highest league where he currently has eight points in fifteen games which is exactly what can be expected from a top-three draft pick. After all, he’s still a boy among men.

It’s no wonder that everybody expected Nylander to be the best coming out of Sweden this year, his only considered competition being character forward Anton Karlsson who’s ranked in top-five by some companies and has 14 points in 14 games of the SuperElit, Europe’s top junior league.

Also, Jakub Vrána is kind of struggling. After being placed in the top ten by some and top twenty by the rest, he was expected to assume a role with the Linköping team in the Swedish Elite League. Pointless in seven games, Vrána also plays for organization’s junior team in the same league as Karlsson, scoring 12 points in 10 games, but that’s not really a surprise.

David Pastrňák

David Pastrňák

Who has been a surprise, however, is another Czech forward David Pastrňák. Last year a linemate of Nylander, his situation resembled the one Galchenyuk was in while playing in Sarnia as a linemate of Yakupov who was just phenomenal in the OHL just as Nylander is amazing among juniors. So people thought he’d be nothing without Nylander. But there he is, a boy among men in the Allsvenskan and facing his star linemate and, ranking number 14 in points.

Twelve points in 15 games of what was supposed to be the Nylander show this year is great given the fact that he also leads his team in scoring and has a positive plus-6 rating while Nylander is minus-1 in that category. Also, many scouts didn’t even see him as a first-round prospect before the season. A lot of his current form was displayed in August at the Ivan Hlinka tournament where he belonged to the best, outplaying Vrána and the whole Swedish team.

Don’t forget about Lukáš Vopelka. He’s another Czech prospect based in Sweden and even though he’s not such a rising star, he had his Swedish Elite League debut earlier this season with his team in Örebro. Among juniors, he’s got good stats of 10 points in 14 SuperElit games. Anyways, the battle in Sweden isn’t the only place where you can spot Czech prospects.

The situation in the home of all the Czech prospects, in the Czech Republic, however, doesn’t really resemble a battlefield. Just as last year, the number of players who stayed home and have a chance of getting drafted is pretty small. While last year, defenseman Jan Štencel and Martin Kokeš and forwards Luboš Rob and David Kämpf were the top four fighting for scouts attention, this year they are, witch exception of Rob, Extraliga regulars. Much like the top two Czech-based prospects for this year.

Pavel Jenyš

Pavel Jenyš

The truth is that Pavel Jenyš has loads of potential and is a true hockey player. He’s got two goals in thirteen Extraliga games this year, one of them game-winning. Ondřej Kaše is, nonetheless, the one at the top of the list. Born and raised in Kadaň, just outside of Chomutov, which is a place with one of the best hockey academies in the country, the 17-year-old prospect has sixteen Extraliga games under his belt and has recorded two goals along with two assists for four points.

Born in 1995, he had to be left out from this year’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup and won’t even travel to the Under-18 World Junior Championships. That’s not a big problem given the fact that he played at both tournaments last year scoring five points in five IH games and three points in three WJC games.

This year, he’s finally a regular with Chomutov’s Extraliga team, which might help him get the attention from the scouts that he needs. Well, they say if a player’s good enough, they’ll find him anywhere (which is probably the truth if you watch what players the Calgary Flames draft). So at least he’ll get my attention and as I’ll be in attendance for Chomutov’s game at Prague’s Slavia in mid-November, you can read more on him next month.

Not just on him though. We’ll also take a look at some undrafted players that will go with Czech Under-19 national team to play a couple of friendly games with Finland. And, an introduction to a story that might steal the headlines in the race for number-one overall draft pick in 2015 from Canadian exceptional Connor McDavid.

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