With Olympic participation reportedly included in the NHL and NHLPA's modified collective bargaining agreement, it's time for hockey fans to think about what the tournament may look like. This edition forecasts Team Czech Republic's roster.
The Czech Republic is laden with NHL talent but void of relative star power. The Czechs have struggled on the world stage recently, failing to earn a medal in any major men's competition since capturing a bronze at the 2012 World Championship. That said, they do have an impressive history, including a gold-medal triumph at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and a run of three consecutive world titles from 1999-2001.
Head coach: Milos Raha
Raha led the Czechs to a semifinals appearance at the 2019 World Championship and was subsequently labeled as the coach for the 2020 tournament before it was canceled. With no international hockey on the horizon, it's safe to assume he can hold his post behind the bench for Beijing in 2022.
|Jakub Voracek (32)||Tomas Hertl (28)||David Pastrnak (25)|
|Jakub Vrana (25)||David Krejci (35)||Dominik Kubalik (26)|
|Ondrej Palat (30)||Radek Faksa (28)||Martin Necas (23)|
|Filip Chytil (21)||Pavel Zacha (24)||Ondrej Kase (26)|
(All ages as of February 2022)
Extra: Filip Zadina (22)
Pastrnak is the leader up front, as the Bruins star is unquestionably the team's most dynamic forward. This season's "Rocket" Richard winner is a legitimate threat to score every time he's on the ice, and you can expect him to log major minutes in a tournament with little margin for error. Alongside Pastrnak are a pair of strong options on the top line in Hertl, who was enjoying another terrific year in 2019-20 before suffering a knee injury, and Voracek, who's made a career out of setting up his teammates.
The Czech Republic's second line is anchored by Krejci, who might not be the most prolific producer in 2022, but he'll still be smart and reliable enough on both ends of the ice to be trusted in a large role. Flanking him are two of the NHL's most efficient goal-scorers this past season. Kubalik ranked first among all regular skaters with 1.7 goals per 60 minutes, while Vrana was fourth at 1.55.
The bottom six is comprised primarily of players that hold checking roles in the NHL. However, the Czechs have two enticing young options in Necas and Chytil that could make major developmental strides by the time Beijing rolls around. If they blossom into legitimate offensive difference-makers, this forward corps will look incredibly well-rounded.
Just missed the cut: Dominik Simon, Michael Frolik, Tomas Nosek
|Michal Kempny (31)||Filip Hronek (24)|
|Radim Simek (29)||Radko Gudas (31)|
|Libor Hajek (24)||Jan Rutta (31)|
Extra: Roman Polak (35)
This squad's main area of concern is its blue line. Comprised of the only seven Czech defenders to suit up in the NHL this past season, this unit doesn't appear fit to shut down the stacked attacking squads boasted by the likes of Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and Russia.
Hronek - who posted impressive numbers on a dreadful Red Wings team in 2019-20 - is the most promising piece on the back end. The 22-year-old notched 32 points in 65 games while averaging nearly 24 minutes per night against opponents' top lines. If he continues on his current trajectory, he'll be the anchor of a defensive corps lacking any additional standout players.
|David Rittich (29)|
|Petr Mrazek (30)|
Extra: Pavel Francouz (31)
The Czechs don't have a bonafide No. 1 option in goal, but they can carry three serviceable options between the pipes. Rittich gets the nod solely based on the fact that he's a full-time starter. That said, he'll need to post better numbers over the next two years to earn his spot.
Mrazek hasn't been consistent enough over the last five seasons to have the edge, while Francouz - the little-known Avalanche backup - could be the dark horse in this race. The 30-year-old has posted a .923 save percentage through his first 36 NHL appearances, and if he comes close to maintaining that number, the Czech Republic may be forced to hand him the reins.