Czech Extraleague preview

By Robert Neuhauser
On Tuesday, September, 11th, the puck dropped in 7 Czech arenas to start the regular season
of the Extraleague. Every team faces a 52-game schedule with the playoffs following. The
Extraleague consists of 14 teams and the teams fight for 8 playoff spots. The team which
finishes at the last place has to face the winner of the Div I league in the relegation
series. This year the teams face a more grueling schedule than in the other years. That’s due
to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. This year the teams have to play on Tuesdays, Fridays
and Sundays compared to the Friday-Sunday schedule used in the previous non-olympic years.
Pardubice and Ceske Budejovice have to start the season in other arenas than their home
buildings because their home arenas are rebuilded. Like every year, lots of stars including
Robert Reichel (Toronto) or Jiri Dopita (Philadelphia) left for the NHL, other European
leagues or lower North American leagues. The biggest addition should be Michal Sykora,
released by the Philadelphia Flyers, who boosts the Pardubice roster, but lots of promising
young players fight for the free spots and hope that they can impress enough to catch the
eye of NHL scouts as late-bloomers, like Karel Pilar, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let’s
have a look at the chances of every team!

HC Vsetin

The mighty Vsetin team (won seven of the last eight Extraleague seasons) faced serious trouble
during the offseason, it wasn’t even sure that Vsetin will play in the Extraleague, but they
soluted the problems in time. However, there is almost nobody left of the championship team,
which has beaten Sparta Praha in the last finals. Vsetin lost its perennial MVP in Jiri Dopita,
solid goalscorers in Jan Pardavy and Roman Stantien among others and the core of the defense
in Jan Srdinko, Milan Nedoma and Radim Tesarik. The last season’s starter, Jaroslav Kames left
for Avangard Omsk of the Russian Superleague and Radovan Biegl now filled the free spot. There
is almost a new team there and Vsetin will look for help from new captain Rostislav Vlach who
should emerge as the leader of the young team and former Vancouver Canuck Lubomir Vaic.
It looks like the championship days are over and
Vsetin will be lucky if they can grab a playoff spot. A solid preseason play shows that this
can be possible, but only if everything clicks.

NHL draftees: Petr Kubos, D, Montreal, 1997
Martin Strbak, D, Los Angeles, 2000
Michal Blazek, D, Dallas, 2001
Marek Dubec, RW, Buffalo, 2001
Lubomir Vaic, C, Vancouver, 1995
(played for the Vancouver Canucks)
Jan Sochor, C, Toronto, 2000
Rostislav Vlach, C, Los Angeles, 1987

From those players, only Vaic played in the NHL and they all can be viewed as longshot prospects.
Rostislav Vlach is at the end of his career at 39 years old, Strbak comes into his prime, but
needs a more stellar performance if he wants to impress the Kings brass. Petr Kubos played in the
CHL in 1997-99 and it looks like the Habs aren’t too high on him. Michal Blazek should win
a regular spot in Zdislav Tabara’s defensive rotation but is at least three years away from making
an impact in North America. Jan Sochor isn’t also very likely to play in the NHL ever.
Slovak winger Marek Dubec will probably split the season between
the seniors and juniors.

NHL prospects: Jiri Hudler, C, 2002 eligible
Ondrej Nemec, D, 2002 eligible

Jiri Hudler is a top 2002 prospects with almost one full year of Extraleague experience and he
should be a regular on the first two lines. He will probably be switched to the wing, but he
will see lots of ice time. Second season in the Extraleague will help his experience and he
will be one of the most sought players in the 2002 draft.
Ondrej Nemec will be given a chance only if injuries hit the Vsetin defense. The smallish,
highly skilled rearguard will fill his duties as the leader of the defense of the junior team.

HC Vitkovice

The third-placed team from the previous season avoided any serious roster moves during
the offseason. Starter Martin Prusek will most likely handle his duties with the AHL’s Grand
Rapids Griffins while Dmitri Erofeev left for his home Russia. They were able to hold stars
like Martin Prochazka and David Moravec and even added national team regular Radim Tesarik
and Ludek Krayzel from Vsetin. Vitkovice team is a very good mix of skill and toughness and they
can compete for the championship. The only problem can occur if starter Jiri Trvaj isn’t
able to handle the pressure. Vitkovice staff excersized the option on Trvaj because of the loss
of Prusek, so that Trvaj couldn’t leave for the Russian Superleague.
At offense, their line of Roman Kadera-Ludek Krayzel-Martin Prochazka looks
really great. Vitkovice will beat their opponents with their skill and speed.

