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.
|Matej Machovsky||G||CZE||Skoda Plzen|
|Tomas Kundratek||D||KHL||Slovan Bratislava|
|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|
|Tomas Plekanec (C)||F||NHL||Montreal|
|Lukas Kaspar||F||KHL||Slovan Bratislava|
|Dominik Kubalik||F||CZE||Skoda Plzen|
|Richard Jarusek||F||CZE||Mlada Boleslav|
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.
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.
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.
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