Czech import Koffer fluent in English, hockey
The Prince George Cougars had no difficulty convincing Fillip Koffer to leave his home in the Czech Republic for north central British Columbia to play for the Cougars this season.
Koffer and Matej Toman, the Cougars’ other Czech import, have been hockey teammates for years and Toman sold his friend on the idea of jumping across the Atlantic to bring him closer to his dream of playing in the NHL.
“I played with Matej on the national team and I’ve known him for five years, we are very close friends,” said the 18-year-old Koffer.
“It’s good for me because he showed me everything about the city and we traveled together and he helped me lots. I’m very happy that he’s here.”
Koffer also heard about the merits of Prince George and playing for the Cougars from former Cougar winger Radovan Bondra, a Slovakian who tried out for the pro team in Koffer’s hometown, Mountfield HK.
“He told me something about the city and everything was good,” said Koffer. “I was a little nervous but the guys here are very nice and helpful, so I’m really happy here. Everything here is like a pro team. The coaching staff are NHL players.”
While growing up in Hradec Kralove, a Czech city of about 92,000 people, Koffer studied English in school and speaks it fluently. He’s certainly not shy and has fit in well with his new teammates, who see the impact he could have generating offence on the power play this season. The culture change is still a bit of shock and will take time for him to get used to, but he’s already building bridges with his new Cougar family and his hockey skills will speed up that process.
In his second scrimmage for Team Bourke Saturday, Koffer centred a line with Cougar draft picks Blake Eastman and Boston Maxwell. Already with two assists, Koffer’s puck instincts took over late in the game when he picked up the rebound of Eastman’s shot and from the deep slot filed the puck in under the arm of Colton Phillips-Watts for the tying goal in what ended up a 7-6 overtime loss to Team Byfuglien.
“I’m very happy because everything’s going well,” Koffer said Saturday. “On the ice I feel good. I’ve been here three days and I’m still a little jet-lagged but I feel good. I think my style of hockey is good for this team and the WHL. I like to play hard and hit the guys and I can make some plays. I like passing and maybe I’m more of a setup guy.”
Having played on larger European ice surfaces since he was four, Koffer’s skating skills are obvious and he has above-average puck skills. He drew one assist in 12 games playing against adults on HC Dynamo Pardubice, after collecting 10 goals and 38 points in 34 games with the HC Dynamo Pardubice under-19 team last season.
“Usually a European player, it’s weighted on the skill side and the puck-handling skills, which he does have,” said said Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb.
“I notice his skating, his first three strides, he’s quick and he’s always around it. He’s got a physical aspect to his game and that was one of the characteristics when we were talking to people about (drafting) him.
“He’s excited and he’s got a lot of life to him and you can see that in his body language. Meeting him for the first time you can tell he’s got a (colourful) personality and the personality kind of goes into how he plays, he had a very good day. He really wants to be here and he really wants to have success.”
Koffer’s parents, Fillip and Monika, plan to come to Prince George at the end of September to watch him play. The Cougars open their season at home against the Vancouver Giants on Friday, Sept. 20. They begin the preseason in Langley Sept. 7 against Kamloops.
Team scrimmages resume Monday at 4 and 6 p.m. The BlackWhite intrasquad game is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at CN Centre.