NHL draftees: David Moravec, RW, Buffalo, 1998
Marek Melenovsky, C, Toronto, 1995
Marek Ivan, C, St.Louis, 1997
Martin Prochazka, LW, Toronto, 1991
Zbynek Irgl, LW, Nashville, 2000

The team’s top stars Moravec (failed to sign a contract with the Flames this summer) and Prochazka
still want to play in the NHL and it is likely that with a good season in both Vitkovice and
National team they sign contracts next summer. Strong Marek Melenovsky and Marek Ivan have
almost no chance of ever making the NHL unless a miracle happens. Zbynek Irgl will have to
find his confidence again and upgrade his poor numbers from the last season.

NHL prospects: Rostislav Olesz, LW, 2004 eligible

The 2004 draft gem and a possible top 3 selection played his debut in the Extraleague already
last season. But playing on the fourth line or even sitting as a healthy scratch would hurt
his development so look for him as one of the top players on the junior team.

HC Excalibur Znojemsti Orli (Znojmo Eagles)

Znojemsti Orli will have to prove that their fifth place from the previous season wasn’t just
a coincidence. Orli will play their third season in the Extraleague and they will rely on the
strong goaltending provided by aging Oldrich Svoboda. Their defensive corps look somewhat weak,
veteran Karel Soudek and David Havir should be the defense leaders. Orli have their biggest
weapon in their offense. Peter Pucher, who was overlooked as an overager at the last NHL draft,
formed a terrific one-two scoring duo with fellow Slovak Marek Uram, who fought for the scoring
title till the last game. This season they added another Slovak, Jan Plch, who enjoyed an
excellent preseason to prove that Znojmo now can build their own Slovak-pak line. Those three
elite forwards will be the undoubted leaders of the offense and it is possible that some
NHL team may take a flyer on one of those overagers next June, with all three players being
27 years old.

NHL draftees: none

NHL prospects: none

This franchise has to build their own prospect base because they play in the Extraleague only
from 1999-2000. Their juniors and midgets will have to slip to the junior and midget Extraleague

HC Chemopetrol Litvinov

Litvinov teams lost an unprecendented number of core players, only Vsetin can draw comparisons to the losses.
Robert Reichel, Karel Pilar and Kamil Piros all left for the NHL dream while core players
like former starter Zdenek Orct and 1996 World champion Robert Kysela left for Kladno and
defenseman Angel Nikolov for Jyvaskyla of the Finnish SM-Liiga. The rest is now the new team.
It looks like Litvinov will be one of the teams which won’t qualify for postseason play due to
the quite unexperienced roster, but those players will try. The biggest additions to the roster
consist of former NHLers Petr Klima and Vlastimil Kroupa and undrafted former Brampton Battalion
forward Lukas Havel. Div I league top goalscorer Jiri Gombar also boosted the offense. So the young
team will look for leadership from Klima, some solid goaltending from starter Marek Pinc and a
progress from rising young players like Vojtech Kubincak. Kubincak could be one of the black
horses and with a stellar play he can be drafted next year. But still an unexperienced team will
most likely be around the 10th place coming post-season.

NHL draftees: Michal Podolka, G, Detroit, 1996
Vlastimil Kroupa, D, San Jose, 1993
(played for the San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils)
Petr Klima, F, Detroit, 1983
(played for Detroit, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh)

Former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds goalie Michal Podolka will provide backup for Marek Pinc, who was
the starter for the Czech Under-18 team at the 1997 European Championships. Still tends to allow
soft goals at times, Podolka won’t ever wear a Red Wings jersey. The other Red Wings draftee,
36-year old Petr Klima, called it a career but surprisingly returned for a career end in his home
Litvinov. Vlastimil Kroupa learned the tools of the NHL trade in San Jose but after the move
to the Devils he quickly found himself out of favor and now he looks like an average Extraleague
player. NHL career probably over.

NHL prospects: Litvinov’s brightest prospect Kamil Kreps, 2003 eligible, left for Brampton to
fill the spot vacated by Lukas Havel and other Litvinov prospects are still too young to make
an impact with the senior team.

