Central European Stock Watch: Dominik Bokk resurgent in the DEL
The timing of this article, almost immediately after Czechia won their first World Juniors medal since 2005, means that our audience will mostly be drawn from their ranks. They're the country that made the most hay on the biggest stage available in recent weeks heading into this exercise, after all.
A sign of the changing times in that country, it was the Czech blue line that led them to the country's first silver since the Velvet Divorce. David Jiříček, Stanislav Svozil, and David Špaček played critical roles in the team's success, while Jiří Kulich was pressing the attack upfront, and Tomáš Suchánek was making key stops in goal – Jiříček, Kulich, and Suchánek even featured on the tournament All-Star Team for their efforts.
Slovakia, meanwhile, showed that they're not a one-and-done as big players at the NHL Entry Draft – Dalibor Dvorský and Maxim Štrbák are here, and they're for real. They gave Canada all they could handle in the quarterfinals, leaving everything they had on the ice. Adam Gajan, an undrafted goalie who primarily played for the NAHL's Chippewa Steel ahead of this tournament, was one of the stars of the tournament
Now that we've covered that ground, let's get back to (mostly) the league setting through Central Europe and look at whose stock is rising, whose is falling, and who's holding steady.
Dominik Bokk, F, Löwen Frankfurt (Carolina Hurricanes)
Has Dominik Bokk found his game again in Germany's top men's league (the DEL) after becoming an afterthought in the scouting community? The former St. Louis Blues first-round pick, now the property of Carolina after being acquired as the centrepiece in the Justin Faulk trade, is starting to score like a former top prospect. In just his last 10 games, Bokk has collected 15 points on nine goals and six assists.
Bokk's starting to show heightened offensive instincts and leveraging his lightning-fast hands, scoring five goals in just his last five games. The German forward makes quick decisions with the puck and can connect on difficult passes with his teammates. When he doesn't have the puck, he's shown a newfound determination to get it back.
There is still room for Bokk to grow defensively, but he's taken a bit of a step forward there, too. You couple that with the offensive success, and surely Carolina is monitoring this situation closely. His NHL story may not be done yet.
Jiří Ticháček, D, Rytíři Kladno (2023 NHL Draft re-entry)
Jiří Ticháček has to be a happy man right now. He was part of the Czech team that took home silver from the Maritimes, playing a critical role on a pair with Jiříček. The undersized Czech defenceman recorded four points at the World Juniors, two goals and assists alike, and reminded teams who may have written him off in the last two drafts that he just might warrant a look in this one.
Ticháček was reliable defensively, constantly applying pressure to opponents, using his edges and a tight gap to contain even the speediest prospects – one such stop against Adam Fantilli stands out. He has a great sense for when to take away the pass or the shot. Solid performance from the double re-entry.
Justin Schütz, F, EHC München (Florida Panthers)
Justin Schütz has been one of the pleasant surprises in the DEL this season, bouncing between the second and third line for EHC München. Even if the bottom line isn't quite there, Schütz has played well in that role, too. He brings speed to the team and has definitely added a physical component to his game – he explodes past opponents in space, and he's hard to knock from the net-front. His offensive drive is really standing out in my viewings. His development has been another pleasant surprise from the DEL.
Jakub Konečný, F, Sparta Praha (Buffalo Sabres)
Jakub Konečný seems to have found a new comfort level in his position on an exceptionally strong Sparta team. The downside is that their considerable depth is such that Konečný has to play primarily on the fourth line. The team wants Konečný to play a critical role in their team defence, winning battles and helping in transition. He's hyper-aggressive in the corners, chasing down opponents on the forecheck, and not shy about initiating physical contact. Whether Konečný can develop into an NHLer in this environment is a worthwhile question, but he's progressing towards playing a large role in one of Europe's top men's leagues in time. That's a start.
Radim Šalda, D, Hradec Králové (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Much was expected of Radim Šalda coming into the season. Instead, his form seems to be trending in the opposite direction. The former Tampa Bay Lightning pick's prospects fell off a cliff after an unremarkable albeit productive two-year run in the QMJHL. Now in his fourth year playing at home in Czechia, Šalda's production seems to drop more and more with each passing year. Now, he only has one point in 27 games.
Šalda has a decent enough point shot and hasn't ever been shy of using it. His mobility is sound, and it allows him to jump into the rush. His decision-making, though, limits his effectiveness, especially in the Czech Extraliga.
Jaromír Pytlík, F, Rytíři Kladno (New Jersey Devils)
It has to be asked: What's going on with Jaromír Pytlík? After a successful season in the OHL as his team's alternate captain and picked up points en route to being a Devils fourth-round pick, his play took a turn for the worse. He's struggled to find his game, one characterized by a quality two-way profile and some polish offensively.
Pytlík is a dedicated player, battles for pucks and is heavy on his stick. All of those qualities seem to have disappeared upon arriving in Kladno, where he plays with Czech legends Jaromír Jágr and Tomas Plekanec. He has collected only two points (one goal and one assist) in 16 games so far. Pytlik struggles mostly on their third line and has even been dropped to in the second-tier Czech men's league this season. Not ideal.