Here is a breakdown of some of the more notable Czech prospects at the recent U-18 world championships:
Martin Necas – C
Expectations were quite high for the Martin Necas—the marquee Czech talent—but he had a disappointing tournament overall. There’s no denying Necas’s high-end skill. He’s a deft stickhandler and explosive skater who makes high-difficulty plays in-flight, and these were evident throughout the tournament. Instead, Necas’s problems were with execution. He was largely unable to convert these dazzling rushes and slick moves into anything more than a perimeter shot toward goal. He completely missed the net on more than a few high-danger scoring chances, and seemed averse to carrying the puck into the slot.
Despite the underwhelming U-18 showing, Necas remains a top prospect for this year’s draft class. He had the highest scoring 17-year-old season in the Czech Extraliga since Vojtech Polak in 2003, and and also had an impressive post-season, scoring four goals in 10 games.
Filip Chytil – C/LW
With Necas struggling, Filip Chytil stepped up and carried the brunt of the load. Chytil is a strong support player, as in, he attacks from underneath the puck in own zone, enabling him to utilize his acceleration, vision, and quick hands to transition the puck. He turned these controlled exits in controlled entries quite regularly, and showed diversity in how he attacked defenders and gained the offensive zone.
Chytil is a balanced offensive threat, albeit one with an underwhelming shot. In this tournament, he preferred to utilize aggressive lateral movement complemented with his hands to cut into the slot and improving shooting location. The speed and precision of which he passes the puck was noticeably better than the majority of players in the tournament.
The diligent 200-foot player seamlessly switched between wing and centre, proactively picked up assignments, and impressed on the penalty kill. Not only is Chytil quite strong in battles, but he uses his body incredibly well to fight checks and maintain possession.
It seemed like for every highlight-reel dangle (and there were a lot), Chytil fumbled an easy pass or lost control without pressure. While Chytil’s hands are very quick, his “over the puck” style (rather than the ideal “rolling out the back”) means his blade is touching the puck less often than his other high-skill counterparts (like Zadina). Although not a major problem, the switch to the contact-maximizing rolling out the back could take the already great stickhandler to the next level.
FIlip Zadina – LW/RW – 2018 Draft Eligible
Often flat-footed and reactionary defending, Zadina looked best when his teammates (particularly Chytil) were obtaining possession and moving the puck to him. From there, his arsenal of high-end offensive tools did the rest. He strung controlled exits and entries together with ease, even against top teams against like USA and Finland.
As demonstrated time and time again at the U-18s, Zadina’s elite stickhandling ability, lateral agility, and body positioning allows him to create space for himself and his teammates despite lacking separation speed. Although guilty of doing too much sometimes, Zadina showed the jump and determination to get back into the play.
All-in-all, a top talent for the 2018 Draft.
Ostap Safin – LW/RW
Ostap Safin had a solid tournament overall, as he was among the most consistent Czech players, making at least decent contributions in every game. The 6’4” winger played a finesse, rather than power style this tournament. Blessed with soft hands, a smooth, compact stride, and a powerful wrister, Safin is potent off the rush. While his only goal was the result of a mistake of USA goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, he nailed a pair of posts and made numerous royal-road passes resulting in high-danger scoring chances.
With a large frame and high skill level, Safin looked nearly impossible to strip of possession in the offensive zone. He excels at making slick moves in-tight while in-stride, and utilizes his body well to engulf back pressure. However, these traits weren’t nearly as effective while battling for possession, largely because he didn’t usually fully engage in battles. Instead, he flew by battles, throwing a stick in the pile-up hoping for a quick counterattack chance—usually unsuccessfully.
Filip Kral – LD – 2018 Draft Eligible
Although Filip Kral had just two points in the tournament, he was Czech Republic’s best puck mover and transitional defender. A smooth, upright skater, Kral is able to lead the join and hustle back to defend with a certain ease. Kral is also an above-average stickhandler who can beat players one-on-one and create shooting lanes. He rapidly locates passing outlets, and rarely misses his target. Kral’s defence was fairly strong throughout the tournament. His skating ability and active stick make him tough to beat one-on-one, but he was beat when attacked with speed (forcing him to pivot).
David Kvasnicka – LD
On one hand, Kvasnicka was excellent in the offensive zone. With five points in five games, Kvasnicka was offensive catalyst from the blue line, results-wise. He made numerous high-difficulty passes, can handle pressure in the offensive zone, and fired off low, hard shots. Defensively, he was utilized in all-situations, and was quite successful in battles and keeping players to the outside.
On the other hand, Kvasnicka ran into serious issues while transitioning the puck. Failed breakouts off his stick were quite numerous, resulting in extended defensive zone time. While he handled pressure well in the offensive zone, in his own zone he seemed indecisive.
Kvasnicka had an up-and-down U18 to close out the season, but he was stellar otherwise. He led the Czech U20 league in defencemen points-per-game with 1.24, was among the best players at the WJAC, and held down nearly 16 minutes over 23 games in the Czech Extraliga.
Radim Salda – LD
Salda brought his robust style in spades this tournament. Not the prettiest skater, but overall quite effective as he shows good straight-ahead speed and decent pivots. Salda threw some massive hits, blocked heaps of shots, and was quite aggressive clearing the crease. He wasn’t particularly effective offensively, largely because he was reckless with the puck in his own zone.