HC Continental Zlin

The last team to qualify for the playoffs last season, Zlin has built a competitve squad this season.
They avoided a major loss when they resigned captain Petr Cajanek, who refused a St.Louis Blues
two-way contract. So the biggest loss remains defenseman Tomas Zizka who tries to crack the
Los Angeles Kings camp. Zlin added lots of toughness during offseason in former Tampa Bay
Lightning Marek Posmyk, Patrik Hucko and Slovak Karol Bartanus. Agitating players like Petr
Cajanek or Miroslav Okal are also on the team and they will provide lots of determination,
grit, leadership and toughness. Zlin is one of the Extraleague favorites for this season, they
have National team goalie Vladimir Hudacek, a very good defense with Martin Hamrlik, Posmyk,
Hucko or Jiri Marusak and lots of young talent at forward with only one player older than 26
years – 31-year old “vet” Miroslav Okal…

NHL draftees: Martin Hamrlik, D, Hartford, 1991
Marek Posmyk, D, Toronto, 1996
(played for the Tampa Bay Lightning)
Miroslav Blatak, D, Detroit, 2001
Ivan Rachunek, RW, Tampa Bay, 1999
Petr Cajanek, C, St.Louis, 2001
Radovan Somik, LW, Philadelphia, 1995
Karol Bartanus, LW, Boston, 1997
Libor Pivko, LW, Nashville, 2000

Roman Hamrlik’s older brother Martin, orginally a Blues draft choice, wanted to try-out for the
Isles camp, but he’ll stay in the Extraleague this season. Sized Marek Posmyk wants to rise his
stock in the Extraleague and there are high chances that he’ll return to the NHL in the future.
Captain Petr Cajanek signed a three-year contract but with a good WHC the Blues may finally
bring him to come over, at 26 he can still play lots of seasons in the NHL. Players like Somik,
Bartanus and Libor Pivko are a bit on the bubble now and they are longshot prospects to ever play
in “The show”. Youngsters like smallish Karel Rachunek’s younger brother Ivan and Miroslav Blatak
have a lot of time to establish themselves on the team and Blatak can still play for the juniors.
They both have a chance at a NHL future, but they’ll have to try hard.

NHL prospects: With defensemen Ondrej Danicek and Radek Simecek both overlooked at the 2001 draft,
no 1984 or 1985 born prospect seems to make an impact among the seniors.

HC Slavia Praha

Slavia Praha will be a team to count on during this season. Their only important loss
was that of goalie Ladislav Blazek, who hanged his pads at 39. Other losses involve young juniors,
who were sent to Div I league to hone their skills except of Jan Bohac, who blossoms in Trinec.
Slavia Praha is an competitve team with National team players in goal, at defense and forward.
New Philadelphia Flyers draftee Roman Malek, a goalie with lots of quickness and a very good
net coverage despite his smallish stature broke through last year and he’ll relied on this
season. The defense consists of very young players, but highly skilled. For example Petr Kadlec,
a very good powerplay quarterback and a potential overage selection at next year’s draft. Jan
Snopek and Jan Hejda will provide the needed toughness and overly the Slavia defense isn’t
spectacular but solid with young reliable players. The brightest gems are at forward, though.
Excellent skater and scorer Viktor Ujcik, last season’s revelation Viktor Hubl and reliable
Martin Rousek are capable of very high standarts. One day before the start of the regular
season schedule they acquired another star, Josef Beranek, who was released by the Pittsburgh
Penguins and no other NHL team offered him a contract. Beranek will most likely skate on the top line
and is projected to be along with Ujcik the ultimate scoring duo.
Slavia is very strong in goal and at forward, a bit weaker on defense, but a finish around
the third place can be expected.

NHL draftees: Roman Malek, G, Philadelphia, 2001
Viktor Ujcik, RW, Montreal, 2001
Marek Tomica, RW, Dallas, 2001
Radek Matejovsky, RW, New York Islanders, 1998
Viktor Hubl, LW, Washington, 2001
Jan Alinc, C, Pittsburgh, 1992
Josef Beranek, RW, Edmonton, 1989
(played for Edmonton, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Pittsburgh)
Jan Snopek, D, Edmonton, 1995

The only player without chances on a NHL career is Jan Alinc, who was near is 1994-95, but Jan
didn’t crack the Pens lineup. Radek Matejovsky will need a huge improvement if he ever wants
to play for the Isles, but as a third line winger he looks more like an Extraleague regular.
Pity for the Habs not to sign Ujcik, one of the best Extraleague skaters and an excellent scorer
would fit in well. Maybe this season will finally convince the Habs to sign him. If not, then
some other team may want his rights and Ujcik may start a NHL career even if he turns 30 after
the season. Tomica and Hubl are both young, but overage picks and Hubl looks to have better
chances, maybe as a role player for the Caps. Tomica is definitely a longshot. Roman Malek will
play at least two more seasons as Slavia starter as this is very good for him, after that he
can seriously challenge for the Flyers backup spot. Josef Beranek was overlooked by all NHL
teams as an UFA and at 32 years old, this could be the final stop of his NHL career unless
something really unpredictable happens. Jan Snopek returned back home after an OHL career and
the Oilers show no interest in this former Oshawa General.

