Czech Under-20 team: WJC preview

By Robert Neuhauser
The long waiting is finally over. The whole Czech hockey nation is looking forward to see
another top bunch of junior-aged players fight for gold. The excitement is even increased
by the fact that the host Czech Republic won the last two WJC titles. People want to see
their players win gold again.
To fulfill the wish, head coach Jaroslav Holik, father of New Jersey Devils’ Bobby Holik,
selected 22 top 1982 and 1983 born players along with one 1984 born, tremendously talented
Jiri Hudler. Among those players are nine CHL players which is an unprecended number. CHL
additions showed to be a huge boost to the team both on and off the ice in the previous
seasons and so this number leaves most likely nobody to shake his head. This year’s team
is solid in goal with Lukas Hronek and Michal Fikrt, the defense corps boosted with five
CHLers look to be the biggest weapon of the team and the forward lines look balanced, too.
From skyscrapers like Martin Podlesak or Jiri Jakes to smallish speedsters like Jiri Hudler
or Frantisek Lukes.
The team began the WJC camp in Havlickuv Brod on December, 10th. The following day arrived
the CHL players and the last days before the WJC the team already prepares in Pardubice.
There were two exhibition games scheduled, against the Extraleague teams of Pardubice and
Kladno and both turned out to be losses, 2:3 and 1:2, respectively. But don’t make a mistake,
they were really used to establish the roster and it doesn’t show that the Czech team is
feeble this year. Let’s have a look who is on the squad!


Lukas Hronek
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: May, 30th, 1982
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 150 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

As expected, the starter in goal for the Czech team. Hronek didn’t allow any
single goal in the exhibition games and is ready to take the starting job. During the fall
Hronek stunned the senior Extraleague with his great mature play as he got promoted from the
juniors after an injury of Slavia seniors starter Roman Malek. Unfortunately, Lukas had
to sit out one month after suffering a broken jaw. The quick, butterfly-style goalie will
provide the needed goaltending depth.

Michal Fikrt
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Born: April, 6th, 1982
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 160 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

The junior Extraleague standout secured his role as a backup goalie. Fikrt
won’t see much action if Hronek stays healthy during the WJC, but if he is asked to jump
into the game, then he can handle this role. Fikrt is a poised confident goalie who handles
the pressure well. He plays a mix of butterfly and stand-up style, likes to challenge the
shooter and plays the angles well.


Filip Novak
Team: Regina Pats (WHL)
Born: May, 7th, 1982
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.
NHL draft: New York Rangers, 2000, 2nd round

Missed the last WJC success only due to disputes with his parent Czech team Ceske Budejovice.
Now when everything is all right, the New York Rangers gem is ready to shine. Novak is
blessed with tremendous puckhandling skill and an ability to read the plays and make the
best decision. A very good skater, Novak supports the offense a lot and likes to join the
rush. His slick puckhandling will be needed as he will be one of the Czech powerplay

Libor Ustrnul
Team: Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Born: February, 20th, 1982
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 230 lbs.
NHL draft: Atlanta Thrashers, 2000, 2nd round

“Drago” is the man to be paired with Filip Novak. Big, mean and defensively almost perfect.
Libor posesses great size and a willingness to throw his body around. He gives everything
to the team’s success and is a natural leader. Libor was a member of the last WJC winning
squad and this experience will be well worth. The Atlanta Thrashers draftee doesn’t have
top-notch skills but is a superb tough stay-at-home defenseman.

Lukas Krajicek
Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Born: March, 11th, 1983
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 185 lbs.
NHL draft: Florida Panthers, 2001, 1st round

Drafted by the Florida Panthers after a draft-day deal, Lukas Krajicek develops into
nearly the same type of player as Filip Novak, only one year younger. A perfect skater
with smooth puckhandling and a rare hockey sense and vision. Just as Novak, Krajicek would
be better to be paired with a tough defensive defenseman as he likes to join the rush
and not play very hard. Another powerplay quarterback is highly skilled, needs only to
become more meaner.

Petr Chvojka
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Born: May, 27th, 1982
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: Montreal Canadiens, 2000, 6th round

The Medicine Hat Tiger has the tools to become a tough reliable defensive rearguard. Petr
is willing to play hard and fight along the boards and is a good crease-clearer. A player
who stays with his man and doesn’t let him make any plays. Petr concentrates on the
defensive duties and has a limited offensive upside, excluding his very good shot from the
point which can be highly dangerous on powerplay.

Tomas Mojzis
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Born: May, 2nd, 1982
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 189 lbs.
NHL draft: Toronto Maple Leafs, 2001, 8th round

The Moose Jaw Warrior seems to keep improving all the season. Tomas proved that the Leafs
may have found another diamond in the rough with his great two-way game. Tomas posesses
very solid puckhandling skills and is a smart passer. On the defensive side he doesn’t make
glaring mistakes but has to become more tougher which is essential in the NHL and also
in the top international competition.

