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Prospector Files: Top Czech duo playing in Sweden

Friday, 18.10.2013 / 10:30 PM / Future Watch
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Prospector Files: Top Czech duo playing in Sweden
Prospector Files: Czech prospects find success in Sweden, MacMaster builds his draft stock and Hicketts adds to WHL legacy.

Don't think San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl flew under the radar in his draft year after posting impressive numbers for Slavia in the Czech Republic during the 2011-12 season.

In fact, the gurus at NHL Central Scouting had Hertl fifth on their final release of international skaters in April of 2012. He was deemed a potential first-line candidate and was graded as "excellent" in two categories, stickhandling and scoring touch, before being selected No. 17 by the Sharks.

Following Hertl's remarkable four-goal outburst against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8, NHL.com reached out to NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb in an attempt to get a handle on the next wave of top prospects born in the Czech Republic and eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Interestingly, Stubb acknowledged that the two top Czech natives aren't even playing in their own country. Instead, forwards Jakub Vrana and David Pastrnak have decided to hone their craft in Sweden.

"Usually, promising Czech talents move to North America, but these two are trying to reach the NHL via Sweden," Stubb told NHL.com. "Both are exceptional talents."

Stubb predicts both players will earn roster spots for the Czech Republic at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden.

Vrana, born in Prague, took his game to Linkoping for the 2011-12 season and played on Linkoping's under-18 team, scoring 28 goals in 32 games. He produced 20 goals in 32 games for Linkoping's under-20 team in 2012-13 and is playing in Sweden's top division this season.

"He plays with determination and drive, has an excellent work ethic and is a very fast skater with excellent all-round skills," Stubb said of Vrana. "He's got OK size [6-foot, 183 pounds] and strength. But he's able to control the game and create a lot of scoring possibilities with his quick moves."

Pastrnak, born in Havirov, came to Sodertalje at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, made the under-20 team and produced 12 goals and 29 points in 36 games in Sweden's junior league. He's a regular with Sodertalje in Sweden's second division this season and has two goals and eight points in 11 games.

"David is an offensive-minded player with smooth hands, great instincts and a very quick shot," Stubb said. "He's an excellent skater with speed and acceleration. He's very smart on ice, but will need more weight and strength to excel at the next level."

'MASTER'-FUL IN CAMROSE

Tanner MacMaster of the Camrose Kodiaks may wind up being one of the smaller blue-chip prospects drafted from the Alberta Junior Hockey League next spring, but don't let his 5-foot-9.25, 156-pound frame fool you.

"He'll be ranked right up there with some of the best to ever come out of Camrose," Kodiaks coach Boris Rybalka told NHL.com. "But he also has an added feature and that's the tenacious side of him. Tanner is not afraid and sometimes we even have to pull him back. He just has God-given talent. He loves the game and plays with passion, heart and pride."

Rybalka, who has been coaching the Kodiaks since 2000-01, acknowledged that MacMaster has that same unique skill set that past Camrose standouts Joe Colborne (Boston Bruins, 2008, No. 16) and Mason Raymond (Vancouver Canucks, 2005, No. 51) possessed.

"He knows that he has to get stronger, bigger and faster," Rybalka said. "He has that vision that you can't teach and he can make those passes and hit the tape in stride."

MacMaster was the highest-ranked player from the AJHL on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list, earning a "B" rating. He has four goals and 15 points in 14 games for Camrose this season, including three power-play goals and one shorthanded. The 2013-14 campaign is MacMaster's second full season in Camrose.

"Tanner knows what he wants and what it's going to take," Rybalka said. "He's learning about time and management and hard work off the ice. We also made him take public speaking classes, knowing he would be in high demand his draft year. He needed to know how to deal with the media. Some players have it and some don't, and he's a special player."

MacMaster, a Calgary native who is committed to Boston College in the fall of 2014, had 24 goals and 48 points in 54 games with the Kodiaks in 2012-13.

HOOKED ON HICKETTS

As is the case each season, hundreds of scouts will be making their rounds throughout the Western Hockey League in search of a future standout along the blue line.

Victoria Royals defenceman Joe Hicketts caught the eye of a few scouts roaming the Prairies from NHL Central Scouting last season, and has done nothing to disappoint to begin the 2013-14 campaign. In 10 games for Victoria, the 5-7.25, 180-pound left-handed shot has four goals, nine points and a plus-8 rating.

Hicketts was a "B"-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list from the WHL.

"He really thinks the game well and has great anticipation," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He has that unique ability of knowing when to jump into the play and join a rush to create odd-man situations, and his puck retrieval is good."

In his first full season for Victoria last season, the Kamloops, British Columbia, native had six goals and 24 points in 67 games. Hicketts admits he would like to improve his overall speed and quickness in addition to building up his strength.

NHL general managers and scouts might look to find out if Hicketts will be able to run a power play while handling bigger forwards this year. He offers a good shot from the point and makes smart decisions with the puck. He's scored two power-play goals this season.

"He controlled the games I saw when he was on the power play, and actually scored a power-play goal while in front, so he has good eye hand coordination," MacDonald said. "His one-on-one play is adequate and he keeps forwards to the outside."

USHL'S CHANTER ON THE MEND

The Commissioner's Office of the United States Hockey League issued a statement on Monday regarding an unfortunate incident that occurred on Saturday in a game between the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Iowa.

The incident happened 11:58 into the second period when Dubuque defenceman and 2014 draft-eligible prospect Dylan Chanter (6-foot-3.25, 213 pounds) was injured after falling to the ice following a fight with RoughRiders forward Corey Petrash in the corner behind Dubuque's net. According to reports, Chanter lost his balance during the fight and fell backward, hitting his head and dislocating his left shoulder. The University of New Hampshire recruit was not wearing a helmet at the time he fell to the ice since it was dislodged during the altercation.