NHL prospects: Martin Cizek, D, 2002 eligible
Jiri Drtina, D, 2003 eligible

Cizek and Drtina play together in a pair with the Slavia Praha juniors. Both are unlikely
to play for the seniors this season, but both are top prospects for their respective drafts.
Cizek complements the more offensive Drtina, an excellent skater with lots of offensive talent
and very good stickhandling. Next season both players can crack the senior roster.

HC Sparta Praha

The only team to interrupt Vsetin dynasty in the last eight years, Sparta Praha, is ready for
another attack on the championship trophy. Last season’s finalist starts the season without
2000-2001 Extraleague’s top scorer Patrik Martinec, who left for Ak-Bars Kazan of the Russian
Superleague and without core forwards Jiri Zelenka and Vladimir Vujtek, who now skate in the
SM-Liiga. But it won’t hurt Sparta’s offense much. Addition of Slovak Robert Tomik, a wonder
of Karlovy Vary and Radek Belohlav of Vsetin provides some goals while Jan Tomajko is a coveted
defensive forward. From those, Robert Tomik is at 24 still young and could be worth a look
from NHL scouts who look for a scorer.
Sparta’s defense didn’t suffer any major losses, instead they have more quality players on the
blueline. Jan Srdinko and Radek Hamr joined Sparta in the summer and with behemoth players
like Jaroslav Nedved, brother of NY Rangers holdout Petr Nedved and Libor Zabransky they have
really a very good defense. Smallish Frantisek Ptacek complements all the hulking defensemen
Petr Briza is a Czech legend and even he’ll turn 37 in December, is still one of the best
Extraleague goalies and he’ll prove it once again. Backed up by Petr Prikryl he’ll see a lion’s
portion of playing time.
Sparta Praha is the hot candidate for the championship this season. Almost without a weakness
on every position and extremly skilled players on the roster expect a regular season
title and then the championship run.

NHL draftees: Radek Hamr, D, Ottawa, 1992
Jan Srdinko, D, New Jersey, 1997
Libor Zabransky, St.Louis, 1995
Michal Bros, C, San Jose, 1995
Petr Havelka, LW, Pittsburgh, 1997
Richard Zemlicka, Edmonton, 1990

Radek Hamr and Libor Zabransky are former NHL players who both believe in a return to North
America. Both almost forgotten in the depth charts, they’ll need at least two years of
stellar play if they want to return, but most likely they’ll stay in Europe. Michal Bros and
Jan Srdinko tried unsuccessfully to crack the rosters of their respective teams and again now it
looks like their chances are nullified. Unfortunately, this is also the case of Petr Havelka,
who didn’t see a lot of playing time even in Sparta during the last season. Havelka is on the
way to an average Extraleague player and the Pens most likely don’t count on him any more.
Richard Zemlicka is the Sparta leader and role model, but his NHL dreams are long gone. He’ll
lead one of the best Czech teams, though.

NHL prospects: Jakub Langhammer, LW, 2002 eligible
Roman Vondracek, RW, 2002 eligible
Tomas Popperle, G, 2003 eligible

As usual, Sparta has a bright pool of NHL prospects in their junior team. All three players
will play this season there with the chances of a callup to the seniors equal zero. Langhammer
and Vondracek are completely different forwards. While Langhammer is a big, sized forward who
can play defensively, but isn’t the best skater, Vondracek is a smallish, very intense winger
with excellent skating skills and a very good scoring touch. Tomas Popperle, originally from
Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic, is a late 1984 born goalie with lots of talent, but he’ll
need time to mature and the rise of his draft stock came to a stop during the last months.
Sparta Praha midgets and juniors are a team to watch as lots of 1984, 1985 and 1986 born prospects
play there. Expect lots of Sparta’s young players to get drafted.
HC IPB Pojistovna Pardubice

