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Czech List, North American Edition: Path to NHL for ’12,’13 Draft Prospects

By Radoslav Vavřina, Czech Correspondent for All Habs Hockey Magazine

LIBEREC, CZE — This draft year will most likely be a little different for the Czechs than in a couple of previous seasons given the fact that most Czech players selected will be European-based and not North-American-based as was the trend of last years. Václav Karabáček will be leading the CHL crop of Czechs, but he could as well become the only one out of it who gets picked up.

Let’s take a look at those who were drafted previously this time, namely focusing on the 2012- and 2013-draft prospects who were selected by an NHL team. There are six of them and some of them have professional contracts already. Others have been rather struggling, but working hard to impress their NHL teams.

Radek Faksa (Photo by Texasstars.com)

Radek Faksa (Photo by Texasstars.com)

Probably the biggest name with biggest potential of all the six players is Radek Faksa. The 6-foot-3 forward was selected by the Dallas Stars 13th overall back in 2012, a couple of places higher than his fellow countryman and San Jose Sharks rookie Tomáš Hertl. Faksa, however, chose a different way into the NHL and that way led him via the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.

Faksa, native of Opava, used his combination of size and skill to make a name for himself in the Ontario Hockey League and had a couple of very good seasons with the Rangers. At the end, he also tried out for the Stars affiliate in the AHL where he actually is right now, too, following his OHL team’s elimination from the playoffs.

This year was a little bit of a letdown first as Kitchener struggled early on into the season, but ever since Faksa was dealt to Sudbury, his game has been getting better. But the team failed to get past first round in the post-season. Now he’s back in Texas, looking to prove the Stars that he’s what the team is looking for for the next season.

Martin Frk (Photo by Mark Newman)

Martin Frk (Photo by Mark Newman)

Also already signed to a pro contract, Martin Frk is after all not really looking as good as many people here hoped so. He had quite a career with Halifax in the QMJHL, especially last year when they went on to win the Memorial Cup, but he’s been unable to make much difference in the American Hockey League this year.

Detroit signed him back in July 2012 and now Frk is no longer junior-eligible so had to go to minors. First, he spent some time in ECHL’s Toledo, before being called up to Grand Rapids, most likely thanks to all those injury troubles the Red Wings have had this year. He has only scored three goals in 47 games so far and given the fact we hoped he’d be in the NHL by now, that’s a letdown.

One prospect who hasn’t really disappointed anybody yet is goaltender Patrik Bartošák who has just finished his junior career as a Red Deer Rebel. Last year he was drafted as an overage player following his great performance at the U20 World Juniors and also a great year with the Rebels.

This year Bartošák did okay, but his team, lacking Matt Dumba who went to Minnesota and then to Portland, failed to make the playoffs. And so it comes as no surprise that the native of Kopřivnice, who signed his first NHL contract just about a month ago, was reassigned to Manchester, the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. Over in New Hampshire, Bartošák played in just one game, coming in in relief of Jean-Francois Berube, but failing to keep his team from losing, allowing one goal on eight shots.

Another goaltender, Marek Langhammer, is also looking good out there in the Western Hockey League. The Coyotes prospect was an underdog entering the season, but now he’s been shining for his Medicine Hat Tigers in the playoffs and helped them advance past Swift Current into conference semifinals. His stellar and clutch performance now in the post-season might be what earns him the NHL contract with the soon-to-be Arizona Coyotes.

Dominik Kubalik (Photo by kitchenerrangers.com)

Dominik Kubalik (Photo by kitchenerrangers.com)

The Winnipeg Jets defensive prospect Jan Košťálek is also doing a good job in the CHL, playing for Rimouski of the Quebec league. After collecting 27 points in the regular season, he and his Oceanic team are past the first round in the playoffs and facing the Armada in quarterfinals. Tough to say if he’s able to make the jump into the NHL already though.

Feeling the struggle of Kitchener Rangers’ rebuilding phase is also Dominik Kubalík, the forward that went the other way in the Faksa deal with Sudbury. He had a good season with the Wolves, but he only managed to rack up six points and a minus-16 rating post-trade in Kitchener. The Los Angeles Kings used their seventh-round pick in 2013 on Kubalík and I guess we will see next year if that was a good decision.

Next time on the Czech List we will take a look at the U18 World Junior Championship that will take place in Finland between April 17 and April 27 so stay tuned!

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