2004 prospect story: Pavel Rusek

By Robert Neuhauser
In the Czech Republic there are some cities, which are known for raising high-quality prospects,
even if they don’t have an Extraleague franchise. One of those cities is definitely Olomouc.
The city which celebrated championship title in the inaugural season of the Czech Extraleague
in 1993.
These days Pavel Brendl is probably the most known Olomouc talent among NHL fans, but he
isn’t a complete product of the Olomouc system. He just played there since the fourth grade.
Die-hard draft fans will know about two more gems, who form along with Vojtech Polak ‘The
Great Line’ of the Czech Under-17 team. These two are Petr Vrana and Ivo Kratena, who left
Olomouc prior to this season. Just like Jakub Cech, the youngest goalie ever to play in the
Czech Extraleague. And Pavel Rusek, the guy the story is about. Because that’s the other
side of the coin. Not having an Extraleague franchise means that all the top prospects leave
when they are about 15 or 16 to join the system of an Extraleague team. Pavel Rusek is a rookie
in the Havirov midgets.

His dad brought him to the arena in Olomouc when he was seven years old. The little Pavel
liked to be active and doing some sport was the best solution for him. He didn’t have his
relatives coaching or playing organized hockey, so it was only his own decision to play the game.
He started also relatively late, most players begin their careers about one or two years
earlier. He said, he wants to play hockey more than any other sport and the parents liked
the idea, so Pavel began to attend the practices.
He was very eager to play the game and is very competitive, which was a plus for him on the
practices. Pavel wanted to be the best and since the very beginning was very dedicated to
hockey. He often did various off-ice practices to improve his skill and mostly, to bulk
up and gain more strength. From the very first time he was playing the forward position,
looking at his frame the idea of a tough defenseman could be forgotten and Pavel doesn’t
have the necessary natural skills for a goalie. But he has more than enough skills for a
forward. When you add his grit and eagerness to improve and learn how to become a better
player, then it is obvious that he was soon among the best kids in Olomouc. The famous
Olomouc system knows how to turn little kids into future prospects and Pavel Rusek’s talent
was also formed by respected youth coach Hudler, father of 2002 top prospect Jiri Hudler.

Pavel worked his way through the age cathegories and even if he was playing with
highly skilled teammates, he could be one of the best. The whole team was great and it
was no wonder that the Olomouc 1986 borns won three consecutive championship titles, among
the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Pavel Rusek was always a member of those teams and he remembers
it as his
biggest success in hockey so far. Pavel also performed at various youth tournaments, from
which he brought often an individual trophy home, the biggest of them is the award for the
Best goalscorer from an international tournament of the 8th grades, played in Slovakia in
The year before, when he was playing for the 7th grades, he received anothe honor, as he
was selected captain of the Olomouc 7th grades. That was his only season with the ‘C’ so far.
And it was also one of the championship seasons.

Pavel Rusek is a smallish waterbug on his skates. He has a very effective stride, accelerates
well and is capable of making turns on a coin. He has a very good straightaway speed and
can make plays at top speed. Pavel is extremly smart and has a nice portion of vision and
hockey sense.
He handles the puck very well and can make very good, accurate
passes. The stocky Rusek is also a very feisty player, he shows his nasty edge quite often
and likes to hit hard, despite his 5’10”, 163 lbs. frame. He plays with lots of heart and
determination and doesn’t tend to take an odd shift off. Pavel fights for the pucks along
the boards and displays lots of grit. On the downside, Pavel has to improve his shooting
skills, both wrist and slap. The accuracy of his shots is still sub-par. The other thing
to work on for him is his defensive awareness, which could be better.

His hockey role model is Paul Kariya and he is the type of player Rusek wants to pattern his
game after. His favorite NHL team is then the Colorado Avalanche, it would be a dream for
him to wear the Avalanche jersey somewhere in the future.
But in 1999-2000 Olomouc midgets was the reality. Pavel Rusek was outstanding for the 9th
grade team and as the season was nearing its end, Rusek got promoted to the midget team.
They wanted to test the players which were supposed to move to the midgets for 2000-2001 and
Pavel was one of them. In 1999-2000 he was playing as a twice underage, appearing in 4 games
and even then registering 3 points for 1 goal and 2 assists. These were terrific numbers for
a 14-year old kid and Pavel was a lock to stay with the Olomouc midgets full-time in 2000-2001.
The Under-16 team was also a concern for Pavel in the summer of 2000. 1985 born Olomouc stars
were all supposed to start their international career, with Petr Vrana and Ivo Kratena being
the frontrunners, joined by goaltender Jakub Cech,
defenseman Jiri Paska and forwards Marek Frieb, Vitezslav Jasek
and Pavel Rusek, who was in this bunch the only 1986 born underager. Pavel Rusek was also the only
one who didn’t see action for the major Under-16 team, his international debut came with the
Czech Under-16 B team in a three-game series against Slovakia, played in November 2000.
Pavel went scoreless there, but displayed the strengths of his game and it was evident,
that he’ll be one of the key players for the Under-16 team of his birthyear.
Pavel really sticked with the Olomouc midgets for the full season in 2000-2001. As an underager
he didn’t see so much ice time as stars like Vrana and Kratena and posted modest, but solid
numbers last year. Rusek played 43 games, scoring 8 goals and adding 6 assists for a total
of 14 points.

In summer he took the Under-16 team’s selection camp by storm and really became and key player
of the team, which he proved at all tournaments so far. The flashy winger had his best
showings at the three-game series against Switzerland last November and at the Four Nations
Tournament this February. There he led the Czech Under-16 team in goals scored with two
and shared also the scoring title with two points for those two goals, along with Petr Pohl
and Zdenek Bahensky.

But the summer of 2001 was highly important for him also due to another fact. He received
various offers from Extraleague teams to join their system and like lots of his teammates,
he decided to leave Olomouc in order to have a chance to play in the Extraleague someday.
Most of the Olomouc players joined the system of HC Havirov Panthers and Pavel Rusek was
among them. Along with Rusek also Petr Vrana, Jakub Cech and Marek Frieb choose the red-black
colors of Havirov.

In Havirov was Rusek assigned to the midget team, where he enjoyed a very solid run. He
played first or second line center for the most of the season and established himself as one
of the team’s leaders soon. Thus far Pavel recorded 42 points for 24 goals and 18 assists
in 42 games. Last month he also celebrated his debut in the junior Extraleague as he was
among the midget players who are counted on to join the junior team for the next year. If
Pavel maintains his position with the juniors, then he’ll be underaged again. This year
he was held scoreless during his 5 games lasting stint.

When Pavel Rusek doesn’t play hockey, then he most likely plays tennis. This is his second
favorite sport and he is a skilled tennis player. Hockey players often play tennis and Pavel
is no exception. He also likes playing videogames, when he is relaxing at home, then very
often with some video game. Or he is just sleeping. School is another factor for him,
this school year he started attending secondary school which is specialised on everything
about hotels and it takes Pavel a lot of time.
Pavel has two dreams – first to play for the senior national team and then in the NHL. He also
tends to take the European route to the NHL and isn’t rushing into the CHL. He wants to
play for all junior national teams and then possibly the senior national team. He has the tools
to make his dreams come true. It remains to be seen, when.