The sixth-placed team from the previous season has kept the roster almost untouched during the
offseason. The biggest loss is Ales Pisa, still suspended for the first 15 games for an
assault on a linesman after a playoff game. Pisa was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in June
and is most likely destinated for Hamilton of the AHL. Pardubice are glad to have the
Extraleague top goalscorer from the previous season still on the roster, Petr Sykora will try
to improve his 26-goal effort. Pardubice roster also boasts the oldest Extraleague player in
naturally talented skater Otakar Janecky who turns 41 in December. Michal Sykora, brother of
Petr Sykora mentioned above,
by the Philadelphia Flyers, boosted the defense and can be counted as one of the biggest
Extraleague summer additions. The defense is still very young, but build of solid players and
Sykora will be the leader. Pardubice have a very good team with one weak point – between the
pipes. Libor Barta and Adam Svoboda tend to play rollercoaster games – sometimes virtually
unbeatable, sometimes very feeble. Solid goaltending will be essential in the Pardubice run
for the championship. Up front, Otakar Janecky and Ladislav Lubina will provide leadership
while Petr Sykora will provide goals and Tomas Blazek with Jaroslav Kudrna grit and determination.
21-year old Tomas Rolinek, instrumental in the Pardubice juniors championship run last season,
will play a more increased role this year and could eventually surprise with a breakout year.
If supported enough by the goaltenders, Pardubice can fly high this season, even to the
championship title.

NHL draftees: Michal Sykora, D, San Jose, 1991
(played for San Jose, Philadelphia)
Petr Sykora, RW, Detroit, 1997
(played for Nashville Predators)
Ladislav Lubina, LW, Minnesota, 1985
Jaroslav Kudrna, RW, San Jose, 1995

For the Sykora brothers, the NHL is no closed chapter, especially for the younger Petr. One of
the top Extraleague forwards is very likely to come over soon. Maybe after this season. Michal
played in the NHL on two occasions, but at 28 he has still some chances. His huge frame and
a booming shot are often required. Ladislav Lubina faced some alcohol trouble in the past, but
is OK now. On the opposite of the Sykora’s, NHL is a closed chapter for Lubina who will be one
of the leaders of the team. Jaroslav Kudrna played for the Kentucky Thoroughblades of the AHL
six seasons ago, but it looks like he has no chance with the Sharks. But still a reliable Pardubice

NHL prospects: Martin Vagner left for the Hull Olympiques and the juniors, who can see some
ice time with the seniors, can’t be counted as serious NHL prospects.

HC Ocelari Trinec (Trinec Steelers)

The Ocelari Trinec were the first team not to qualify for postseason play last season. This
season under new coach Antonin Stavjana, a former Calgary Flames draft pick,
they will likely fight for the last playoff spot once
again and I expect them to be around the eighth place at the end of the regular season. Stavjana,
a 1985 World Champion and a former defenseman will give his stamp on the team and expect more
defensive play from the team. The weak point of Trinec seems to be the goaltending spot,
Vlastimil Lakosil and Martin Vojtek aren’t stellar goalies and they will fight for the starting
job. Defense won’t be a big trouble for Trinec, they boosted the roster with National team
rearguard Libor Prochazka and former Quebec Citadelles player Miloslav Guren. Newly drafted
offensive defenseman Mario Cartelli stays with Trinec along with other reliable defensemen
as Jiri Kuntos or Petr Gregorek. The front line seems to be a little thin. Richard Kral, Marek
Zadina and Pavel Janku should be the leaders, even if Janku can be described as reliably
unreliable. Youngsters have a good influx on the team, David Appel will be a regular and Trinec
was fortunate enough to pry Jan Bohac away from Slavia Praha. After a tumultuous last season
he should establish himself on the roster. The players are quite good, but without experience
and the lack of goaltending depth may cause some trouble to Trinec.

NHL draftees: Mario Cartelli, D, Atlanta, 2001
Libor Prochazka, D, St.Louis, 1993
Miloslav Guren, D, Montreal, 1995
(played for the Montreal Canadiens)
Roman Meluzin, RW, Winnipeg, 1992
Jan Bohac, LW, Ottawa, 2000
Zdenek Skorepa, LW, New Jersey, 1994

From those players, Mario Cartelli and Jan Bohac have the biggest chances to play in the NHL.
Cartelli is now a national team player and if he becomes more reliable defensively, then the
Thrashers may have found a ninth-round gem. This season will show. Virtually unnoticeable last
season, Jan Bohac overcome a leg injury and is now fully healthy and eager to prove why was he
a third-round pick. Lanky winger enjoyed a very good preseason and can finally blossom now.
Libor Prochazka returned from an unsuccesful stay with the Worcester IceCats and Miloslav Guren
returned from the Quebec Citadelles. From those two, Guren played in the NHL but it is doubtful
if they can return. Zdenek Skorepa and Roman Meluzin probably gave up their chances to play
in the NHL.