Miroslav Blatak
Team: HC Continental Zlin
Born: May, 25th, 1982
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: Detroit Red Wings, 2001, 4th round

Miroslav broke full time into the senior Extraleague this season, leaving an impression
with his mature two-way game. Blatak keeps the play simple and doesn’t tend to make risky
plays. He also won’t hurt you offensively as he is a slick puckhandler who can deliver
crisp passes and booming shots. His star is on a rise and the Red Wings staff will keep an
eye on him.

Lukas Pozivil
Team: HC Chemopetrol Litvinov
Born: September, 12th, 1982
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 184 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

Quite surprisingly Lukas Pozivil was able to maintain his position with the Litvinov senior
team. He was supposed to split the season between the senior and junior team but a solid
development progress secured him the spot. Pozivil is still quite raw and is an average
skater with a limited offensive upside but he can play defensively well and likes to
play hard. He doesn’t have problems with hitting and will be used in games against more
physical opponents.

Jan Hanzlik
Team: HC Sparta Praha
Born: March, 21st, 1982
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 183 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

The injury plagued Sparta Praha blueliner battled with Petr Puncochar for the spot on the
team and won. A bit on the small side, Hanzlik has a very good hockey sense and vision
plus above-average puckhandling which allows him to support the offense well. His smallish
stature causes him trouble with physical play sometimes and he is still injury prone. Hanzlik
will likely see action against opponents relying on skill and less tough.


Tomas Plekanec
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno
Born: October, 31st, 1982
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NHL draft: Montreal Canadiens, 2001, 3rd round

The likely captain of the team was the youngster of the last WJC winning squad. Now is his
role way different, Plekanec is expected to lead the Czechs to victory. He is overcoming
a sub-par season and that also thanks to a bad Kladno team but sees a lot of ice time
in the Extraleague at least. The Montreal Canadiens draft choice is a superb offensive
forward with great instincts for the game. The flashy speedster can make great plays at high
speed and has top-notch stickhandling skills. Weaker on defense and also sometimes refuses
to be physical which are his drawbacks. But a great leader and a huge playmaking weapon.

Martin Podlesak
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Born: September, 26th, 1982
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 210 lbs.
NHL draft: Phoenix Coyotes, 2001, 2nd round

Hell, this guy is BIG! The ultimate physical presence had some trouble with groin at the
camp before the WJC but should be OK coming the opening faceoff. The tallest player on the
team shined for all junior national teams of the 1982 born players and established himself
as one of the better WHL centers soon. For a player of his size Podlesak skates well,
handles the puck with a terrific skill and can play in heavy traffic. Also almost unable to
get knocked off the puck. Podlesak will be asked to show his superb puckhandling and add
a lot of toughness. Shouldn’t be a problem for him.

Ales Hemsky
Team: Hull Olympiques (QMJHL)
Born: August, 13th, 1983
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NHL draft: Edmonton Oilers, 2001, 1st round

A sharpshooter. That’s the simple characteristic of Ales Hemsky. He stunned the ‘Q’ last year
with his 100 point season and he keeps on producing. Hemsky is a great skater who flies
on the wing. Also a terrific puckhandler prefers shooting to passing even if he can make
very smart passes, too. Ales has a nose for the net and he will be asked to show it. The
defense and handling the tough physical play are his problems, just as by Plekanec. But
he is there to score and that’s a thing he can do best.

Frantisek Lukes
Team: Toronto St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
Born: September, 25th, 1982
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NHL draft: Phoenix Coyotes, 2001, 8th round

Nearly the same type of player as Hemsky, only 1982 born and more versatile. Lukes was
the scorer of the junior nats since he entered the Under-16 team and in the OHL he is one
of the leaders of the St. Mike’s Majors. Frankie posesses a knack for scoring goals and
is easy to shift from left wing to right wing. He has great wheels and a sniper instinct.
On a line with a playmaker Lukes becomes a highly dangerous scoring threat.

Petr Prucha
Team: HC IPB Pojistovna Pardubice
Born: September, 14th, 1982
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 160 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

An almost unknown prospect a year ago, now on the first line of Pardubice in the senior
Extraleague next to 41-year old vet Otakar Janecky. Petr ripped off the junior Extraleague
this fall, averaging two points per game. He can play very well offensively and scores
and passes equally well. Prucha makes very surprising moves and is a exceptional stickhandler
which allows him to fool the opposing defensemen. The thing is, that he can be eliminated
by physical play. Most likely won’t play against Canada or USA.

