Martin Necas and Filip Chytil have provided the Czechs with some much needed edge. Photo: Getty Images
World Juniors 2018

Will Czech Republic’s Necas and Chytil continue to produce their magic?

Czech Republic has never been a small fry on the international hockey stage. Consistently producing NHL stars such Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and David Pastrnak, it’s been a factory for talent for decades.

But despite their perennial presence, it’s also safe to say they’re not exactly favorites either entering most international tournaments. Simply, the Czech rosters typically lack the depth needed to compete with the “Big 5”: Russia, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and the United States.

Bounced in the quarterfinals every year since 2012, the World Junior Championships typically end with disappointment for Czech Republic. In fact, they have yet to reach the semifinal since 2005, where they came away with a bronze medal after an overtime victory over the United States at the tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Formed in 1993 after the breakup of Czechoslovakia, the team’s only two gold medals at the tournament came in back to back years: 2001 and 2002, featuring Ales Hemsky, Tomas Plekanec, Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata.

Enter Martin Necas and Filip Chytil. The two forwards selected nine picks apart in this past June’s draft: Necas 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes and Chytil 21st by the New York Rangers, made a statement performance in yesterday’s 5-4 victory over the Russians.

Along with the play by the two forwards, Czech Republic exhibited three factors that come into play during any “upset” performance: Strong goaltending, taking advantage of key opportunities, and a little bit of luck. Despite being outshot 38-24, Czech Republic pushed through and took the tournament’s first three points.

Named the player of the game in Tuesday’s opening round victory over Russia, Necas scored the opening goal of the tournament while being left open in the slot on a first-period power play.

Earning the player of the game award, Necas also picked up an assist on Filip Zadina’s goal to make the score 3-2.

Meanwhile, Chytil picked up an assist on Ostap Safin’s 2-1 tally, and followed it up with a second period marker of his own to put the Czechs up 4-2.

But besides their two goals, it was the relentless forecheck and offensive zone pressure provided by these two that gave the Czech team an extra gear whenever these two were on the ice. Playing on separate lines as the team’s top two centres, each created a number of scoring opportunities.

Both Chytll and Necas need to be at the top of their game throughout the remainder of the tournament to give Czech Republic any realistic chance of toppling the tournament’s top teams. Tuesday, they showed they can be. The victory immediately shifted the dynamic of Group B, making the Russian schedule with three games in the final four days of the tournament that much more meaningful.

With an upcoming game against Sweden Thursday, the Czechs will be in tough to pull out a second consecutive win.  But while Necas and Chytil might not be able to do it all by themselves, they’ll need to perform as they did on Tuesday to give the Czechs a fighting chance to break through to the semifinal.


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NHL Prospects World Juniors 2018 Filip Chytil Martin Necas
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