NHL prospects: Marek Chvatal, D, 2002 eligible

It isn’t very likely that Chvatal will play for the seniors this year, only if Trinec suffers
from a serious injury bug. Chvatal plays on the first defensive pairing of the junior team and
he’ll probably stay there. But he can gain experience from practicing with the seniors.Chvatal
is a defenseman with deceptive passing skills but an average shot and his decision making
could also be improved. Still lots of work waiting for him.

HC Keramika Plzen

The gritty Plzen team returns from a disappointing season, but it looks like they will have to
fight for the playoff spot again. They have one major gain and one major loss. Dusan Salficky,
their starter in almost every game of the last seasons and a fan favorite, left to fight for
a spot with the New York Islanders. Zdenek Sedlak, a scorer from Blues Espoo, boosted the Plzen
offense. Slovak goalie Miro Simonovic will try to fill Salficky’s shoes and he has really some big
shoes to fill. But he has the starting job. The defense is led by experienced vets Josef
Reznicek, Ivan Vlcek and Jiri Veber, acquired from Vsetin. They are joined by young players
like Jan Choteborsky and Jiri Dobrovolny. Veteran forwards Pavel Vostrak, Petr Korinek, Michal
Straka and Sedlak will provide some scoring punch which can propell Plzen into the playoffs.
Still count on Vaclav Kral, acquired from Ceske Budejovice after an unconsistant showing, but
he showed that he can be a scorer. If Simonovic clicks, then Plzen can be around sixth place
and in the playoffs, if not, then they can be the odd team out.

NHL draftees: Radek Duda, RW, Calgary, 2000
Josef Straka, C, Calgary, 1996
Petr Korinek, C, Edmonton, 1990

Duda and Josef Straka can be viewed as longshot prospects to ever play in the NHL.
Michal Straka’s hopes
may be finally over after a stint of the undrafted forward
with the Cleveland Lumberjacks in 1994-95. Older brother
of Penguins’ Martin Straka then concentrated on an Extraleague career. After a solid junior career
in Litvinov Josef Straka found himself in trouble even in Plzen and was benched sometimes. I don’t see him
more than an average Extraleague forward. Radek Duda has some upside, but his breakthrough
year must come soon. Also a longshot, but with the biggest chances of the three. Petr Korinek
is a veteran and one of the team leaders, he’ll turn 35 in November and that’s why his NHL
dream won’t come true.

NHL prospects: Jakub Koreis, C, 2002 eligible

Jakub will need ice time on the junior team for his development to a big, skilled center, but
he has a chance to play a handful of games with the seniors if some center gets injured. Not
too likely as Plzen uses often only three lines and he is the fifth center, but surprises
happen. But a big role among juniors would be better than bench among seniors.

HC Havirov Panthers

One of the candidates for the relegation series. Famed coach Frantisek Vyborny took over the
squad with an English name, but the team suffered many losses and is very young and
unexperienced. 37-year old veteran goalie Pavel Cagas will carry the team on his shoulders
and stellar play from him will be necessary. Former starter Radovan Biegl left for Vsetin. The
defense will be led by Miroslav Javin and Petr Pavlas, both veterans with lots of experience,
and Lithuanian rearguard Normunds Sejejs. They are joined by grinders like Patrik Rimmel or
Daniel Kysela. The defense isn’t feeble, but not very strong. Vets Tomas Srsen, Roman Horak
and Jan Peterek changed the jersey, so the offense is really very young. Petr Folta will be
the leader and he’ll have lots of work as at center is no player older than 21. The forwards
lack experience and one of the brightest stars will be former Spokane Chief Daniel Bohac, 1980 born.
Havirov will have the hands full to avoid relegation.

NHL draftees: Robin Bacul, C, Ottawa, 1997

The Senators dumped the rights on Bacul in the summer of 1998 and he isn’t on a way to a NHL
career, he’ll look to establish himself in the Extraleague.

