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2017 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Czech Republic preview

The Czechs have some good pieces to make some noise, but they may be done in by a lack of depth.

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

Last year, the Czechs had what was considered their strongest squad in recent memory, but there was still plenty of room to improve in order to compete with the stronger teams in the annual tournament. They did give quite the scare to the Russians and Finns, who barely squeaked by the Czechs in the preliminary round.

Scoring 12 goals and allowing 10, the Czech squad did enough to earn a berth in the quarter-finals, however they were summarily dispatched by the Americans 7-0. Ultimately it was the Czech Repblic’s bad penalty kill (62.5%) and power play (9.1%) that was the big difference maker.

This year, the Czechs will be part of Group A, with Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Finland. Despite two rocky exhibition games against Team Canada, the Czechs will be looking to improve on last year’s signs of growth, but they would be hard pressed to go deep in the tournament.

Czech Republic have not won a medal at the World Juniors since winning bronze in 2005. Their glory days were in 2000 and 2001 when they won back-to-back gold medals.

Roster

Team Czech Republic

Name Birth Height Position Draft League Current Team
Name Birth Height Position Draft League Current Team
Petr Kvaca 12-Sep-97 6'1" G Undrafted CZE2 HC Ceske Budejovice
Jakub Škarek 10-Nov-99 6'1" G 2018 Draft CZE2 HC Dukla Jihlava
Daniel Vladař 20-Aug-97 6'5" G 2015 (#75) AHL Providence Bruins
František Hrdinka 02-Mar-98 6'0" D Undrafted SuperElit Linkoping HC J20
Filip Hronek 02-Nov-97 6'0" D 2016 (#53) OHL Saginaw Spirit
Petr Kalina 09-Jul-97 5'11" D Undrafted CZE HC Sparta Praha
Daniel Krenželok 29-Jul-97 6'3" D Undrafted CZE HC Vitkovice
David Kvasnicka 14-Apr-99 5'10" D 2017 Draft CZE HC Plzen
Ondřej Vála 13-Apr-98 6'4" D Undrafted WHL Kamloops Blazers
Jakub Zbořil 21-Feb-97 6'0" D 2015 (#13) QMJHL St. John Sea Dogs
Filip Chlapík 03-Jun-97 6'1" F 2015 (#48) QMJHL Charlottetown Islanders
Lukáš Jašek 28-Aug-97 5'11" F 2015 (#174) CZE2 HC Frydek-Mistek
David Kase 28-Jan-97 5'11" F 2015 (#128) CZE KLH Chomutov
Radek Koblížek 20-Oct-97 5'9" F Undrafted Jr. A SM-liiga Karpat U20
Daniel Kurovsky 04-Mar-98 6'3" F Undrafted CZE HC Vitkovice
Adam Musil 26-Mar-97 6'3" F 2015 (#94) WHL Red Deer Rebels
Martin Nečas 15-Jan-99 5'11" F 2017 Draft CZE HC Kometa Brno
Kristian Reichel 11-Jun-98 6'0" F Undrafted CZE HC Litvinov
Šimon Stránský 21-Dec-97 6'0" F Undrafted WHL Prince Albert Raiders
Filip Suchý 16-Dec-97 5'8" F Undrafted USHL Omaha Lancers
Michael Špaček 09-Apr-97 5'11" F 2015 (#108) WHL Red Deer Rebels
Tomáš Šoustal 15-Feb-97 6'2" F Undrafted WHL Kelowna Rockets

Strengths

The Czechs’ starting goaltender should be Daniel Vladař. One of seven returning players from last year’s squad, he is on loan from the Boston Bruins, spending the majority of his season with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. Regularly facing professionals, the netminder has maintained an above-league-average .914 save percentage, and therefore should be well prepared for the rigours of this tournament.

Should he falter, Jakub Škarek represents the future of goaltending for the Czech Republic, and has shown in a few brief appearances in the Czech Extraliga that he is more than capable on taking on the responsibility, posting a .952 save percentage in three starts in the top Czech league.

The Czech team will be composed of players from various leagues, including 10 players who are currently playing Junior hockey in Canada — generally considered the best place to develop in the world — and it will be these players who will have to drive the team’s offence.

Filip Chlapik leads the pack with his 20 goals and 24 assists for the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He will be supported by four forwards from the Western Hockey League: Adam Musil, Šimon Stránský, Michael Špaček, and Tomáš Šoustal, all of whom are having good seasons for their respective clubs.

One player who could have a breakout performance is Martin Nečas, a highly touted prospect for the upcoming draft. The club also brought in David Kase as a late addition to the roster, and he joined the team on Thursday after getting clearance to play after recovering from injury.

The top defensive pairing consisting of Libor Hájek and Jakub Zbořil, along with Filip Hronek, should provide the Czechs with some solid blue-line defending.

Weaknesses

Although the forward top six is decently stocked for the Czechs, it is the depth on offence that is questionable, and where the Czechs may be at a disadvantage compared to other countries. With 10 players on their squad that went undrafted in the NHL, the talent pool is weaker overall compared to the powerhouse nations such as Canada and the US.

With David Pastrnak gone for this year’s tournament and dominating full-time with the Boston Bruins, there are no NHL-ready talents to control the play for the Czechs. Some offensive hopes lied on standout forward Dominic Lakatos who was having a strong season with the Bili Tygri Liberec of the Czech Extraliga. Unfortunately for the team, Lakatos broke a collarbone trying to deliver a check into the boards in the first exhibition game against Canada, which knocked him out of the tournament.

X-Factor

If the Czechs hope to make it far in the tournament, they will have to implement and stick to a solid structure of play to overcome their depth issues. One way to help that area would be for the New Jersey Devils to assign Pavel Zacha to the World Junior Championship. He would add an immediate boost to the offence and could potentially be a huge difference-maker for the team. At the time of this writing there have been some preliminary talks in this regard, but nothing has been made official.

Note: Thanks to The Hockey Ninja (@The_HockeyNinja) for his contribution to this article.