The Czech Republic National Junior Team has had a rough time in recent years at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
After winning back-to-back gold medals in 2000 and 2001, all the Czech Republic has been able to muster since has been a bronze in 2005. The Czech Ice Hockey Association is hoping to change that at the 2011 WJC in Buffalo and Niagara, N.Y., beginning Dec. 26.
Bolstered by four returning players, four forwards chosen in the 2010 Entry Draft and six highly regarded prospects for the 2011 Entry Draft, the Czech Republic looks to have the arsenal required to atone for last year's seventh-place finish in Saskatoon.
Training camp will start Dec. 15, in Troy and Rochester, N.Y., with the final roster of 22 players being set Dec. 25.
Returning from last year's team are two forwards currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League -- Roman Horak
of the Western Hockey League's Chilliwack Bruins and Andrej Nestrasil
of the P.E.I. Rocket of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Two other skaters play in the Czech league -- Michal Hlinka
of HC Vitkovice and defenseman Jakub Jerabek
of HC Plzen.
Horak, a 2009 fifth-round pick of the New York Rangers
, is second on the team with 15 goals and 34 points in 27 games.
Nestrasil, a 2009 third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings
, has 10 goals and a team-best 31 points in 27 games.
and Jakub Culek
, teammates with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL, also were invited to camp. Straka, a 2010 second-round choice of the Blue Jackets, has 7 goals and 14 points in 21 games; Culek, a 2010 third-round pick of the Senators, has 4 goals and 13 points in 29 games.
Czech Republic coach Miroslav Prerost also will have four highly regarded 2011 Draft prospects currently playing in the CHL.
While David Musil
of the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants tops that list, his status is now questionable after suffering a hairline fracture in the fibula of his right leg when he blocked a shot in the second period of a 3-0 win over the Kamloops Blazers on Dec. 7.
Still, some scouts believe he could be a top-10 pick. The 6-foot-3 1/2, 200-pound workhorse is the top-ranked defenseman and No. 4 skater among WHL players in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings. He has 4 goals, 17 points and a plus-9 rating in 30 games this season.
Musil's father, Frantisek, won a gold medal for Czechoslovakia at the 1985 World Championship. A 1983 second-round pick of the Minnesota North Stars, he had 34 goals and 106 points in 797 NHL games with the North Stars, Flames, Senators and Oilers from 1986-2001.
Central Scouting ranks Tadeas Galansky
of the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit is No. 5 among that league's goaltenders. In eight games this season, Galansky is 5-0-2 with a 3.19 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
Three of the top 11 players in Central Scouting's preliminary ranking of Czech players were invited to the camp -- Jerabek (No. 5), HC Ceske Budejovice defenseman Bohumil Jank
(No. 6) and HC Zlin center Petr Holik
(No. 11). Also, Marek Mazanec
of HC Plzen, the No. 2-rated goaltender, was invited. Mazanec sports a sparkling 1.93 GAA and .929 save percentage in 16 games for Plzen this season.
Right wing Martin Frk, 17, will be the youngest player in camp. He leads the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads with 30 points, and leads all first-year players in the league with 19 assists. He is eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale