Czech im­port Kof­fer flu­ent in English, hockey

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

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.

KOF­FER

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