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2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament - Czech Republic v USA

My first ever article for SBNation was not for Copper and Blue. It was for Puckworld’s and it was about the Czech Jr team. It was written in 2010. I reread it today and it holds true still. 10 years, no medals and a program consistently in decline. Neat thing about that article. No one read it (just like this one won’t be popular either) but one of the comments was by my fav Oiler writer Bruce McCurdy!

I thought I’d look at the Czech roster for the upcoming World Jr’s in Edmonton. Here is who has been invited.

Omissions:

Marcel Barinka opted to stay on his club team in Europe. Jakub Dobes (drafted by the Habs) had complications with getting back for camp as he plays in the USHL (and is doing really well). Jakub Konecny was drafted by the Sabres but not invited. It would be fair to say that these 3 not invited to camp is different than, say, Lafrenierre, Seider or Hughes not going to their respective countries camps. Dobes is a bit upsetting because he is playing very well on small ice in North America. The tourney is on small ice in North America. Not sure why we wouldn’t have all 3 of our drafted goalies coming?

Notables:

Forwards:

Jan Mysak was projected by some as a first rounder but ended up going in round 2. Jaromir Pytlik started last season as a potential first rounder but dropped as the season went along. Michal Teply had a very good tournament last year and I could see the Blackhawk’s prospect being a leader on the club. Novak and Raska were drafted this summer and stand to make an impact at forward. To be clear, we have 5 forwards drafted between the 2nd and 7th rounds. The rest are undrafted and none of the youngers guys currently project to be first rounders. I’m not sure any of our forwards would make the Big 5 teams.

Defense:

Martin Has had a good tournament last year and should be a key defender. Klikorka, Kubicek and Kucerik all played last year and should round out the Top 4. Stanislav Svozil is a potential first rounder for the next draft and should make this team and could make some noise. David Jiricek is a potential first rounder in 2 drafts from now and could also make the team. Please note there are only a small handful of Czech D in the NHL so a Czech with ‘first round potential’ can quickly equal fourth round pick. Martin Has was considered a first rounder for a little while for instance. So our D corps consists of one drafted player, 3 guys that were passed in the draft and 2 underagers potentially. The Czechs routinely have a very poor D group but this may be the weakest in awhile. On a bright note, Jiricek and Svozil do look promising. I can’t fathom any of our D making the Canadian, Finnish, Swedish, Russian or US squads. I don’t know enough about Michael Krutil to say he will make the team or an impact but he did get drafted. Maybe one day we will look back and realize that Has, Krutil, Svozil and Jiricek were all NHL defenders?

Goalies:

We had 3 drafted goalies but only 2 are making the trip. Expect the King’s pick Parik to be the starter. However, given our competition and weak team I’d also expect to see Bednar get in games. Malik was on the team last year and will probably also see some action. For the record, this won’t be the goalies faults. They are literally staring down the wrong end of the gun barrel. Prime Hasek would not survive this team. Unlike our D or Forwards, I do think our goalies are as good as the other teams goalies (except Askarov).

Outlook:

Well, it’s bad. We are in a pool with Austria, Sweden, USA and Russia. You might think Austria will be an easy win but Marco Rossi is on that team and he’s better than anyone on our team. They definitely have a chance to beat us. On paper, we are the 4th best team in this pool of 5. Our hopes lie in things like ‘any given Sunday’, ‘a puncher’s chance’ and ‘that’s why they play the game’. Put another way, we are the Oiler’s from the Decade of Darkness (TM).

Assuming things go as planned and we finish fourth and make the quarters. That would leave us playing a almost 100% Team Canada. This tournament could very realistically end with us winning 1 match against Austria (maybe) and getting taken to the ‘woodshed’ by US, Sweden, Russia and then Canada in the quarters. Much like my Oil, I hope I’m wrong! I will cheer to the end, I will watch every game, I will celebrate every goal and I will have a good quality Pilsner/Kozel/Czechvar in hand.

Yelling at clouds

What frustrates me is that this is our best team. There is no controversy. We aren’t missing anyone. No one is injured. We currently don’t have top end players not being allowed to join or with Covid (eg. Lafrenière, Kakko and Hughes were not released. Sweden has lost a lot of players/staff to Covid, the Germans had Seider decline and Reichel catch Covid and not be allowed, Cajkovic was headhunting his own teammates and got kicked of his team).

Czechs have been screaming about our lack of good D for a decade now. A decade later and we may only have one drafted Dman on our entire squad. We are producing about 2 NHL players per year while countries like Germany having 2 or 3 players go in round 1 (and Seider from the year before). Hockey has become a big 5 and we’ve been at 6th forever. Instead of improving it feels like we are placeholders for the likes of Switzerland and Germany. This is a proud nation with a tremendous history and it needs to be turned around.

Lastly, I don’t think the 40 guys on the invite list have played 100 games combined this season. Czechs have had a lot of Covid issues and some of our players simply aren’t playing very much. I can’t say any of them are lighting up the Extraliga or the Czech 2nd Division.

Prediction - 3 thumpings, 1 close win over Austria followed by a quarter final thumping. Goals for 8. Goals against 20. It’s a great year to not have relegation.

Best case scenario - for the first time in forever, all the Czechs are in one place. They realize there is no go to superstar. If the coach can get them to gel as a team and a goalie gets hot then we can win a game or 2 and maybe upset someone in the quarters. I do know that the Czechs will play hard and not quit. They always do. Their issue isn’t about lack of heart but a lack of talent.

I’ve always said that I’d prefer to have a team lose all the games but have 10 or so high end prospects on it vs a team that wins gold but has no future NHLer’s on it. No matter the outcome, Czech hockey needs to start producing better players (especially on D). 10 years since that article and no improvement. No medal since 2005!