As it stands the Czech Republic is in its biggest medal drought in their 26-year international hockey tenure. Since claiming gold in the 2010 IIHF World Championships in Cologne, they have won just a bronze at the 2012 IIHF Championships. A long way removed from the country that won six such titles in the span of 14 years.
Czech Hockey is On the Rise
The 90’s And 00’s – The Era That Was
The Glory Years
Anytime you talk NHL legends associated with the 1990’s and 2000’s, you will find yourself talking about a Czech. This era will forever be the golden years of Czech hockey. Jaromir Jagr, Dominik Hasek, Patrik Elias, Petr Nedved, Petr Sykora, Roman Hamrlik and Milan Hejduk are just some of the names that were and still household names. Lead by the enigma that was Jagr, the Czech Republic saw some varied results in the 1990’s. In 1990, 18-year old Jagr helped them bronze in both the under-20 and mens IIHF championships. In 1998, a 26-year old Jagr would guide the Czech team to gold at the first NHL/Olympic co-sanctioned Winter Olympics in Nagano. Claiming the scalps of Canada in the semi-finals and Russia in the final, it was apparent the Czech’s had arrived. Whilst they didn’t have much success at the 1996 World Cup, they would go on to claim the then lesser prize as IIHF champions, Jagr-less with limited roster talent in 1996. This would be the beginning of a run that saw them claim three consecutive titles from 1999 to 2001. They would then win again in 2005 and 2010.
The Current State Of Affairs
Lead by the enigmatic superstar David Pastrnak, the current blend of Czech professionals are exactly that; a blend. A mixture of veterans such as David Krejci and Jakub Voracek and up and coming stars such as highly rated 2018 sixth overall pick Filip Zadina. Not at any stage have the Czech’s had all their star players in prime at the same time this decade. This is reflected at international level by way of poor results. However, with a current wave of players starting to climb to their ceilings, it appears that perhaps the Czech’s may again be an international force.
On The Way Up
Whether it’s been something in the water or better junior development programs, it is evident that the depth in the junior programs is starting to come through. Now established; Martin Necas, Filip Hronek, Jakub Vrana and Dominik Kubalik are begining to come into their own. Teammates Jan Jenik and 2020 NHL prospect Jan Mysak have both had great stints in the Hamilton this season. Mysak is a high-skill scoring winger who is knocking on the door of top 10 status after coming to the OHL post WJC. Jenik, a 2018 third-round draft pick of Arizona was off to an absurd start before injury struck early. Jaromir Pytlik is another 2020 eligible prospect that is also making noise. The big center has been ticking along at just under a point per game with the Greyhounds in the OHL. Pytlik has alot of raw talent and upside and looks to be a fringe first-rounder. Then there is 2021 NHL draft-eligible Stanislav Svozil. The 17-year old blueliner looks to be a versatile two-way defenceman and is currently having a very solid debut Czech Extraliga season and is an early lock for the first two rounds.
So Where Does All This Lead?
Results. Well, at least a better chance of capturing them with the players mentioned above. Will they ever be on par with the likes of Canada, the United States, Finland, Sweden, and Russia? most likely not. But as ever, international tournaments always throw spanners. Fast forward four to five years and we’ll expect to see more competitiveness at the international level and the Czechs could well be that spanner. First, they’ll need to find some first-line center production and more goaltending to compliment the stars they currently have. It is a lot to find, but the rest of the components to be successful are there.