The upstart Czechs enjoyed what can only be described as a successful tournament at last year’s U18s in Germany, even if they failed to medal. They finished fourth, but they put in strong efforts against the powerhouse Americans and even beat Canada along the way. It’s just a shame it had to end on a sour note with a loss to Finland in the bronze medal game.
That team was led by tournament MVP Jiří Kulich and Eduard Šalé, who was one of the best passers of the tournament and will be part of the team again this year. There are plenty of other compelling prospects on this year’s team, too. They have two goalies that could be NHL draft picks in Michael Hrabal and Adam Dybal, for starters. Then there’s the Czech blue line, a group that features Jakub Dvořák, Adam Jiříček, and Tomáš Galvas.
This Czech team has talent in every part of their lineup. Let’s take an in-depth look at the roster they’ll bring to Switzerland.
Eduard Šalé, W, HC Kometa Brno (Extraliga)
Czechia’s biggest star and their top prospect in this year’s draft, Šalé started the season off well at the Hlinka and in Extraliga play. His six points through the first 10 games of the season had certainly captured scouts’ attention. Then the team’s play declined, they fired their coach, and Šalé got lost in the shuffle with the new staff and their system.
Šalé got things back on track a bit with his play at the World Juniors, where he recorded six points in seven games in his country’s colours. Everything he does on the ice looks so smooth. If you give him time and space, he’s going to make you pay for it with his shot. Šale’s like a shark in the offensive zone, sniffing out blood in the water and then striking. Šale has a smooth first touch and corrals difficult passes with ease. He’s at his best as a playmaker though. I expect a lot from him at this tournament.
Dominik Petr, C, Lukko U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
This is Dominik Petr‘s third year in Finland, but he hasn’t seen a lot of action this year. He’s a centre with great size and decent hockey sense, along with a relatively strong shot. His hands are pretty dextrous too, and he’s not afraid to play in traffic. Petr is a cunning puck thief, stealing possession and hitting his linemates with a quick pass in prime positions for a scoring chance. Add some nice puck protection and the ability to play the cycle game and you get a solid threat for Czechia.
Jiří Felcman, C, Langnau U20 (U20-Elit)
Jiří Felcman has authored a successful season over in Switzerland. He scored 31 points in 40 games and contributed eight points in nine playoff games in the U20-Elit. Felcman is a big, inside-driven forward who’s got decent mobility. His stickhandling and puck protection abilities allow him to play between the dots and repel opponents. He’s also hard to knock off the puck.
Adam Csabi, HC Energie Karlovy Vary U20, Czechia U20
Adam Csabi spent most of the season in Finland but then returned to Karlovy Vary in his native Czechia. Csabi is a sneaky good player. He’s at his best as a distributor, finding teammates in open spaces and setting them up to produce high-danger chances. He has skilled hands and can carry the puck into the zone at a fairly high rate of speed while controlling the puck. He’s slightly undersized but fairly agile and often takes advantage of this when he cuts to the middle and tries to attack the net. Csabi can be some secondary scoring winger. He can surprise some people.
Adam Židlický, W, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Adam Židlický has had a decently productive season in the OHL, scoring 24 points in 62 games. Židlický plays with a decent pace and physically along the boards. He’s a hard worker in battles and on the forecheck. He’s the type of warrior who won’t miss a single fight and will be especially useful for forechecking. This is also the player that will hustle back into the defensive zone, with excellent positioning and help the team with killing the rushes.
Adam Jecho, RW, Tappara U18 (U18 SM-sarja)
Adam Jecho is a player to keep an eye on for next year’s draft. The Czech forward is playing in Finland, on Tappara’s U18 squad. He is a big-bodied forward with a very high hockey sense. He has a great combination of size, strength and skating ability, which makes him a real nuisance for opponents. Jecho is a dual-threat scorer and can beat you with a deke or with his shot. I expect a lot from Jecho and I wonder if he will explode offensively in this tournament. I think he’s capable of it.
Jakub Štancl, LW, Växjö Lakers HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
Jakub Štancl has been playing with the Växjö Lakers over in Sweden since the start of the 2021-22 season. He even got an eight-game cup of coffee with their SHL squad this year, picking up a goal in that time. Štancl plays a high-pace, fast, north-south brand of hockey with a physical game to match. His work rate is so high, too. I could see him impacting this tournament as a checker and on the scoresheet.
Andrej Fábry, F, HC Sparta Praha (Czechia U20)
Andrej Fábry has played two seasons in the junior Extraliga, scoring 58 points in 67 contests in that time. Fábry is an interesting case. He’s only 5-foot-8, but his eagerness for the puck is huge. He’s a force in the offensive zone, recording many shots on goal every game. Fábry tries to defend as well, but he is a pure goalscorer and that should be his contribution to Czechia at this tournament.
Daniel Badinka, F, Jokerit U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Daniel Badinka is a steady player, with very little panic in his game. He’s a strong net-front presence that can create offence with ease around the crease area. He’s a true dual-threat scorer too, with shooting and passing skill. He’ll play in Czechia’s bottom-six.
Lukáš Heš, F, Berani Zlín U20 (Czechia U20)
Lukáš Heš has excellent size at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds, and he’s not afraid to apply that frame physically on the forecheck or to protect pucks. It also helps him clog up lanes as a shot-blocking presence in the defensive zone. Heš is a hard-nosed, rough-and-tumble player, and he’ll be a good option for this team to have on the penalty kill.