NHL prospects: Havirov’s top prospects Petr Vrana and Marek Frieb, newly acquired from Olomouc
midgets, are both 1985 born and will play for the juniors this year. Can advance next season,
but not now.

HC Vagnerplast Kladno

Albeit still a young team without significant stars, Kladno acquired two high quality players
to upgrade their stock for the upcoming season. 1996 World Champion Robert Kysela and quality
goaltender Zdenek Orct left the black-yellow colors of Litvinov and and they wear the blue
and white of Kladno. They will be the core players to build the team around. Orct will be the
clear starter and Kysela along with Radek Gardon and Pavel Geffert will provide the needed
veteran leadership for the young team. Last season’s success of the junior line centered by
current Under-20 team captain Tomas Plekanec should be repeated as the players gained more
experience. MoDo juniors returnee Miloslav Horava will fight for a spot on this line. The
defense will be anchored by vets Jan Krulis and Jan Bohacek and along with younger players
they should create a solid, but not spectacular defense. Minnesota Wild Pavel Patera’s younger
brother David, a defenseman, should see full time duty after graduating from the juniors,
where he was the captain during the last season.

NHL draftees: David Hajek, D, Calgary, 2000
Tomas Plekanec, C, Montreal, 2001
Ladislav Vlcek, LW, Dallas, 2000

Kladno’s current draftees are solid young prospects with Plekanec being the top star. Tomas
is now a Habs top prospect and a definite third-round steal. Highly skilled diminutive center
with exceptional smarts needs only more experience in order to gain a spot with the Habs.
After this or the next season he should be NHL ready. Hajek and Vlcek are more of a longshot
prospects. Vlcek got drafted after a gritty performance at the 2000 WJC and the defensive
forward has to think about an Extraleague career first. If he progresses well, then he could
challenge in three or four years. Hajek was the 7th defenseman often the last season and
should see an increased role this year. He is still young, but his NHL chances appear to be low.

NHL prospects: Miloslav Horava, C/W, 2001 undrafted, 2002 eligible

Miloslav was completely overlooked at this year’s draft but one of the best MoDo juniors last
season should see his stock rise if he sticks with the senior club. A demotion to the juniors
would damage his draft chances. A smart, sized forward with playmaking skills and a deceptive
scoring touch, he could be worth a late round pick.
With Jakub Langhammer shipped to Sparta Praha Jr. during the last season, the top Kladno 2002
eligible talent is gone. 1984 born Jakub Evan and Michal Hlusicka will play for the juniors,
but their draft chances remain low.

HC Becherovka Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary were able to stay in the Extraleague after the relegation series with KLH Chomutov,
but they seem to be the relegation candidate again. They lost their top scorer and last season’s
revelation, Slovak sniper Robert Tomik to Sparta Praha. The defense suffered the biggest losses
as three core players left, Normunds Sejejs to Havirov, Libor Prochazka to Trinec and Robert
Kantor to IFK Helsinki of the SM-Liiga. Without the summer acquisitations of defensemen Michal
Madl, Jaroslav Spelda, Martin Hlavacka and Russian Dmitri Rodine, no defenseman would be over
21! Especially Madl should be the anchor. Jaromir Kverka and Ondrej Steiner are the best forwards
on the team. The biggest additions to the offense are 20-year old Patrik Moskal of Trinec and
Josef Slanec of Sparta Praha. Youngsters Petr Domin and Petr Sinagl should see an increased role
on the team, but still will split time between juniors and seniors. Colorado draftee Petr Franek
will be the starter in goal, but the backup spot is somewhat weak. The backup will be provided
either by Danish league vet Marcel Kucera or young Tomas Burianek. Overly not a strong team
and should finish without a playoff spot again, maybe even relegation series.

NHL draftees: Petr Franek, G, Quebec, 1993
Petr Puncochar, D, Chicago, 2001
Ondrej Steiner, C, Buffalo, 1992

Goalie Petr Franek tried unsuccesfully to unseat Craig Billington as the Avs backup during the
1996-97 season. After some seasons in the AHL and ECHL Petr returned home and it seems that
his NHL dreams are now over. A poised goalie, Franek is the biggest star of Karlovy Vary and
he should carry the team. But only a miracle has to happen to bring this player on a way to
a NHL career.
Petr Puncochar played his first games and scored his first goal among the seniors last year
and got drafted by the Blackhawks in June. Puncochar seems to me as a steal in the 6th round and
this season he should be a regular on the Karlovy Vary Sr. blueline. A stocky, mobile defenseman
with a nice offensive upside has the talent to reach the NHL. But he is at least three years
away and needs Extraleague experience.
Center Ondrej Steiner is another of the long list of Czech players in their prime, who
couldn’t make enough impress as young prospects and the NHL teams dumped their rights on them.
Those players then often enjoy a solid Extraleague career as Steiner, but no NHL chance.

