By DraftPro Staff

The IIHF World U18 Hockey Championships just wrapped up last week in Espoo and Vantaa Finland, and was a scouting hotspot as a last big event for NHL staffs who are charged with evaluating the next wave of NHL talent.

There were some bright spots for the upcoming 2024 NHL draft that stood out and some future draft eligibles that really grabbed the spotlight. In this ten-part series we will look at each team entry and provide some review of prospects, how they performed and how their performance might have affected their draft stock. We will start with the last place team, Kazakhstan, and work our way through to the gold medal winning Canadian squad.

The Czechia team came in looking to do some damage with a few big bodies and some highly skilled smaller players who can create offensive chances on their own. Unfortunately they has a bit of a disappointing showing as the consistency in play was just not there as they finished sixth overall.

Here are some player reports from our Liam Staples on the Czechia U18 players that stood out.

#19 F Adam Jecho, Czechia, 6’5” 198 R. 26-03-2006

A powerful skater, his skating has noticeably improved since the 2023 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. He pivots and rotates his body correctly to stay involved in the play. His decision making needs to be quicker, against Canada and Sweden he was a step behind and as a result could not make plays like he wanted too. His offense was limited against Canada because defenders forced him to the outside with the puck, he did not try to carry the puck to the middle of the ice against Canada, he made successful seam passes but need to see him carry the puck into the middle of the ice more. Jecho is skilled with the puck, likes to make plays off the rush and take on opponents one on one. He is not overly physical, would like to see him engage in more body contact to separate the puck from his man. He is strong on the puck, protects the puck well with his wide gait and keeps his feet moving with the puck. Adam established a pre-set deke in the slot area with a quick drag and release. He scored several of his goals in the WHL this past season with his patented quick drag and release. He has a powerful shot from distance, quick release off his blade with solid accuracy capable of beating goaltenders up high on either side of the net. In a game against Sweden, Jecho showed off his impressive pre-set deke by scoring a goal on his off-side with a shot from the slot over the goalie’s shoulder on a two-on-one opportunity. He has great coordination with his body and his stick which can be credited towards his background in playing competitive tennis growing up. The reflexes he learned playing tennis translate on the ice through his quick stops and starts and maintaining control of the puck with his feet. He competes on the ice through hard backchecks and puck protection. He is very effective at using his stick to close the gap between his opponent. He is very disciplined with his stick, he does not fall into his opponent’s trap by lodging his stick into his opponent’s feet or hands causing a penalty. At this year’s tournament Czechia was missing their top-defenceman in Adam Jiricek, fourth ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting, Jecho finished tied for the most points on his team with three points and led his team with two goals in the tournament. Czechia did not have the firepower offensively compared to previous years so the offense was limited but Jecho was one of the more productive players on the Czechia roster this year.  

#23 F Petr Sikora, Czechia, 5’10” 172 L. 02-01-2006

Sikora was named an assistant captain for Czechia at the tournament. He is shifty with his feet, glides through traffic and gets into open areas on the ice by shifting his feet. On the penalty kill he occupies shooting lanes to the net through his shifty lateral skating. Scored his lone goal of the tournament against Sweden on a high blocker shot from the strong side faceoff circle. He took advantage of the space the defense was giving him and he made the Swedes pay for it. Sikora is strong on the puck, plays stronger than what his weight indicates, he can be difficult to knock off the puck as he protects the puck well with his body and opens his skating gait to put more strength into his skating stride. Sikora can play the puck at his feet, he was effective at maintaining possession through excellent footwork. Sikora carries a high intensity to his game, he embraces contact well and adjusts his body position accordingly, he plays at a fast pace, speed is not the only reliable option to his arsenal. He relies more on quick lateral movements and strong edgework to open himself up to the play, his edgework and puck protection made him effective at creating quick looks for his team in the offensive zone. Watching Sikora play you can see him processing the ongoing play on the ice, this allows him to read the developing play making him the first player in position when the puck arrives. There were numerous occurrences of Sikora being in the right position at the right time to retrieve the puck, coming out unexpectedly to intercept passes or close down lanes to the net; this was very noticeable in the quarter-final matchup against rival Slovakia.

