As promised, here is part 1 of the interview I just conducted with Radim Jelinek, Czech/Slovak scout for Red Line Report in his 9th season with the independent draft review. In his own words:
I´m based on the east of Czech republic covering all action in Czech republic and Slovakia. I scout professional and junior (U-20, U-18) leagues in both countries and take all international actions held in both countries. Plus if there is any interesting event/prospect in neighboring countries(Germany, Austria, Poland) than I even go there to cover it.
As mentioned in the previous post, Radim has a very good reputation in the business and has a nice eye for talent. I'll let him do the rest of the talking.
Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: How would you characterize the 2011 NHL Draft class from Eastern Europe based on what you have seen so far? How does it compare to past classes in terms of depth?
Radim Jelinek: It´s poor year for Russia unless there are some hidden gems deep in Russia, prospects who haven´t appeared on international stage yet. It´s necessary to say that this year´s crop would be much better with all Russians already playing in CHL ((Vladislav) Namestnikov, (Andrey) Pedan, (Alexander) Khokhlachev, (Anton) Zlobin, Kuvaev, (Andrei) Makarov). Still even with all those mentioned names, Russia would lack depth. Russian hockey is still able to produce a few top NHL prospects every year but they don´t produce by far as many NHL prospects as in the past, (and they) especially stopped producing good defencemen.
As far as Czech and Slovaks, it is concerning; it´s slightly better than in previous two or three years in terms of depth, there are more prospects who are worth of scouting then in previous years but barring Dmitri Jaskin they are mostly sleepers and long-term projects who won´t be more than later round picks and I actually don´t expect many of them being picked up in June. Speaking about top prospects however, it´s as bad as in several previous seasons, Jaskin is alone this year as well as Martin Marincin a year before. And two years before there were only Panik and Tatar. I have to remark again that things would look differently with (David) Musil, (Tomas) Jurco, (Marek) Tvrdon, (David) Honzik (all having left Europe and playing in the CHL) and some other less heralded kids(Stransky, Galansky, Matej Machovsky, Hrbas, Uher).
B2011DW: In the January issue of Red Line Report, Dmitri Jaskin is 35th overall. Does that have more to do with the fact that he's been injured while other players on the list have been able to perform?
RJ: Absolutely. And actually, no way there is 34 better prospects than Jaskin. I believe he would be top 20 right now if he had not hurt his knee in November. I´m big fan of guys like (Tobias) Rieder or (Sven) Bärtschi but if I could judge them by last season(which could be misguided) and compare them with Jaskin, then I would definitely prefer Jaskin over the mentioned pair. Right now I rate Jaskin higher than Joel Armia, another big European winger.
B2011DW: For those not familiar with Jaskin, can you talk a little bit about what kind of player he is and how he projects in the NHL in your opinion?
RJ: Jaskin is a complete package; skating is a certain drawback, as he lacks smooth stride and looks awkward at times but has deceptive speed, is strong on his skates and is able to get where he needs to be. He is strong on the puck, tough to separate off the puck down low. Goes through checks and tough to handle physically, shields the puck well. Excellent puck puck control in tight space and very good hands in close to the net. Very creative with the puck, anticipates well, has vision and soft hands, passes are crisp. Drives the net, very instinctive player around the net with scoring touch, looks for tips and rebounds close to the net. Quick release of his wrist shot. Finishes all checks causing (defenders) to throw the puck away, creating turnovers plus absorbs checks well, tough to knock him down.Very solid defensively, responsible in own zone and make good decision with puck in own zone showing poise and hockey sense, smart and poised with puck around own blue line, does even the small things well. Has enthusiasm for the game, always plays hard, strong competitor, plays with heart and character.
B2011DW: After Jaskin, who are the players from the Czech Republic you're keeping an eye on for the 2011 draft? Where do you think they stand a chance of being picked in the draft?
RJ: After Jaskin, there is bunch of prospects who I regard as sleepers; guys with long-term potential/upside however alll having serious flaw. Here belongs: Jaroslav Pavelka, athletic, flexible goalie with quick gloves, strong reflexes and excellent legs. Needs to work on technique and improve reading and anticipation. Already 6-1 with potential to add another inch or two.
Then there is the revelation of this season, tall and lanky scoring winger Daniel Pribyl. Has quick and soft hands, beats D regularly 1 on 1 with nifty moves and dekes off the rush and creates separation in tight with strong puck control and finesse stick skills. Smart and quick release of wrist shot. Not developed physically yet and doesn´t use his size enough, okay in puck pursuit and not afraid to play in traffic but rarely finishes checks and doesn´t win many battles for puck. Next, undersized winger Tomas Hyka who is smart, skilled, instinctive but physically very weak, and doesn´t like to take hit/avoids contact at times. Soft touch on his passes, quick soft hands, slick with puck, anticipates very well. Very good wheels, quick burst of speed and first steps, agile. Smooth handling the puck in top speed, has vision finishing touch , makes creative sets-up through traffic.
My personal ultimate sleeper is for the second season in row 92´born playmaking center Tomas Nosek who has skills, size, smartness, vision, skating, creativity to be NHL player. The question is if he has enough determination and heart to make it. Long term project who will need time to develop but has all the tools to be player in about five years, plus has made nice improvement since injury-plagued last season.
And there are some other players who could hear their name pronounced in June in at the draft table like center Lukas Sedlak(biggest disappointment of the season), enigmatic winger Vaclav Tomek, hardworking, character defenceman Tomas Pavelka, soon (to be) 20-year-old puck moving D Jakub Jerabek or pair of older goalies Marek Mazanec(despite of subpar World juniors) – Roman Will. However unless they really dazzle at international stage in remainder of the season, no one will be more than later-round pick.
My personal opinion is that while 10 years ago Czech prospects were slightly overrated as Czech reigned the world of hockey, now they are on the contrary slightly underrated and underscouted as a result of a big crisis of Czech hockey. Undoubtedly some of the mentioned guys would have better chance to get drafted if they were Swedes and not Czechs.
We'll have Part 2-- a look at Slovakia and some options for 2012 and beyond on Monday.
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