Last year, it was a tale of two tournaments for the Czechs. They were dominated 14-1 in their games against the United States and Sweden, beat Austria easily and had a 2-0 win against their rivals from Russia in what was a masterclass of defensive hockey as they frustrated the Russians.
Their tournament came to an end in a 3-0 loss to Canada in the quarterfinal.
This year, the expectations will be higher as some of their top players from a year ago are returning. The issue is that their path to the medal round is tough. In a group with Canada and Finland, they will likely have to face Sweden, Russia, or the United States in the quarterfinal.
Team Czechia final roster
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|2||Jan Bednář||G||QMJHL||Acadie-Bathurst Titan (DET)|
|30||Daniel Kral||G||Czech2||HC Benatky nad Jizerou|
|1||Jakub Málek||G||Czech2||VHK Vsetin (NJD)|
|22||Michal Hrádek||D||Extraliga||HC Dynamo Pardubice|
|5||David Jiřiček||D||Extraliga||HC Plzen (2022)|
|28||Michael Krutil||D||AHL||Rockford IceHogs (CHI)|
|8||David Moravec||D||Extraliga||BK Mlada Boleslav|
|23||Jakub Sedivy||D||Czech2||HC Benatky nad Jizerou|
|3||David Spacek||D||QMJHL||Sherbrooke Phoenix|
|14||Stanislav Svozil||D||WHL||Regina Pats (CBJ)|
|4||Jiri Tichacek||D||Extraliga||Rytiri Kladno|
|12||Jakub Brabenec||F||QMJHL||Charlottetown Islanders (VGK)|
|17||Tomas Chlubna||F||Extraliga||Motor Ceske Budejovice|
|26||Michal Gut||F||WHL||Everett Silvertips|
|16||Ivan Ivan||F||QMJHL||Cape Breton Eagles|
|25||Vojtech Jirus||F||Czech2||HC Benatky nad Jizerou|
|24||Josef Kolacek||F||Czech2||HC Stadion Litomerice|
|18||Jakub Konecny||F||Extraliga||HC Sparta Prague (BUF)|
|15||Jakub Kos||F||Liiga||Ilves (FLA)|
|27||Jiri Kulich||F||Extraliga||HC Energie Karlovy Vary (2022)|
|10||Sebastian Malat||F||Extraliga||HC Plzen|
|19||Jan Myšák||F||OHL||Hamilton Bulldogs (MTL)|
|11||Pavel Novák||F||WHL||Kelowna Rockets (MIN)|
|29||Martin Rysavy||F||WHL||Moose Jaw Warriors (CBJ)|
|20||Tomas Urban||F||Czech2||HC Stadion Litomerice|
Speaking of their returning players, that is exactly where we’ll start. On defence, the projected top pair of Columbus Blue Jackets third-round pick in 2021 Stanislav Svozil and 2022 top prospect David Jiříček. Both players played in last year’s tournament and will look to make life difficult for opposing forwards.
Jiříček in particular is one to watch. The 6’3”, 190 pound defenceman is solidly in the top 10 of most rankings. Elite Prospects has him at #3, and he may just be the top defenceman in the entire draft class. He played in last year’s tournament as a 16 year old and had a goal and an assist in five games. In the top Czech division, he has five goals and six assists in 29 games which puts him 10th in team scoring and second among defenders.
Svozil had an assist in five games last year, and they will be joined by a third returning defenceman in Michael Krutil, a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks who is currently playing with Rockford in the American Hockey League.
Offensively, they will lean on Montreal Canadiens 2020 second-round pick Jan Myšák. This will be his third tournament, and his second as team captain. He’ll be the focal point of the Czech offence and their top centre. He has three points and two assists in 10 career World Junior games, including two goals and assist in five games in last year’s tournament. He has 17 goals and 14 assists in 25 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs, good for third in team scoring.
With Czechia not bringing back last year’s starting goaltender Nick Malik (1-2, 2,90 GAA, .890 save percentage), it becomes a question mark. Jan Bednar was the team’s third goaltender a year ago, and the Detroit Red Wings 2020 fourth-round pick is in his second season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan (10-6-2, 3.03, .902).
He’s joined by New Jersey Devils 2021 fourth-round pick Jakub Malek who has a 1.86 goals against average and .936 save percentage in the second tier of the Czech senior system. Daniel Kral is the third goaltender, and has split his season between the second Czech division and the Czech U20 league.
If the Czechs are going to make some noise at the tournament, they will need one of the goaltenders to step up.
Aside from the goaltending, the determining factor for this Czech team will be how much they are able to score. They do have some offensive skill on this team to support Myšák. Jakub Brabenec, Michal Gut, Pavel Novak, and Ivan Ivan are all over a point-per-game with their CHL teams.
One player to watch up front will be first-time draft eligible centre Jiri Kulich. He’s not seen as a top prospect, most rankings have him outside of the first round, but this is the type of tournament that can raise his profile. He’s one of the only first-year draft eligible Czechs on the roster (along with Jiříček on defence), and will be one of the forwards looked at to provide secondary scoring, especially on the power play.
He has seven goals and four assists in 30 games at the senior level in the Czech first division. He is the leading junior scorer in the league. He doesn’t have the top speed and skill to make him a top offensive talent, and his strength has been exposed as a weakness while playing with men, but should be able to fit in with players at the U20 level.
The Czechs will make their final cuts following their pre-tournament game against Switzerland on Thursday.