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2016 World Hockey Championship: Team Czech Republic preview

The Czech Republic is short on familiar faces but high on players with something to prove

Martin Rose/Getty Images

The story for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship will be more for who isn't on the roster than who is. The team will be without NHLers like Jakub Voracek, David Krejci and Radko Gudas because of injuries they picked up. Petr Mrazek is without a contract for next season and the biggest name, Jaromir Jagr, made the decision to rest.

They do have some NHL representation, including Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec who was named the captain. Other NHL players are Boston's David Pastrnak, Carolina's Michal Jordan and Arizona's Jiri Sekac, another familiar name to Habs fans. Sekac, however, is doubtful after suffering a concussion last week.

The rest of the team comes from the KHL, the Czech Extra Liga and the Swedish Hockey League and they have some talent there.

Preliminary Roster
Name Position League Team
Pavel Francouz G KHL Chelyabinsk
Dominik Furch G KHL Omsk
Matej Machovsky G CZE Skoda Plzen
Michal Kempny D KHL Omsk
Tomas Kundratek D KHL Slovan Bratislava
Michal Jordan D NHL Carolina
Jan Kolar D KHL Khabarovsk
Petr Zamorsky D SHL Orebro
Jakub Jerabek D CZE Skoda Plzen
Tomas Voracek D CZE Mlada Boleslav
Milan Doudera D CZE Ocelari Trinec
Josef Hrabal D CZE Ocelari Trinec
Adam Polasek D CZE Sparta Praha
Radim Simek D CZE Liberec
Tomas Plekanec (C) F NHL Montreal
David Pastrnak F NHL Boston
Roman Cervenka F CZE Chomutov
Jan Kovar F KHL Magnitogorsk
Tomas Filippi F KHL Magnitogorsk
Petr Koukal F KHL Yekaterinburg
Lukas Kaspar F KHL Slovan Bratislava
Martin Zatovic F KHL Tolgliatti
Tomas Zohorna F KHL Khabarovsk
Robert Kousal F KHL Novokuznetsk
Tomas Vincour F KHL Novosibirsk
Jiri Sekac F NHL Arizona
Milan Gulas F SHL Farjestad
Dominik Kubalik F CZE Skoda Plzen
Richard Jarusek F CZE Mlada Boleslav
Michal Repik F CZE Liberec
Michal Birner F CZE Liberec

Strengths

The goaltenders are Dominik Furch and Pavel Francouz, who both are based in the KHL. Furch had a great season with Omsk in the KHL. In 48 games, he had a 1.78 GAA and .933 save percentage. Francouz battled with injuries and only played in 18 games. It was his first KHL season after he had a great run the year before in the Extraliga. They will battle for the starting spot and how they play will determine the Czech's fate in the tournament.

Up front, Roman Cervenka, who played in 39 NHL games with Calgary in 2012-13, was the leading scorer in the Czech league this year. He had 61 points in 49 games and signed with Fribourg in the Swiss League for next year, the same team where Habs prospect Martin Reway finished his season.

Jan Kovar finished 2nd in KHL Playoff scoring (23 points in 23 games) and Milan Gulas finished fourth in SHL scoring. Both will need to step up for the Czechs to have a chance.

Let's be real, in a tournament with some top-end talent, the Czechs will be seen as underdogs, but underestimating them might be a mistake as well.

Weaknesses

On defence, they are thin, as evidenced by the preliminary roster they have announced for the World Cup this summer. One name to watch is Michal Kempny, a solid puck moving defenceman who may be negotiating an NHL contract. The 25 year old had 21 points in 59 KHL games. They also have former NHLer Tomas Kundratek.

X-Factor

Goaltending is the ultimate X-Factor for any underdog team. It can make or break even the best teams in any tournament.

The Czechs also have the advantage, like most European countries, of having tournaments throughout the year at the senior international level. That chemistry could come in handy.

The Czechs split two exhibition games against Sweden, including a 7-1 win. Francouz got the start in that game. They play Canada on Tuesday before getting the tournament underway on Friday.

Editor's note: Huge thanks to @The_HockeyNinja for insight that helped with this preview