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Prospect Report: Svozil turning in excellent season for club, country

Highlight-reel goal at World Juniors the cherry on top of a solid year for the Czech defenseman

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

It very well might have been the goal of the tournament, but not in the way that anyone would have liked. 

On the opening night of competition during the IIHF World Junior Championships on Dec. 26, Blue Jackets third-round pick Stanislav Svozil made a play that briefly set hockey Twitter on fire. 

The Czechia defenseman picked up the puck in the neutral zone, sped in along the right wing and deked his way right past a Canada defenseman. From there, Svozil was one-on-one with Canada goalie Dylan Garand and quickly lifted a shot into the top corner of the net past the helpless goalie. 

Tweet from @EPRinkside: Stanislav Svozil (#CBJ) with an early contender for goal of the tournament.📹 @TSN_Sports pic.twitter.com/9wtPHFSj4l

The tally gave Czechia a 3-1 first-period lead over the Canadians and left Svozil roaring with excitement. Unfortunately, Canada battled back and won the game 6-3, but the talented defender certainly introduced himself to the hockey world.  

"I tried this move sometimes in a game in the WHL and it worked, but I never scored with it," he said on the most recent edition on the Pipeline Podcast. "That was a little bit of luck, but I knew what I was doing. That was a really good feeling, but for me it's better when the teams wins though. It doesn't matter who scored." 

Video: Meet Svozil! | Pipeline Podcast

Some called it the potential best goal of the tournament when it happened on opening night, and in another unfortunate reality, it may have ended that way. Because of a spike in COVID cases, the tournament was canceled midway through the round robin, leaving Svozil with just two games played at the event. 

They were impressive games, though, with Svozil showing the poise on the puck and offensive skill that made him such an intriguing draft option. Some viewed him as a potential first-round pick going into this past summer's NHL draft, but he ended up being available to Columbus in the third round, with the Blue Jackets snapping him up there. 

It was a pretty cool moment for someone who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in playing the sport of hockey, and it got even cooler when his phone rang shortly after the pick was announced.  

"We were with the national team in Finland in a tournament, and we got back to Czech and I was in a bus and I was drafted," Svozil said. "I was really excited. After a few minutes Rick Nash called me, and after Rick Nash called me, Jakub Voracek called me. For me, that was really good to hear from them. 

"(Voracek) congratulated me but he said if I want something from him or from Columbus, I just need to ask him. For me, I was really nervous because that is Jakub Voracek, 1,000 games in the NHL. I was really nervous but that was really good to hear from him." 

Talking to Voracek, who recently became the 12th Czech player ever to skate in 1,000 NHL games, was a pretty cool honor, and Svozil hopes to follow in his footsteps by becoming a standout NHLer. To continue that journey, he moved from his home country -- where he played for HC Kometa Brno in the top-level Extraliga the past two years -- to Regina of the WHL, where he's honing his game on a team that features the likely No. 1 overall draft pick in 2023 in Canadian forward Connor Bedard. 

Svozil has continued to improve defensively as the season has gone on, his major goal in heading to the Pats, and the 18-year-old blueliner boasts a goal and 17 assists for 18 points in 27 games on the year. 

"Everyone wants to play in the NHL, so I think that was the best way to play in the NHL was to go from Europe to the WHL," Svozil said. "Now I can say that was the better option for me to go to the WHL." 

Monsters Back on the Ice 

Because of COVID protocols, the Cleveland Monsters did not play from Dec. 17 until Friday, a three-week break that would be sure to test any team. 

It probably didn't help that the Monsters then returned with three games in three days, all on the road. Cleveland was still able to get three points, though, falling in overtime Friday in Milwaukee, winning in OT on Saturday at Grand Rapids and then dropping a 4-3 final Sunday in Chicago. That leaves the team at 11-9-4-3 overall and in fifth place in the seven-team North Division of the AHL.  

Cleveland rallied from a two-goal deficit Friday against the Admirals, but Milwaukee scored in overtime to take a 4-3 victory. Defenseman Billy Sweezey scored just 2:35 into the game, but the Admirals countered with three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead in the second. But Brendan Gauce tallied just 25 seconds later and Josh Dunne tied the score 1:33 after that, and the 3-3 scoreline held until OT. Making his season debut with Cleveland, Cam Johnson made 35 saves. 

The Monsters then fired up the bus and headed to Michigan, where the team was able to grab a 2-1 overtime victory against the Griffins. Cleveland had a 36-23 edge in shots on goal for the game, but Grand Rapids scored in the second period and held the lead until 7:08 of the third when Brett Gallant tied the score. Trey Fix-Wolansky then needed just 14 seconds of overtime to get the winner off assists from Jake Christiansen and Tyler Sikura. Johnson started again and made 22 saves. 

Tweet from @monstershockey: Without further ado, your game-winner courtesy of @Wally9191. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/O0mKloCZIJ

Finally on Sunday, Cleveland gave a strong effort against the Wolves but dropped a 4-3 final in its third consecutive one-goal game. Cole Fonsted scored just 35 seconds into the game for the Monsters, and the game went back and forth from there, with Chicago taking a 2-1 lead before second-period goals from Jake Gaudet and Dunne gave Cleveland the lead. But the Wolves tied the score in the first minute of the third and got the winner midway through the period past Jet Greaves, who made 30 saves. 

Gaunce and Christiansen are tied for the team lead with 19 points, while Gaunce has a team-best nine goals. Liam Foudy, now on the CBJ taxi squad, has a 6-11-17 line in 24 games, while Kevin Stenlund has three goals and 15 points in 20 games. Fix-Wolansky also has settled in after season-ending knee surgery last year, posting a 6-5-11 line in 13 games.  

Prospect Notes 

• Svozil wasn't the only one to see his World Juniors experience cut short, as the Jackets had four prospects there including Svozil's Czechia teammate Martin Rysavy, Canada forward Kent Johnson and Slovakia defenseman Samuel Knazko. Johnson finished with a goal in the two games he played, while Rysavy was scoreless in two games and Knazko had an assist in two games while captaining the Slovak team. 

• Johnson has since returned home and is continuing to tear it up as a sophomore at the University of Michigan. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft had a goal and four assists this past weekend in the Wolverines' sweep of defending national champion UMass, skating on a line with fellow first-round picks Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson. Johnson now has 23 assists on the year to tie for the NCAA lead, while with 28 points he is fourth in the country in points per game.  

• Fellow 2021 first-round pick Corson Ceulemans, who went 25th overall, also is having success at the college level. The defenseman was named the national rookie of the month for December by the Hockey Commissioners Association when he had two goals and seven points in four games, and he added another assist this past weekend in a series vs. Ohio State. 

Tweet from @BadgerMHockey: Corson Ceulemans is 'Taking Off'#WisconsinHockeyAllAccess || @corson_4 pic.twitter.com/ez2K4v263s

• Over in Russia, 2019 fourth-round pick Dmitri Voronkov is back after missing a month of time, the result of a big open-ice hit he took in mid-December in a game vs. Salavat Yuleav Ufa. On the season, the Ak Bars Kazan assistant captain and centerman has a 7-5-12 line in 38 games and is plus-10. 

• Things aren't going quite as well for 2018 second-round pick Kirill Marchenko, who had a hot start but is now struggling to find ice time even with a coaching change at SKA St. Petersburg. The talented 21-year-old had eight goals in the team's first 13 games but has played less than 10 minutes in each of the last five games and was a scratch in the team's most recent contest. He has a 12-8-20 line in 38 games. 

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