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World Cup

Czech Republic going with youth movement

Jagr not part of first 16 named to World Cup roster

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

The next generation of Team Czech Republic was unveiled Wednesday with the naming of the first 16 players for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey by coach Josef Jandac during a press conference in Prague.

Youth was the flavor of the day among the three goalies, four defensemen and nine forwards named Wednesday. Only one of those 16 players, Tomas Plekanec, is older than 30. The veteran Montreal Canadiens forward is 33.

"We wanted to invite younger players now, because I believe that they are flexible," Jandac said. "I wouldn't want to condemn experienced players who are not on the roster right now. But we need to have them suited up and ready for their specific roles. With younger guys, we're convinced that they are able to migrate through the lineup a bit more."

Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr was the biggest name among those not named in the original 16, although forwards Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata were also surprise omissions.

Six players on the Czech roster are 25 or under.

Video: Team Czech Republic World Cup of Hockey Jersey Reveal

David Pastrnak, a forward with the Boston Bruins, is the youngest at 19 and serves as a perfect illustration of where the Czech roster is trying to go. He's versatile player gaining invaluable experience on a team that routinely competes for a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

"Obviously I'm going to play with all those NHL guys from the Czech Republic and see all the great players I was looking up to when I was a kid," Pastrnak said after practice with the Bruins on Wednesday. "I think it's one of the dreams for every kid to play for their country. It's going to be nice. I haven't played [for the senior national team] yet, so it's going to be really exciting."

Other young guns include Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, 24, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr, 25, San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, 22, and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat, 24.

Among the 16 players named Wednesday were two from the Kontinental Hockey League: defenseman Michal Kempny and forward Vladimir Sobotka, who played for the St. Louis Blues until the end of the 2013-14 season.

How this team will mesh and compete against national teams with more veteran players remains to be seen, but Jandac is excited about the potential of the team he is forming.

"I don't want to wear pink glasses, but I don't want wear black ones," he said. "It's going be the start of the new season, and you never know what guys will be in what shape. The Czech team has done it many times in the past, even when we didn't have so many top players; we always stuck together as a team and had great chemistry. It's three games in the group and anything can happen there. We're not going to be in the role of contenders, but we are not going there just to be sparring [partners] or to only participate."

Video: Tomas Plekanec on being named to team Czech Republic

Biggest strength: Forward depth. Among the Czech forwards named Wednesday, six have between 32 and 49 points this season, led by Krejci, who has 14 goals and 35 assists.

Biggest weakness: Defensive-zone coverage. The Czechs named three NHL defensemen to the roster Wednesday and none plays more than 20 minutes a game. Radko Gudas of the Philadelphia Flyers leads the charge with 19:59 per game.

Biggest surprise: Kempny. The undrafted defenseman, 25, is in his first season in the KHL, playing for Avangard Omsk, with 21 points in 59 games. His ability to play the left side is a key attribute.

Biggest omission: Zbynek Michalek. The veteran NHL defenseman has a ton of experience, including 764 NHL games. He is a stay-at-home, do-the-little-things defenseman the Czechs will be lacking in this tournament.

Roster

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings, G
Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers, G
Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets, G
Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers, D
Michal Kempny, Avangard Omsk (KHL), D
Roman Polak, San Jose Sharks, D
Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning, D
Michael Frolik, Calgary Flames, F
Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes, F
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks, F
David Krejci, Boston Bruins, F
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning, F
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins, F
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens, F
Vladimir Sobotka, Avangard Omsk (KHL), F
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers, F

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