In this penalty and delay-filled affair, Czech Republic walked out with a 7-4 victory over Belarus. The Czech line-up features plenty of star talent, such as Martin Necas, Filip Chytil, and Filip Zadina.
While Belarus managed to exit the first period down by a only single goal, the Czechs responded with a dominant second period. Powered by the top line of Necas, Zadina, and Chytil, Czech Republic racked up four goals in the period.
However, this game was far from the perfect start for the Czechs. Defensive miscues piled up, even from their top players like Necas, and defensive zone coverage was quite spotty.
Belarus racked up an impressive 33 shots on goal, most of which came from dangerous rushes. Much like against USA, they attacked the Czech defenders with speed, and managed to generate some quality opportunities.
Filip Chytil – LW – #20
Chytil was the best player in this game. The versatile HC Zlin forward grabbed three points, contributed to a waved-off tally, and cleaned up in the defensive zone. He bounced back and forth between wing and center, demonstrating excellent awareness and smarts at both positions.
On a line with Necas and Zadina, Chytil initially played more of a complementary role, that is, winning puck battles, occupying lanes and driving the net, and jumping into support positions. However, as the game wore on, he became increasingly comfortable as the puck carrier, while continuing his strong attention to detail. He led the team with six controlled entries, five of which directly followed a successful controlled exit off his own stick. Essentially, he was a transition machine.
Chytil’s smart defensive zone positioning and crafty stickwork were on display all game. On at least three instances he pickpocketed an attacker, then quickly turned the play up the ice. These two skills were also evident in the offensive zone, where he won heaps of battles and showed no fear sending the puck in high-danger areas.
Through 30 minutes, Chytil hands were looking a little rusty. He often had the right idea, but the puck just seemed to slip away. Necas and Zadina each set him up for a backdoor tap-in, but the puck just wouldn’t go. However, in the late second and third period, Chytil’s hands “wowed” on numerous occasions, including a highlight-reel dangle leading up to his goal.
Filip Zadina – RW – #19
The 2018 draft eligible has been absolutely torching the U-18 level in international play since last season (combined 28 points in 20 games), and continued it with two assists this afternoon.
Zadina didn’t show any explosive skating, but his agility, stickhandling, and awareness are all elite. He looks strong and powerful when he skates, but suddenly weaves through traffic with grace. He combines aggressive cuts into the ice with soft puck touches and smooth acceleration. And to top it off, his head is up the entire time.
Zadina’s fantastic shot was also on display all game. He racked up a team-high seven shots on goal, and just missed with a pair of one-time cannons aimed top shelf. In this game, he utilized two different shots to generate opportunities: A hard wrister with a quick release, and a one-time slapshot that he got off in awkward positions. Furthermore, he receives hard passes in stride and with ease—an important trait for snipers.
The fancy stickhandling put Zadina into compromising situations from time-to-time, but he did a great job staying with the puck and preventing a turnover. It’s something to watch for as the tournament progresses. He didn’t spend much time out of the offensive zone, and when he did, he wasn’t particularly noticeable.
Martin Necas – C – #18
The electrifying talent who spent all season in the Czech Extraliga with HC Kometa Brno had a great game, grabbing two assists and five shots on goal.
Necas utilized his dynamic skating and stickhandling ability to generate heaps of chances. Without hesitation, he attacked defenders one-on-one, and even groups of defenders. In the odd instance he lost the puck, he quickly worked to retrieve it. However, he did have a turnover late in the third period that resulted in a successful penalty shot after working the puck up high.
High in the offensive zone was where Necas found himself room to operate. He routinely exploited a collapsed, puck-watching Belarusian defence by circling high and quickly accelerating down into the slot. From this position, he seemed a bit hesitant to shoot, and in fact, passed himself out of prime scoring locations on two instances.
Necas had a couple of sequences where he cut into the tightly-packed slot, but otherwise preferred to operate from the perimeter.
In the occasional time spent in the defensive zone, Necas did a solid job. He was caught puck-watching once, letting his man slip away in the process. Otherwise, he supported his defencemen well, and was a controlled-exit machine. On the forecheck, Necas utilized his speed and hand-eye coordination to pressure defenders into panic plays and turnovers.
Ostap Safin – RW – #27
Safin — a 6’4” finesse winger — played a decent game, albeit against an inferior opponent. Safin opened the game with a glimpse of his nasty side, throwing a massive hit along the boards. However, this would be the extent of his physical assertion.
Although not at the level of the aforementioned three, Safin is certainly a smooth and coordinated stickhandler. He uses slick little moves to create space for himself, and can do them in stride, too. Apart from one instance, he avoided carrying the puck into the slot, even when given an open lane. Instead he stuck to the outside. This is quite the juxtaposition from his play without the puck, as Safin shows no hesitation standing in front of the net and battling for rebounds.
Similarly, most of his shots attempts also came from the perimeter. Given his skill set—soft hands and quick feet—and size, he could’ve likely done more damage had he played more assertively with the puck.
Early into the game, Safin nailed the post with a powerful, mid-height wrister that fooled the goaltender.
Scouts will be waiting to see if he competes adequately away from the puck against better opponents..as it has been his tendency to float most of this season.
Filip Kral – D – #11
Kral was the most active of the six Czech defenders dressed for this game. The 2018 draft eligible was showcased the good and bad, on both sides of the puck.
Kral was heavily involved offensively. His quick acceleration and smooth stride launched him up the ice, where he often acted as a “fourth forward” of sorts. This is exactly how Kral scored: He jumped into the rush, took a Zadina feed, and roofed it on the goaltender who was out of position. When operating with extended offensive zone pressure, he showed no fear pinching and making plays off the blue line.
Kral also showed a physical side. He threw some of the game’s biggest hits. One particular sequence saw Kral crush an opposing player at the blue line, but then he promptly handed the puck right back to him.
He also did a fairly good job establishing a tight gap on attackers, however he was beaten by the speed Belarusian forwards a number of times. While he was active in joining the rush, his partner Ondrej Buchtela was far more successful at exiting the defensive zone.
Igor Martynov – C – #7
Martynov was the best forward for Belarus, and one of the better players in the game. He scored a pair of goals, both of a the highlight reel variety, and threw 11 shots on goal.
As mentioned, the Belarusian forwards attacked with speed, and none were better at it then Martynov. He was threatening in transition, as he regularly got the jump on loose pucks. He’s a compact skater with a separation gear, and as demonstrated on his first goal of the game.
Martynov took aggressive defensive zone positioning. He was constantly attacking the puck carrier and looking to create turnovers. This did result in him completely blowing his defensive zone coverage a few times, though.