NHL prospects: Petr Domin, C, undrafted 2001, 2002 eligible
Lukas Mensator, G, 2002 eligible
Vojtech Polak, RW, 2003 eligible

Sized pivot Petr Domin went undrafted this year despite being ranked high by the CSB and will
look to rebound this year. He has to win a spot with the Under-20 team and a solid performance
is essential. If he succeeds, he can be drafted in one of the later rounds next year.
Lukas Mensator fights with Lukas Musil of HC Slavia Praha for the starting job in the Under-18
team. Smallish goalie with excellent quickness and reflexes, Mensator could play some games
in the Extraleague if one of the goalies gets injured. He is a very good goalie and a decent
NHL prospect.
Vojtech Polak will be one of the blue-chippers for the 2003 draft. He played two games in the
Extraleague last season but don’t expect a callup this season unless injuries strike. A swift
skating winger with exceptional smarts and hockey sense, Polak has a superb scoring touch
and will develop into a top prospect in the juniors.

HC Ceske Budejovice

Ceske Budejovice is another team which has to cope with serious offseason player losses.
Especially at forward, the offense without potential NHLers Vaclav Nedorost and Ales Kotalik
and new Sparta Praha forward Radek Belohlav looks a bit thin. Lots of playing time for the
young NHL prospects, but lots of unexperience, too. Newcomer from Finnish Assat Pori Roman
Horak will be the leader of the offense, but the defensive corps look better. Budejovice legend,
39-year old Rudolf Suchanek, is still there and for this season he is joined by Milan Nedoma,
who left Vsetin for his home Budejovice, the same Pavel Zubicek. Role players Filip Vanecek, newly
acquired from Div I team Beroun,
Lukas Krajicek (no relation to NHL prospect) and Slovak Ladislav Cierny build the rest of the
team, which should be more defensive than in the previous seasons. Michal Marik will be the
starter in goal, backstopped by young Josef Kucera. Ceske Budejovice are a wildcard team, they
should be around the tenth place coming postseason.

NHL draftees: Lubos Rob, RW, NY Rangers, 1990
Michal Vondrka, RW, Buffalo, 2001
Jiri Novotny, C, Buffalo, 2001
Rudolf Suchanek, D, Calgary, 1984
Milan Nedoma, D, Buffalo, 1990

Albeit Lubos Rob’s NHL dreams are over, Ceske Budejovice roster boasts a future NHLer in Jiri
Novotny and a decent talent in Michal Vondrka. After playing 19 games for the seniors last
season, Jiri Novotny was a Buffalo Sabres first-round choice, 22nd overall, at the 2001 draft.
The sized playmaking faceoff whiz will play the full schedule in the Extraleague this year
and look for him to center the third line. Novotny has all the tools of a future NHL player
and Extraleague experience along with a better scoring touch and consistency are the only
intangibles he lacks. An Extraleague season but better two can provide the needed improvement
on Jiri’s way to a second-line NHL center. The Sabres don’t need to rush him.
Michal Vondrka is more of a longhsot prospect, he would need to repeat the success of fellow
Sabres draftee Ales Kotalik. Vondrka is a solid two-way forward who is ready for a full season
among the seniors. Wait for he shows.
Rudolf Suchanek will probably hang his skates after this season and call him a player who can
still make it to the NHL would be a bad joke, 17 years after he got drafted. Ten years younger
Milan Nedoma is a reliable Extraleague defenseman, but also without any NHL chance.

NHL prospects: Milan Michalek, C/W, 2003 eligible

The Buffalo Sabres obviously like Ceske Budejovice forwards and they surely like also the new
Under-18 team captain Milan Michalek. A late 1984 born, Michalek is ready for the play among
the seniors. But expect that he’ll see his duty mostly on the fourth line and that he’ll be
benched frequently. A great mix of size, speed and skill, Michalek will also play some games
for the juniors but let’s hope that he’ll see ice time in the Extraleague. He has the tools
to play there.

The Hockey News called the Czech Extraleague the best European league. Let’s hope we can look
forward to another interesting season with lots of attractive games to prove that this title
is really deserved!