The native of Armstrong, B.C., was conscious while being attended to by trainers and medical staff before being transported to UnityPoint Health/St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids for further evaluation and testing.

"Minor setback for a major comeback," Chanter tweeted on Wednesday.

The full release from the office of USHL commissioner Skip Prince can be accessed here: http://www.ushl.com/news.php?action=detail&news_id=2016

EGGLESTON TO ENTER MASSACHUSETTS HHOF

Gary Eggleston, who dedicated 31 years of service to NHL Central Scouting before retiring after the 2011-12 season, will be inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 13 in a ceremony to be held at the Montvale Plaza in Stoneham, Mass.

"I guess that when you sense that you do somewhat work in a kind of isolation [as a scout], you just never know who notices," Eggleston told NHL.com. "So this is a reward from those folks who have noticed, and are highly regarded by me. As far as what this means to me, it's an incredible honor to be included with all the members being inducted this year."

Eggleston will be enshrined alongside Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr, Dartmouth College All-American and 1948 Olympian Joe Riley, Belmont Hill coach Ken Martin, Boston University and Beanpot public address announcer Jim Prior, sled hockey pioneer Dale Wise, Brockton youth hockey builder Marion Sturdevant and Massachusetts hockey builder Carol Champagne.

Eggleston, recognized in 2010 as one of hockey's 50 most influential people in New England by New England Hockey Journal, was one of the first to scout Chris Drury when he starred at Fairfield Prep in Connecticut, Brian Leetch at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut and John LeClair at Bellows Free Academy in Vermont.

Soon after his time as a scout with the Detroit Red Wings, Eggleston was contacted by then-director of NHL Central Scouting Jim Gregory.

Gregory hired Eggleston as a part-time scout in 1981 and made him full time in 1989. As a full-time employee, Eggleston traveled all over North America, making at least two trips each season through the three major Canadian junior leagues, while also viewing all U.S. high schools, colleges and budding prospects in the United States Hockey League.

PROSPECTS ON THE RISE

1. Nick Ritchie, Peterborough Petes (OHL): The 6-2.25, 231-pound left wing sustained a separated shoulder that sidelined him several games last season, but he managed 18 goals and 35 points in 41 games in his second season with the Petes. According to Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr, Ritchie plays a game similar to that of Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. He has five goals and eight points in nine games this season after entering the year as an "A"-rated prospect on Central Scouting's players to watch list from the OHL.

"He has strength and a good reach; he has a power-forward game and is capable of leading a rush," Marr told NHL.com. "He has good speed, quickness and excellent puck protection and is hard to check. He gets to the dirty areas and knows how to draw opposing defenders and get that snap shot through a screen. He just needs to showcase that consistency in his draft year."

2. Ondrej Kase, Chomutov Jr. (CZREP-JR.): The 5-11, 165-pound right wing is opening some eyes in the Czech Republic. He's produced two goals and four points in 12 games for Chomutov. In the Under-18 World Championship, he was named one of the top three players for his country after scoring one goal and three points in five games. He entered this season as a "B"-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list of skaters from the Czech Republic in September.

"Ondrej is a good mobile skater with speed and acceleration," Stubb told NHL.com. "He's a very good playmaker with excellent puck-handling skills. He's tiny and rather light, and he needs to bulk up. But he's still a fearless competitor who leads by example and should be on the roster for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship in December."

3. Chase Perry, Wenatchee Wild (NAHL): The 6-2, 191-pound left-handed goalie from Andover, Minn. is quietly gaining plenty of attention in the North America Hockey League. In six games for Wenatchee this season, Perry is 3-3-0 with one shutout, a 1.79 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Perry, who entered the season with a "B" rating on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list from the NAHL, has allowed 10 goals on 151 shots.

"He's a pretty good prospect," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He's got good size, great instincts and exceptional butterfly and five-hole coverage. He absorbed high shots like a vacuum when I saw him last weekend. He's also a very strong skater and his lateral movements are controlled with decent overall quickness."

Dylan Larkin: Draft dandy of the week

A good two-way center with high-end offensive capability, center Dylan Larkin of the United States Under-18 National Team Development Program is a prime candidate as an early-round choice in the 2014 NHL Draft.

"He's probably one of the best skaters we've had come through in a long time," U-18 coach Danton Cole told NHL.com. "But he's also diligent; he's interested in his defensive zone. He wants to be a Steve Yzerman-type player."

Larkin, who received an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list of players from the United States Hockey League, leads the U.S. U-18 NTDP with eight goals and ranks second with 11 points through eight games this season. Against teams in the USHL, the native of Waterford, Mich., has totaled seven points and a team-leading four goals.

Larkin also leads the way against college competition with four goals this season, and he competed in the USA/CCM All-American Top Prospects Game in September, connecting for a goal and one assist to help Team Mark Johnson to a 5-2 victory over Team Joe Mullen.

"He skates well and has great closing speed, uses his body well," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "He has skill, but is not afraid of using physical play for puck possession. He has good vision and playmaking."

Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer

2014 FLAMES PICKS
SAM BENNETT
CENTRE - CGY
Round 1 - 4th Overall
MASON MCDONALD
GOALTENDER - CGY
Round 2 - 34th Overall
HUNTER SMITH
RIGHT WING - CGY
Round 2 - 54th Overall
BRANDON HICKEY
DEFENCE - CGY
Round 3 - 64th Overall
ADAM OLLAS MATTSSON
DEFENCE - CGY
Round 6 - 175th Overall
AUSTIN CARROLL
LEFT WING - CGY
Round 7 - 184th Overall