EDMONTON -- There was a time when the Czech Republic was considered a powerhouse at the World Junior Championship.
The program boasted back-to-back gold medals in 2000 and 2001 behind players such as Martin Havlat, Radim Vrbata, Martin Erat and Tomas Plekanec and three Czechs (goalie Tomas Duba, defenseman Rostislav Klesa and forward Pavel Brendl) even earned the tournament's best player awards in 2001 when the event was staged on rival territory in Russia.
But the Czech Republic has since fallen on hard times, producing just a single bronze medal in 2005. The Czechs haven't finished higher than fifth the last six tournaments -- placing a disappointing seventh the last three years.
This year's 22-player roster, which includes three goalies, does boast a higher skill level and more experience than last year's version. But until the Czechs start winning a few preliminary-round contests and prove competitive, it's hard to consider the nation serious contenders.