Tomáš Holčák, F, JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Tomáš Holčák is a smart player who reads the game very well and can regularly get himself into open space ready to shoot the puck. He’ll make sure the puck stays in the offensive zone and will work along the boards where he’s especially effective working in tight spaces.
Jan Kučera, F, HC Plzeň U20 (Czechia U20)
Jan Kučera plies his trade by causing havoc at the net-front and fighting like hell on puck retreivals. He absolutely revels in trying to tip the puck in the net while screening the goalie’s view. Kučera isn’t an especially skilled forward. He’s more of an energy guy who will empty the tank every shift.
Matěj Bělohlav, F, HC Kometa Brno (Czechia U20)
Matěj Bělohlav is a player who’s willing to play in the middle of the ice to get scoring chances. It’s where he’s at his most effective. He has the strength and speed to get to the front of the net and the skill to finish. This unit can bother opposing defences while doing his work in the offensive zone with either puck possession or using his reach to steal the pucks
Jakub Dvořák, D, Bílí Tygři Liberec (Extraliga)
Jakub Dvořák will be an interesting player to watch at this tournament. He only played 46 percent of his team’s regular season (24 games) and none of the playoffs due to a broken collarbone. Dvořák is eligible for the draft in Nashville, so he will definitely be motivated to show something. The Czech defenceman is a quality skater with good size. He is a particularly offensive-minded player who has no problem carrying the puck up the ice and even fighting for it behind the opponent’s net.
Matteo Kočí, D, HC Energie Karlovy Vary U20 (Czechia U20)
Matteo Kočí is a versatile defenceman who can chip in at either end of the ice; just as likely to create a high-danger chance in the offensive zone as he is to hammer an opponent like a Mac truck. Kočí will be highly motivated at this tournament, too. This is one last chance for him to earn a call at the NHL Draft. He’s skilled enough to deserve it.
Adam Jiříček, D, HC Plzeň U20 (Czechia U20)
Yes, this is the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets first-rounder David Jiříček and yes, they have a lot in common. Adam Jiříček plays for Plzeň and has played 12 games for them this season in Extraliga, recording two assists, all at just 16-years-old. With Jiříček’s style of play, the Czech team will get a huge offensive boost any time he’s on the ice. He plays deep in the zone, and battles for pucks, but what’s important is that he is a very good skater who will make life unbearable for the opposing team. He’ll be constantly coming at them with tremendous speed, dangling past them like it’s nothing and sending shots on goal. Defensively, he has no problem clearing the zone with an accurate pass or simply picking the puck and carrying it up into the neutral zone.
Tomáš Galvas, D, HC Olomouc U20 (Czechia U20)
Tomáš Galvas may also be a familiar name to you. His brother Jakub plays on the Chicago Blackhawks farm team, the Rockford IceHogs. Galvas has played six games in the Extraliga this season for HC Olomouc. This Czech defenceman is a bit undersized but nonetheless very responsible defensively, constantly scanning the area around him and checking on his opponents, trying to get under their skin. Galvas’ skating stride is one of his stronger assets and he’ll use it to support the play offensively.
Josef Eichler, D, HC Plzeň U20 (Czechia U20)
Josef Eichler is another versatile defender on this Czech blue line. He’ll be able to hold it down defensively at one end of the ice and quarterback the power play when the puck shifts to the offensive zone. He’s an enthusiastic physical player, too. Eichler could be put in the role of doing all the dirty work and helping the team in all important ways. Oh, and one more thing: This defender loves to shoot the puck.
Jan Skok, D, HC Plzeň U20 (Czechia U20)
Jan Skok should be able to handle himself at the U18s, seeing as he’s already played against men in the Czech Extraliga. He played six games with HC Plzeň’s men’s team at the age of 16. I don’t expect any offensive outbursts and scoring from Skok if he gets into the lineup. His main job will be not to keep the puck in the defensive zone for too long and on the other hand to control the blue line in the offensive zone. The key for him is to play a tough game; 1-on-1 battles, that kind of tough hockey.
Dominik Badinka, Jokerit U20, U20 SM-sarja
Dominik Badinka is the only defenceman plying their trade in Finland. He’s more of a defensive defenseman, especially capable of clearing the forecheck, playing a hard physical game and stealing the puck with his long reach. He’s going to make the Czech net-front a battleground. Badinka is a poised player with the puck, too.
Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
The top goaltending prospect in the upcoming draft, Michael Hrabal is a 6-foot-6, 209-pound giant in goal. Hrabal should be one of the best goalies in the tournament. He’s very fast and athletic. He can move very quickly as he reads the play in front of him well. The Czech goalie has quick reactionary movements and extends out his leg pad at the right moment.
Adam Dybal, G, Karlovy Vary U20 (Czechia U20)
Adam Dybal has had a successful season in the Karlovy Vary U20 team. He’ll be a backup who will step in if the coaches decide to give another goalie a game or if Hrabal gets injured. Dybal isn’t exactly a star prospect, but he brings calmness to the net. He’s not as agile, but he tends to go low, so he can react quickly.
Jan Kavan, Kometa Brno U20, Czechia U20
Jan Kavan should serve as the team’s third goalie. Kavan is the goalkeeper of Kometa Brno U20. He’s not the biggest goalie, but he’s pretty quick in his moves between the pipes, making some nice pad saves while also making quality saves with his glove. The Czech goalie finished the season with a 2.92 GAA and a great .923 save percentage.