Jiri Novotny
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Born: August, 12th, 1983
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 188 lbs.
NHL draft: Buffalo Sabres, 2001, 1st round

Jiri overcame an injury in September and now centers the second or third line of the
Ceske Budejovice team. A big, hardworking center who shows up every night and can prepare
great scoring chances. Novotny is a great leader and will most likely wear the ‘C’ on his
jersey last year. The Sabres prospect is also very solid in the faceoff circle and is
expected to shine on the second line of the WJC team.

Jiri Hudler
Team: HC Vsetin
Born: January, 4th, 1984
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 162 lbs.
NHL draft: 2002 eligible

The youngest player on the team, but one of the most talented. Jiri will celebrate his
18th birthday on the day when the final game is scheduled, January, 4th. A 2002 top
prospect, Hudler averages one point per game for the Vsetin seniors, the team which
relies on him. Hudler was born with exceptional smarts and an uncanny ability for superb
passes. A very good skater and a perfect stickhandler is a great set-up player but also
likes to score goals. Most likely won’t play the full schedule, his defensive play
and weakness is still weak but against not very physical opponents Hudler
will show up.

Jiri Jakes
Team: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Born: October, 4th, 1982
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 225 lbs.
NHL draft: Boston Bruins, 2001, 5th round

Looks like a Canadian on the team. Jiri Jakes doesn’t have the typical Czech skills, he plays
more like a Canadian. Jakes is very determinated and looks for physical contact. He uses his
size very well along the boards, fights in the corners and in front of the net, where he
looks for rebounds or deflections. When needed, Jakes will drop the gloves. He’ll play
the role of the big, mean, tough guy of the team and see lot of action against tough
physical opponents.

Miloslav Horava
Team: HC Vagnerplast Kladno
Born: October, 27th, 1982
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 187 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

Miloslav was promoted from the Div I team of Beroun to the Kladno team where he plays on a line
with Tomas Plekanec. Horava is hardworking and versatile. He has an accurate hard shot and
very good passing skill. He also gives a lot to the team’s success and contributes defensively.
But Miloslav is still raw and battles inconsistency at times. He went undrafted this
summer and needs to establish himself on the team and then try to make an impression.

Michal Vondrka
Team: HC Ceske Budejovice
Born: May, 17th, 1982
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 184 lbs.
NHL draft: Buffalo Sabres, 2001, 5th round

Quite a surprise pick of the Sabres in June, Michal Vondrka fights for a regular spot in
the Ceske Budejovice senior team. Michal plays a sound two-way game with very good
shooting skills and usually one of the first forwards back to help the defense. Vondrka
fights along the boards for pucks and has solid sniper talent. Michal won’t be a bright
star of the team, but one of the needed players who can also play the grinding role.

Jaroslav Sklenar
Team: HC Senators Rosice
Born: November, 22nd, 1982
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 170 lbs.
NHL draft: Toronto Maple Leafs, 2001, 6th round

Jaroslav returned from his unsuccesfull stint with the Ottawa 67’s to his native Rosice
where he plays for the Div I team. The Toronto draftee can skate like the wind and turn
on a coin but is also very skinny and refuses to be physical. Sklenar is a naturally
talented playmaker and scorer with a terrific hockey sense but has some weaknesses in
his defensive play. Sklenar will likely see action on the fourth line if coach Holik decides
to use four lines.

Jan Bohac
Team: HC Bili Tygri Liberec
Born: February, 3rd, 1982
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 203 lbs.
NHL draft: Ottawa Senators, 2000, 3rd round

Bohac won the WJC championship title two years ago, but didn’t make the team last year
after a disastrous season full of injuries. Since the 2000 title Bohac changed the team
twice and is now a member of the HC Bili Tygri Liberec team of the Div I league. Sized,
hardworking center still has a big trouble with finding the net and needs to work on his
skating. Bohac is supposed to fill the grinding center role and bring another flair
of toughness. He is a solid playmaker but a weak goalscorer and will fight for a spot on
the third line.

Reserve: Radek Dlouhy
Team: HC Slavia Praha
Born: January, 13th, 1982
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 162 lbs.
NHL draft: undrafted

Radek Dlouhy was sent to the Chomutov team by his HC Slavia Praha team. Dlouhy contributes
a lot to the team’s success and can be easily shifted from center to wing. He also can
score and pass equally well. Radek doesn’t shine but he makes the little things well
and the role players are a needed part of every team. Coach Holik has left a free spot on
the team due to the uncertain Martin Podlesak situation and dlouhy is eager to grab
that spot.

Head coach: Jaroslav Holik
Assistant coach: Pavel Hynek
Goaltender coach: Radomir Danek

Czech team schedule (all games to be played in Pardubice)


December, 25th
USA-Czech Republic 2:00 PM (all times local)

December, 27th
Czech Republic-Slovakia 5:00 PM

December, 28th
Belarus-Czech Republic 5:00 PM

December, 30th
Czech Republic-Sweden 2:00 PM