SCOUTING REPORT THERE’S A GOOD REASON
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.