#15 D Tomas Galvas, Czechia, 5’10 148 L. 11-02-2006

Galvas played on the top pairing for Czechia in the tournament and looked upon in every situation. He struggled against Canada eliminating opponent’s time and space, he failed to pin players along the boards ending the ongoing cycle. He plays with the positive instincts in the defensive end but lacks size and strength, as his body further develops and adds strength to his body frame, his defensive zone reads should improve. He needs work on his gap control, Galvas does an effective job keeping his opponent to the outside but lacks the strength to eliminate them from the play, as a result, when Galvas falls a step behind his opponent, he falls out of position and cannot make up for it with his size. Watching Galvas execute his puck retrievals is enticing because he finds ways to escape on coming pressure. His skating ability is a strong suit to his game, he is strong on his edges and lateral movements and pivots extremely well with the puck to create time and space for himself. His ability to pivot with the puck adds a sense of poise to his game. He is fairly consistent in completing breakout passes from puck retrievals but he is a smooth skater when he rushes the puck. Galvas quarterbacked the top Czechia power play, he walks the line well and looks to move the puck to his forwards. He does not regularly activate himself into the play often in the offensive zone however, he will pinch in the zone to become an available passing option.

#6 D Jakub Fibigr, Czechia, 6’0” 172 L. 22-07-2006

Fibigr was named an assistant captain for Czechia at the tournament. Jakub played on the top pairings for Czechia throughout the tournament averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game. He was given responsibility as quarterbacking the second power play unit and a key member of Czechia’s penalty kill. Fibigr had rough starts to a couple hockey games. He struggled out of the gate in the contest against Canada. He fanned on a pass to his partner off the opening faceoff leading to a goal-against just a mere seconds into the hockey game. On his next shift, he failed to control a pass in his feet which eventually resulted in putting his team down two goals within two minutes of the game. As the game progressed he began to use his feet more. He uses good angles to keep players to the outside of the ice but struggles with proper body positioning when trying to take away space and disrupting possession. Fibigr is a puck-moving defenceman capable of making short distance passes but inconsistent with his long stretch breakout passes. He prefers to move the puck but can use his feet to elude trouble and find a passing option. Fibigr finished the tournament with one goal, his goal was a timely goal in the quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia to bring his team to within one in the third period.

#22 F Maxmilian Curran, Czechia, 6’3” 185 L. 27-08-2006

Standing at 6’3” Curran patrols the middle of the ice as a two-way forward. He drops down below the dots to provide defensive support but still has areas of improvement in the defensive end. His decision making needs to be quicker in the defensive zone. Czechia plays a man-on-man style defense, when someone loses their man, Curran needs to make quicker decisions to either cover for his teammate or stick to his man, oftentimes he will hesitate and that quick hesitation provides space to the net for his opponent. Skating is another area that Curran needs to improve, he is not a physical presence nor is he a bull in a China shop when it comes to competing for loose pucks in the corners, he is lacking foot speed and he is weak on his edges. The area he excels is in front of the net. He occupies the net front presence role on the first power play unit. He plays with good instincts down low through carrying the puck to the front of the net and absorbing contact, if he sees the net is covered he will try to move the puck cross ice. Curran finished tied for the most points for his team with three points in the tournament. He scored his lone goal of the tournament using his instincts to move the puck down low to the front of the net to his teammate and timed his net drive perfectly to slide in the rebound. He finished the tournament with two primary assists, the timing of his points were clutch for his team as he scored the first goal of the hockey game in the preliminary round against Switzerland and recorded the primary assist on the first goal of the game against Sweden, both games Curran got on the statsheet Czechia would go on to win.

#9 F Adam Benak, Czechia, 5’7” 152. L. 10-04-2007

An underage forward that plays with explosive speed, Benak played on the top forward line for Czechia and finished tied for the most points on the team. Benak’s short skating stride allows him to reach full speed in minimal strides. He possesses break away speed with an elusive first step, he builds up speed through his windup at the start of his turn and by the time he completes the turn and gathers the puck he has reached maximal speed. Listed at 5’7” 152 lbs, he struggled with overcoming physicality, defenders were able to close down the gap on him quickly and erase him from the play through body positioning. Defenders were able to box him out in the corners and use their body to protect the puck. For a smaller player with quick speed, Benak showed higher levels of compete compared to others on his team, he supported his teammates in board battles and dropped low in the defensive end to take away passing lanes in front of the net. He has silky hands, made nice saucer passes to teammates in traffic, with his skillset, when he adds more muscle to his body, his passing ability and coordination should improve. He is not afraid to let shots go from distance, he scored his lone goal of the tournament by shooting a puck on net from distance and outworking his opponent to collect his own rebound. Benak finished the tournament with one goal and two assists. As an underager Benak played top line minutes for his team, played on the top power play unit and was put on the ice in crucial situations for his team. Benak will be a vital returning piece offensively for Czechia next season in his draft year at the 2025 IIHF U18-World Hockey Championship.

Photos courtesy IIHF.com


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