Monday, April 30, 2012

Nedvěd and Mrázek highlight Czech roster for Worlds

This past weekend, the Czech national team won the Euro Hockey Tour, a prospect that looked unlikely earlier in the year. However, by taking 7 of a possible 9 points, they overtook Sweden and Russia, whom they beat on Thursday and Sunday, respectively, to win their first title in the 14-year history of the unofficial European championship.

At age 40, Petr Nedvěd will make his World Championship
debut. Photo: Hakan Nordstom, AP.
The following day, they released a list of 25 names that will accompany the team to Stockholm, where they will begin play at the World Championship on Friday against Denmark. As always, the World Championship roster is a work in progress, as players can be added as they become available following their teams' elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, and a maximum of 20 skaters and three goaltenders are allowed to dress in the tournament.

As things currently stand, the Czech roster is light on NHLers, relying heavily on players from European leagues, particularly the Czech Extraliga and KHL, unsurprisingly, but it also includes defencemen Tomáš Mojžíš and Zdeněk Kutlák, who play in Finland and Switzerland, respectively.

Up front, two additions that did not play this past weekend include dispatched NHLers David Krejčí and Milan Michálek. Michálek played on last year's squad, while Krejčí was a member of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. 

"We have the idea to put them both together," said coach Alois Hadamczik about the new additions. "With whom, it remains to be seen. I have to say that our plans have been slightly affected by the quality performance against Russia."

Two of the most eye-catching names on the roster are the oldest and youngest players, Petr Nedvěd and Petr Mrázek, neither of whom were considered likely candidates to be in this position at the start of the season. Until this season, neither was even eligible to represent the Czech Republic internationally.

That being said, Nedvěd's inclusion on the roster was anything but a surprise when it was finally announced. The 40-year-old led the Czech Extraliga in scoring this past season and was named league MVP. In November, he represented the Czech Republic for the first time since 1996 and, in 12 international games this season, recorded 8 points. His lengthy absence from the Czech national team roster is due to the fact that he represented Canada, the country he defected to as a teenager, at the 1994 Winter Olympics. After that, the dual citizen had to play three consecutive seasons in the country of his birth to be re-eligible to play for them in an IIHF championship, which became the case after last season. At 40 years and five months, Nedvěd becomes the oldest player to participate in his first IIHF World Championship.

The outstanding goalie of the WJC, Petr Mrázek is now on the
A-team roster. Photo: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal.
The youngest player on the roster has never played internationally for any other country, but until last December, he couldn't play for the Czechs. Goaltender Petr Mrázek left his Vítkovice club in 2009, at the age of 17, to join the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League. Despite solidly defending the goal of the club in the Canadian junior circuit, his angry Vítkovice squad blocked his attempts to play internationally for his homeland, insisting his transfer was incomplete and demanding compensation. 

After two years had passed, the Czech Ice Hockey Association intervened in the dispute, helping to negotiate a settlement under which Mrázek would be allowed to represent the Czech Republic at the most recent World Junior Championships. The goalie made the most of the opportunity, backstopping the Czech Republic to a quarterfinal birth for the first time in four years and being named the tournament's outstanding goalkeeper.

Mrázek's spot on the roster comes at the expense of Tomáš Pöpperle, who had a remarkable season in goal for Sparta Praha, but was clearly the third man on the goaltending totem pole, and his future on this year's team seemed certain after he failed to appear in the final leg of the Euro Hockey Tour.

Even Mrázek's appearance in any games seems unlikely, as the top two spots seem to be sewn up by Jakub Štěpánek and Jakub Kovář. In all probability, both will see action. However, it's unclear at this point who will get the starting assignment when the games become crucial.

As for future additions, a number of talented Czechs still remain in the second round of the NHL playoffs, including Jaromír Jágr, Pavel Kubina, Jakub Voráček, Tomáš Fleischmann, Patrik Eliáš, Petr Sýkora, Marek Židkický, Martin Hanzál, Rostislav Klesla, Roman Polák, Vladimír Sobotka and Roman Hamrlík. Any whose teams are eliminated could become candidates to join the team.

Below is the current roster of the Czech national team and its Pool B schedule at the 2012 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki and Stockholm.


Jakub Štěpánek
 (St. Petersburg, KHL), Jakub Kovář (České Budějovice), Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL).


Petr Čáslava
 (CSKA Moscow, KHL), Ondřej Němec (Cherepovets, KHL), Miroslav Blaťák, Jakub Nakládal (both Ufa, KHL), Jakub Kindl (Detroit, NHL), Lukáš Krajíček (Minsk, KHL), Tomáš Mojžíš (Turku, Finland), Zdeněk Kutlák (Ambri-Piotta, Switzerland).


Tomáš Plekanec
 (Montréal, NHL), David Krejčí (Boston, NHL), Milan Michálek (Ottawa, NHL), Aleš Hemský (Edmonton, NHL), Michael Frolík (Chicago, NHL), Tomáš Vincour (Dallas, NHL), Lukáš Kašpar, Jiří Novotný (both Astana, KHL), Petr Průcha (St. Petersburg, KHL), Jakub Petružálek (Khabarovsk, KHL), Petr Nedvěd (Bílí Tygři Liberec), Petr Koukal (Pardubice), Michal Vondrka (Slavia Praha), Jan Kovář (Plzeň 1929), Petr Tenkrát (Sparta Praha).

Coaches: Alois Hadamczik and Josef Paleček

Czech Republic "Group B" schedule at the IIHF World Championships. All games will be played in Stockholm:

Friday, May 4:

16:15  Czech Republic - Denmark

Saturday, May 5:
20:15  Czech Republic - Sweden

Monday, May 7:
16:15  Czech Republic - Norway

Thursday, May 10:
20:15  Czech Republic - Latvia

Friday, May 11:
16:15  Czech Republic - Italy

Sunday, May 13:
16:15  Czech Republic - Russia

Tuesday, May 15:
16:15  Czech Republic - Germany

No comments:

Post a Comment