SCOUT­ING RE­PORT THERE’S A GOOD REA­SON

The Hockey News - - WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP - – RYAN KENNEDY

to ex­pect a lot from the Czechs this year – and per­haps even more in 2019. The group that won the Ivan Hlinka tour­na­ment for the first time in his­tory two sum­mers ago is now en­ter­ing its prime WJC time, head­lined by 2017 first-rounders Martin Ne­cas (CAR) and Filip Chytil (NYR), plus big Ostap Safin (EDM) and bud­ding top-five 2018 pick Filip Zad­ina. Also on that gold medal­win­ning squad was net­min­der Jakub Skarek. “For them, the most im­por­tant will be the goalie,” said one scout. “If he has a good tour­ney, you never know what could hap­pen.”

Skarek is the starter for Dukla Jihlava in the Czech Ex­traliga, the na­tion’s top cir­cuit. He saw spot duty at the WJC last year, and though he later dis­ap­pointed at the world un­der-18s, the big kid has men­tal tough­ness and will be one of the top goal­tenders avail­able in the 2018 NHL draft. The Czechs also have Tomas Vomacka (NSH) and Josef Kore­nar, so there is some depth in the crease. Un­for­tu­nately that’s not the case on the blue­line, and if the Czechs fall short of medal con­tention again, that will be why. “Com­pared to the top coun­tries like Canada or Swe­den, they don’t have it,” said the scout. “They have some good for­wards, but not much po­ten­tial on de­fense.”

In­deed, all the teen stars who emerged from that Ivan Hlinka co­hort are for­wards, with Jakub Gal­vas (CHI) as the lone de­fense­man to get drafted from the crop.

There are sev­eral Czechs with plenty of scor­ing power, in­clud­ing 2018 prospect Jakub Lauko, who has enough speed, com­pete level and ta­lent to earn a long look.

If the de­fense corps can hold to­gether and the for­wards per­form, the Czechs have a shot at a medal. If not, look for yet another quar­ter­fi­nal loss: that’s where they’ve bowed out in the past six WJC tour­na­ments.

FILIP CHYTIL

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