Projected World Cup Roster: Czech Republic

Sean Reynolds reports from Dallas where players comment on the dream of representing their country in hockey. will be projecting rosters for September’s World Cup of Hockey between now and when teams announce their first 16 selections beginning March 2. Today: Czech Republic.

Remember when the Czechs were a hockey power?

Whether it was the 1976 Canada Cup, when Darryl Sittler solved goalie Vladimir Dzurilla for that gold medal game winner, or 1998 in Nagano, when Dominik Hasek tended the Czechs to Olympic gold, the Czechs used to be a power.

Now? Not so much.

In fact, we would say that in the eight-team World Cup of Hockey, Team Czech Republic would be ecstatic to get out of Group A, which includes Canada, the USA and Team Europe. But it’s hard to see that happening, with a roster that may not have the foot speed to keep up in a tournament that most believe will be less rugged and more about a warp speed game.

Watch: World Cup of Hockey Roster Announcement | March 2 at 4 p.m. ET on Sportsnet

Jaromir Jagr is an example of an ultra-skilled player who might struggle to slow the game down to his speed, which is why we’ve left veterans Radim Vrbata and Ales Hemsky off our roster. Boston draft pick and ex-St. Louis Blue Vladimir Sobotka is enjoying a good season in the Kontinental Hockey League with Avangard Omsk, and he should bolster the Czech roster.

There is some light on the Czech horizon too. Tomas Hertl is just 22 years old, Ondrej Palat will be 25, and Boston’s David Pastrnak turns 20 in May. We’ve added former Flame Roman Cervenka to the roster as well. Despite the fact he couldn’t play in the NHL he’s forged a very good career overseas. Again, his speed can be questioned, as we recall from his short stint in Calgary.

On defence the Czechs have too many righties. Ladislav Smid, who hasn’t played much in Calgary these past two seasons with a neck issue, shoots left, and we’ve added Jakub Jerabek to the team. He’s got 27 assists with Plzen in the Czech League this season, and this group dearly needs a dose of skill among the Roman Polaks and Radko Gudas’ on its back end.

In goal, these Czechs have never been back to the level of a Hasek. Detroit’s Petr Mrazek will give them a puncher’s chance, backed up by serial backup Michal Neuvirth of Philadelphia.

Head Coach: Josef Jandac

GM/Executive Committee Members: Martin Rucinsky (GM), Milan Hnilicka (assistant GM), Jan Cerny (Director of Operations) Jiri Fischer (head scout).

Projected Roster

Line 1: *Ondrej Palat *David Krejci *Jaromir Jagr
Line 2: Jiri Hudler *Tomas Plekanec *Jakub Voracek
Line 3: *David Pastrnak *Martin Hanzal *Michael Frolik
Line 4: Andrej Nestrasil Vladimir Sobotka *Tomas Hertl
Extra *Roman Cervenka

1st pair: *Radko Gudas *Andrej Sustr
2nd pair: *Marek Zidlicky Zbynek Michalek
3rd pair: Jakub Jerabek Roman Polak
Extra Ladislav Smid

Starter: *Petr Mrazek
Backup: *Michal Neuvirth
Reserve: Ondrej Pavelec

* Denotes Group of 16 named on March 2.

Names that could still make things interesting:

RW Radim Vrbata, RW Ales Hemsky, RW Dimitrij Jaskin, LW Tomas Fleischmann, LW Milan Michalek, LW Jiri Tlusty.