My look at the top-contender nations for an imaginary 2022 NHL Olympics concludes with the Czech Republic. Read my projected lineups for the other five nations here:
How telling is it that I’m confidently including the Czechs among the six legit gold-medal hopefuls? To me, the 2022 Czech club would be its most competitive entry in a best-on-best tourney in many years. The Czechs haven’t won a World Championship medal since 2012 and an Olympic medal since 2006. This new team, armed with a shockingly dangerous forward corps, could be a podium threat. The question is whether it could overcome a subpar D-corps relative to the other alpha-dog nations.
Special thanks to veteran Czech hockey writer Pavel Barta for offering his consulting expertise on this roster. Ages as of Feb. 4, 2022.
FORWARD LINE 1: Jakub Vrana (25), David Krejci (35), David Pastrnak (25)
Pastrnak and Krejci maintain their Boston connection and have spent numerous spurts as linemates. Vrana’s game exploded this season, and he might be closer to his ceiling as a scorer by 2022.
FORWARD LINE 2: Dominik Kubalik (26), Tomas Hertl (28), Jakub Voracek (32)
A nicely balanced line here. Kubalik was the NHL’s most productive 5-on-5 goal-scorer this season on a per-60-minutes basis. Voracek is the playmaker on this line, while Hertl provides the two-way element.
FORWARD LINE 3: Ondrej Palat (30), Jan Kovar (31), Martin Necas (23)
Kovar has been a hit everywhere but the NHL, so the Czech team won’t hold it against him. He wore a letter on the 2018 Olympic squad. He gets a good defensive winger in Palat and a rising scorer with upside in Necas as a complementary piece.
FORWARD LINE 4: Dmitrij Jaskin (28), Radek Faksa (28), Ondrej Kase (26)
Domink Simon could slot in here as well if the Czechs want more of a pure checking unit, but Kase’s high shot volume keeps this line dangerous at the other end of the ice.
SPARE FORWARDS: Dominik Simon (27), Milan Gulas (36)
Keeping the young Filips, Zadina and Chytil, off the team was painful, but the Czechs already have a lot of scoring in the top six. Simon can fit anywhere in the lineup. Gulas, the Czech Extraliga scoring champ three years running, is the homer pick. Most European squads have at least one – like when Petr Nedved made the 2014 Olympic squad in his early 40s.
Final cuts: Filip Zadina, Pavel Zacha, Filip Chytil, David Kampf, Martin Kaut, Michael Frolik
DEFENSE PAIR 1: Michal Kempny (31), Filip Hronek (24)
Chemistry wise, Kempny should mesh well with Hronek, as Kempny has extensive experience working with a push-the-play offensive defenseman in John Carlson with the Washington Capitals.
DEFENSE PAIR 2: Jakub Jerabek (30), Radko Gudas (31)
Jerabek has a bit of NHL experience, including a 2018 Stanley Cup ring, and his puck movement can complement Gudas’ vicious physical play.
DEFENSE PAIR 3: Radim Simek (29), Andrej Sustr (31)
This pair functions similarly to the second. Simek doesn’t wow with his offensive game, but he’s mobile. The towering Sustr repped the Czechs in best-on-best play at the 2016 World Cup.
SPARE DEFENSEMEN: Jan Rutta (31), Jan Kolar (35)
It might make more sense for the Czechs to keep a more defensive D-man on the bench in case of emergency, such as Libor Hajek, but I can’t imagine Kolar getting left off the team. He’s been too much of an international mainstay. He was an alternate captain at the 2018 Olympics.
Final cuts: Libor Hajek, David Musil, Ladislav Smid
STARTING GOALTENDER: Pavel Francouz (31)
Not only did Francouz start for the Czechs at the most recent Olympics and excel at the 2019 World Championship, but he also established himself as a legit NHL goalie this season in Colorado.
BACKUP GOALTENDERS: David Rittich (29), Roman Will (29)
The seasoned and entertaining Rittich has as good of a chance as Francouz to start in 2022. Will has been one of Europe’s best pro goalies for a while. He won the top goaltender award in the Extraliga last season and was great for Rogle in the SHL this season.
Final cuts: Patrik Bartosak, Petr Mrazek, Dominik Hrachovina, Jakub Kovar
ROSTER AT A GLANCE
Spares: Simon, Gulas
Spares: Rutta, Kolar
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