2004 prospect Lubomir Stach – skill over size

By Robert Neuhauser
Size is often a highly coveted asset when measuring a player’s chances on a success at the
NHL Entry Draft. Undersized players, especially defensemen, are often labeled with ‘too small
to succeed’ and other prejuidices. It is really almost impossible for a player that is
too small to handle the physical style of the NHL, where he faces lots of big, bruising forwards.
That’s also the reason why Swedish 1982 born junior star Magnus Hedlund was never picked in
a NHL Entry Draft. He has everything except size, Hedlund is just 5’8”. Let’s choose another
example. New Jersey Devils’ blueliner Brian Rafalski had to sign with the Devils as a free
agent, he also wasn’t selected in the draft. After spending years in Finland he opened the
eyes of many when he showed that also a defenseman who doesn’t posess prototypical NHL
size can compete well at this highest level. The next one who could follow his example is
Vsetin’s 1986 born smallish star, Lubomir Stach.

Born in Vsetin, Czech Republic, Lubomir started playing hockey there when the city was just
known for regional hockey and not for being the mighty perennial Extraleague champion. The
main force which brought him to the game was his dad, even if he played soccer and not hockey.
But instead of bringing his son to the ball, he brought him to the ice, skates, stick and puck.
Lubomir seemed to like the game very much and when he started his career at 6, he felt very
comfortable on the ice. He has a talent for sports and hockey suited him well. Lubomir was
among the best skaters on the team soon and also showed soft hands and a huge offensive
upside. Despite all these facts he wasn’t positioned as a forward, he was sloted to play the
defense. He didn’t have trouble with that, with his natural hockey talent and a dedication
to the game he could ‘outsmart’ the opposing forwards and still make his offensive raids.
So Lubomir Stach was constantly among the top kids from the region and won a lot of trophies
at various tournaments of the youngest kids, which take place almost every week in the season.
The coaches were also aware how Lubomir is useful to the team and nearly for his whole career
Lubomir wears the ‘A’ on his jersey as an alternate captain. He didn’t manage to grab the
captain’s role, but due to his leadership and overall skill level Stach is served well as
the alternate captain.

Lubomir faced almost always older opposition as he played against kids one or two years
older. This helped his development a lot and he also had to learn how to be more physical
because the smallish Stach was a nice target for the opposing behemoths. After the Vsetin
senior team started his reign of terror in the Czech Extraleague, they soon established also
a pipeline of prospects of all ages. Lubomir didn’t have to move to a city with an Extraleague
franchise, the Extraleague came to the city where he lived. And the most talented kids
began to boost the Vsetin youth teams. This meant big trouble for some local kids, but not
for Lubomir. He easily maintained his spot on the team and began to shine also for the new
team. So he worked his way through all the age cathegories and already in the 1999-2000 he
received a callup from the Vsetin midgets. Head caoch Hudler who arrived from the Olomouc
system took over the caoching job for the Vsetin midgets and Lubomir Stach caught his eye.
Even if he was still eligible to play for the 8th grade team, he got promoted right to the
midgets, where he spent 12 games. In those contests he earned just 2 assists, but don’t
expect from a 14-year old defenseman to start producing huge numbers in his first season
in major midget hockey.

His mature play also impressed the Under-16 team’s coaches Karel Najman and Jaroslav Beck.
Lubomir received an invitation to the selection camp, where the Under-16 team of the 1985
borns should be formed. He left a very solid impression, which promised that the coaches
will want to have another look at him during the season.
Meanwhile Lubomir started performing for the Vsetin midgets full-time. The underager broke out
as a huge force, he didn’t have trouble with his severe size deficiency and could contribute
offensively a lot. He learned how to avoid devastating hits and his exceptional stickhandling
skill were his biggest asset. In 42 games last season Lubomir notched 15 points for 5 goals
and 10 assists, while also logging a modest number of PIMs, 24.

A three-game series against the Under-16 team of Russia meant Lubomir’s debut in the junior
national team. He played all three games there, which turned out to be two wins and a loss.
He was selected to perform at also the last tournament of the season, a three-game series
against the Under-17 team of Switzerland. These three games rounded out his stats for the
Under-16 team in 2000-2001 at 6 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 2 PIMs and a +/- of +4.

This season Lubomir, again the alternate captain of the Vsetin midgets, could count with the
fact that he’ll be the anchor of the defense. Coaches Hudler and Plachtovic have put their faith
into the smallish rearguard and Lubomir logged the most ice time from all the Vsetin midgets
defensemen. He showed that he has nothing to prove on the midget level as he won the defensemen
scoring in the whole midget Extraleague after posting numbers some forwards would love to
achieve. In 34 regular season games Stach posted 33 points for 14 goals and 19 assists. And
till today he stands at 46 games, 15 goals, 25 assists and 40 points to go along with 46 PIMs.
He also got promoted to the junior team for one game. In his debut in the junior Extraleague
Lubomir notched 1 assist.

Lubomir Stach is a very good skater with solid lateral moves and pivots and is able to
change direction quickly. But his biggest asset is his top-notch stickhandling. He handles
the puck very smoothly and likes to make nifty moves and dekes. He just needs to learn not
to overhandle the puck and pass it to a teammate instead. Lubomir has very good passing
skills to go along with his vision and hockey sense. His shots need some improvement, he
has to shoot more hard. Lack of toughness may be a problem for him, but Lubomir relies on
his smart positional play instead. He isn’t throwing his body around, he just waits for the
right moment and takes the puck away from the opposing forward. On the defensive side he
doesn’t tend to make many mistakes, even if his plays may seem risky sometimes. Overall, he
is a player who brings a very good two-way game to the table.

Players with one-year international experience are the most welcomed additions to every Under-16
team, just like Lubomir’s case was. He showed his skills at the selection camp again and this
time he went home with the Best defenseman trophy.
He performed at all tournaments of the Under-16 team in the season, including the Four Nations
tournament, held in the Czech Republic. There he recorded 1 assist in those three games.
He is supposed to join the Czech Under-16 team also for the upcoming three-game series
against the Under-17 team of Switzerland.

Lubomir Stach tries to pattern his game after Florida Panthers defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh,
who is his biggest hockey role model. His biggest dream is of course reaching the NHL and
Lubomir wants to take the European route and doesn’t show much interest in coming over and
hone his skills in the CHL. He doesn’t have one exact favorite NHL team, Lubomir follows
all the teams where Czech players shine, mostly the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers,
Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. He also likes to search the internet for various
hockey news and informations, which is his most frequent free time activity. Besides relaxing,
of course. Lubomir is aware how strength is important for the games and likes to lean back
and have a rest. He doesn’t play any other sport besides hockey, only every Wednesday he
takes part in floorball games, which are quite simillar to hockey. He is also attending
a secondary school in Vsetin.
Let’s hope the Vsetin’s young star will be the next undersized defenseman to make it to the