International Ice Hockey Federation

Back for the attack

Back for the attack

Pastrnak boosts Czech firepower

Published 29.12.2015 14:09 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Back for the attack
Star Czech forward David Pastrnak is participating in his third straight World Juniors. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
David Pastrnak hopes that the third time’s the charm. He finished sixth in his last two World Juniors with the Czechs, and believes his country can do better.

“You know what? I don’t really want to talk badly about the past, but we didn’t make the semi-finals,” Pastrnak told “We didn’t make any impact on the tournament. So we still have a really big chance. We already have a silver medal from the U18 [World Championship in 2014]. This is a great group with great players. We have a big heart in the locker room.”

The 19-year-old forward, who’s in his second NHL season with the Boston Bruins, has shown heart himself by coming over to Finland to aid coach Jakub Petr’s squad. In his first game against Slovakia, he scored the winning goal on a sublime wrister in a 2-0 victory on Monday.

Like any player flying over from North America to Europe on short notice, Pastrnak faced some physical challenges, but was able to overcome them. When you’re playing in an elite hockey tournament, you can’t just get off the plane, waltz into the hotel, and fall asleep in front of a movie in the middle of the afternoon. You have to get right into it.

“I felt it in my body,” he said. “It was not a short flight. I haven’t eaten so much. Slept all the flight, so I was obviously really hungry when I got here. But this is part of hockey, and I have to take care of those things.”

The Havirov native, noted for his creativity and powerful skating, is continuing to improve at the NHL level. This year, he’s notched two goals and two assists in 10 games with the Bruins. He had 27 points in 46 games last season as a rookie.

He has a selection of strong role models to follow in Boston. It starts with two-time NHL playoff scoring leader David Krejci, one of the best and most underrated new-millennium Czech forwards. