The Czech Republic’s forward group is just as notable for who isn’t playing than who is. 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr will not play for the Czech Republic, marking the first time the Czechs will be without their living legend in a senior tournament since 2013, and the first time in a World Cup of Hockey (Jagr played in the tournament’s first two iterations in 1996 and 2004).
In fact, the Czechs will be without two of the six highest-scoring Czech forwards from this past season, and five of the top 15 scorers from the Czech Republic. Jiri Hudler, Tomas Fleischmann, and Radim Vrbata have combined to play for their country 65 times at World Championships or Olympics, while Andrej Nestrasil has 43 points in 109 games.
Despite those omissions, the Czechs still have a pretty potent forward group, including 9 players who scored 10 or more goals this season. They’re going to need to channel every bit of that firepower if they are to advance out of a loaded Group A.
Czech Republic Forwards
Michael Frolik, Calgary Flames
Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
David Krejci, Boston Bruins
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
Vladimir Sobotka, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars
Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars
Dmitrij Jaskin, St. Louis Blues
Milan Michalek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Players to Watch
This is a Sharks blog, so of course we’re mentioning a Shark! With Jagr out, Hertl was actually the leading goal scorer of all the NHL players on this roster last season. With regular centers David Krecji, Martin Hanzal, Tomas Plekanec, and Vladimir Sobotka all on the roster, Hertl will likely see a lot of time on the wing. He probably won’t find the same chemistry with the Czech centers that he has with Joe Thornton, but he’s somebody Europe, Canada, and the United States will need to account for when he’s on the ice.
What a difference a year made for Jakub Voracek. Voracek had his worst offensive season since 2011-12 last year, just one year removed from making the league’s first All-Star team. His career-low 5.2% shooting percentage likely had something to do with his decline, which was nearly five percentage points below his career average. He was exceptionally unlucky last year, as he generated just eight less shots than the previous season, and scored half as many goals (11). Voracek’s a prime candidate to bounce back this year, and we could see the beginning of that in the World Cup. He’ll play big minutes for the Czechs, and need to regain his 2014-15 form if the Czechs are to advance.
Will he actually play for the Blues, who retain his NHL rights, this season? Regardless of the answer to that question, the Czechs’ international man of mystery is one of their most intriguing players this tournament because we haven’t seen much of him the last two years. He’s scored 72 points in 97 games with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk over the last two years, and posted 33 points in 61 games in his last season in the NHL. Sobotka’s a solid two-way player, and was a positive possession player relative to his teammates in seven NHL seasons. The Czechs will greatly benefit from his versatility, and a big tournament could be a sign of things to come in his return to North America.