We are finally at the 6th and final team of our Olympic projection series. Having covered the top five favourites so far, today we turn our attention to the last member of the big six hockey nations: The Czech Republic.
The story for the Czech squad is a lot like the Russian team. They are very solid up front with some really high end superstar talent. Defense will be the issue for this team, with there just not being the same depth on the blue line that you see from the powerhouse nations.
But more than any of the other power nations, this Czech team has a chance to look totally different two years from now than it does at this moment. There have been a string of Czech born players picked in the first round and in many cases early in the first round. A lot of them are still young, and haven’t quite broken out yet. If some of those guys pan out this team will be good. If they all pan out this team could be really dangerous. Pavel Zacha, Filip Zadina, Martin Necas, and Filip Chytil all fit the bill here.
They probably will not be able to challenge for a medal, but if one of the top five slip up on the wrong day, this team is dangerous enough to pull the upset.
Lets get into the roster.
The easiest pick of this entire series. Pastrnak was third in NHL scoring this year, and is easily the best Czech player in the world. He might be the best right winger in the world as well. Because of the lack of depth for the Czech’s, Pastrnak will need to be his superstar self.
His numbers are not eye popping, but Hertl is an established NHL centre who us big enough to hang with the bigger nations, and is also a good face off option. He will without a doubt be a part of the core of this team.
Well on his way to thirty goals this year before the season was cut short, Vrana is one young and on the upswing of his career. Since entering the league, he scored three, thirteen, twenty four, and twenty five goals (the last in the shortened season). That is exactly the type of linear progression you want to see from young players.
Yes, he will be 32 when the tournament starts, but he was still second among all Czech players this season in scoring. One of the guys who will likely have a letter on their jersey, Voracek is more of a passer at this point in his career, but is still doing that at an elite level. If he can get chemistry at the right time, he can still be a great player in this tournament.
Kubalik scored thirty goals this season with the Blackhawks in his first full season. He will be twenty six when the tournament begins and will be right in his prime. Could be a good candidate to play with Voracek as more of a shoot first type of player who could use a gifted passer to set him up.
Most Likely Will Make It
Zadina is one of the most interesting players in this tournament. Drafted in the top six by the Red Wings in the 2018 draft, and many thought he was going to be a superstar. He was dominant in Junior, and was excellent in international events as well. But Zadina hasn’t yet broke out and really become the dominant force that the Red Wings need. If he can find his potential, and become a star in the next two years, this team gets dangerous. If he remains at his current level, it will be tough for this team to really challenge the big five.
He’s very young. He is 21 now and will be 23 when the tournament begins, but you would have to think he will be on the next version of the squad. In his first full season this year, he was on his way to potentially reaching twenty goals, and showed some great potential. He is horrible on the face off, with just 27% success this year, so he will need to improve on that to be more impactful.
Another high draft pick who hasn’t found that next level in the pros. Zacha is less offensive than a guy like Zadina, but is a big strong player. With the best teams all being so deep up the middle, a guy like Zacha will need to play a checking role, and do it well. He is twenty three, so there is time for him to boost his play, but the time is now for the former sixth overall pick.
Probably the best Czech player of the last decade (aside from maybe Voracek), Krejci is no spring chicken. He will be thirty seven when the tournament begins. Even with his prime being him though, he can still contribute, and had forty three points this year. He will probably wear the “C” or at least an “A” for the team, and guide the young guns.
Another guy on the older side, Palat is an established NHL player who has shown he can hang with the best players in the league for a long time now. On this team, that sort of depth is hard to find, so I think Palat makes the team easily. He might not play in the top six, but he will be on the ice.
Chytil is still 20 years old, so will be super young when the tournament starts. He has had a decent career so far, and might have flirted with twenty goals if the season went all the way this year. He did have high shooting percentages which helped with his goal totals, but as a former first round pick he has high end skill that could translate to elite production. It is the same story as a ton of these Czech players, but if Chytil can take a step forward, then look out.
He will be right in his prime age wise for the tournament, but has failed to really take a big step forward in his NHL career. He has had a hard time staying healthy which makes things harder, and was just sent to the Bruins at the deadline. He is probably the best candidate from this section to jump into the locks section within the next two years.
Nosek will be a fourth liner on this team. He has played in a lot of games for the Golden Knights over the last few years, but has yet to really break out. If there is a young Czech that jumps out in the next two years, Nosek could lose his spot. For now, he is on the team.
Same Story as Nosek. A competent NHL player, but nothing special. Will need to play well to keep this spot.
This group has some nice pieces, but just nowhere near the level of the other nations. They will need to significantly over achieve to have success.
Michael Kempny – Filip Hronek
Hronek is young and was easily the highest offensive producer of the group. However he was pretty dismal defensively and will be in tough against the best lines in hockey. Kempny has been around longer and has been solid defensively for the Capitals. They will both need to have the tournaments of their lives to succeed.
Simek played in forty eight games for the Sharks, registering nine points. Gudas is a journeyman who will be in his thirties at the start of the tournament. They will be in tough. =
Rutta is twenty nine and has played in a little over one hundred career games in the NHL. His numbers have been pretty unremarkable over that span. Polak is a fan favourite for his tough style of play. He will be old when the tournament happens, and will struggle to move the puck, but he is a good penalty killer and a leader for the club.
Some youth! This back end is old, so Hajek helps as he is only 22. Unfortunately he only has thirty three games under his belt. But he can develop in two years right?
Big Save Dave! Regular TWC readers are all familiar with Rittich and his play. He actually might be the perfect goalie for this team for his ability to get hot and make acrobatic saves. He kept the Flames afloat through the year, and is a main reason they are in the playoffs.
Mrazek in particular is solid, but this is Rittich’s job.
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