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World Cup of Hockey 2016: Get to know Team Czech Republic’s Defenders

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The Czech’s back-end is easily the weakest in the tournament, but does have a few intriguing pieces.

Czech Republic v USA - 2016 IIHF World Championship Ice Hockey: Quarter Final Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images

While the Czechs have a decent forward group, the same can’t be said about their defensemen. In fact, this is likely the worst defensive group in the entire tournament.

The advanced stats don’t paint a pretty picture. Of the six Czech defensemen who’ve played in the NHL, only two have posted positive possession numbers relative to their teammates in their careers, and just three have posted positive scoring chance for percentages according to Corsica Hockey.

Put simply, this is a group that is likely to be overwhelmed in the group stage. Canada, the United States, and even Team Europe’s forwards will likely be too much to handle, given the Czechs’ collection of talent. Still, there are some intriguing pieces, and in a short tournament variance is certainly possible. But, given this defensive group, I wouldn’t bet on the Czech Republic doing much in the World Cup of Hockey.

Czech Republic Defensemen

Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers

Michal Kempny, Chicago Blackhawks

Roman Polak, Toronto Maple Leafs

Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning

Michal Jordan, Free Agent

Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes

Jakub Nakladal, Free Agent

Players to Watch

Roman Polak

As Sharks fans are aware, Polak struggled tremendously in the Stanley Cup Final against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins. While there are a handful of speedsters in the group, particularly on Team Europe, Polak’s skillset is, at least on paper, a much better fit against the styles of the United States and Canada. But, given his performance in the final round of the postseason, I’d imagine opposing coaches will be targeting his pairing.

Andrej Sustr

Sustr was the highest-scoring Czech defender last season, as he scored a career-high 21 points in 77 games. Standing at 6’7”, Sustr will stand out for his size, but he’s not a tremendously physical player, yet is positionally sound. He has strong potential, but as our friends at the Raw Charge wrote this offseason, he’s yet to maximize it:

Sustr will likely be relied upon to carry the offensive load on the blueline. If he can find some consistency in this short tournament, that will go a long way towards solving some of the Czechs’ defensive issues.

Michal Kempny

Like his teammate Vladimir Sobotka, Kempny is set to make the jump from Omsk in the KHL to the NHL’s central division, as he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in May. He scored 21 points in 59 games in the KHL last season, and Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman spoke highly of his two-way skillset:

Kempny will certainly have an opportunity to stand out for the Czechs in this tournament, and his ability in both ends should serve as a steadying presence on their blueline.