Monday, 15 January 2018

Czechs Name Their Olympians

With the Canadian men's Olympic team named and the vast majority of the American men's Olympic team named, the world waited with anticipation for the remaining countries to submit their Olympic lists as the tournament begins to take form. We're less than a month away from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, so expect a number of teams to begin making announcements over the next couple of weeks. With no NHL players to name, who will make each team's list?

The Czech Republic announced their team today, and the list is posted below.
There are some recognizable names on that list from their time in North America. Most notably, Martin Erat, Jiri Sekac, and Roman Cervenka should be the stand-out Czech players in South Korea, but there are some players whose North American exploits may not have them as A-list stars but should still make them solid players. Michal Jordan had a solid run with the Carolina Hurricanes organization, Tomas Kundratek was a key component with Washington and Hershey, Jakub Nakladal and Roman Horak spent time in the Flames' system, goaltender Patrik Bartosak tended the nets in the LA Kings' system, and Michal Repik spent time with the Florida Panthers and its affiliates.

On top of those players, Jan Kovar has been a top-flight player in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Milan Gulas has been a solid offensive player for Färjestad in the Swedish Elite League, and netminder Dominik Furch has been the starting netminder for the KHL's Avangard Omsk for the last three seasons.

In other words, this Czech team isn't just smoke and mirrors.

Notably, one 45 year-old Czech superstar opted not to play in these Olympics, but I'm not sure this team really needs a Jaromir Jagr. Yes, his inclusion would be a major lift for everyone on this squad, but there is some good to great talent still on this Czech squad.

If you were asking me, I'd wager that one of Cervenka, Kovar, or Sekac will lead the Czechs in scoring. Like we've seen with the Czechs in other tournaments, their top players can likely run-and-gun with the big teams in this tournament, but the scoring falls off pretty hard after Repik and Erat, and those two weren't known for their explosive scoring in the NHL as it is.

In saying that, though, I think the Czechs have assembled a very solid team. They have a good defensive core with Jordan, Kundratek, and Nakladal carrying the bulk of the ice-time, and their goaltending will be solid but unspectacular. Scoring may be their Achilles' heel, but the Czechs might be able to score just enough and defend like demons to shock a few nations.

Of course, the house could collapse at any moment if things unravel as we've seen happen at a number of international tournaments, but the Czechs, at least on paper, look like they could be medalists based on this squad. In reality, they'll most likely end up in fourth- or fifth-place, but the Czechs could just shock one nation in one game and find themselves competing for a medal.

We'll have to see if they play for the Czech-mate.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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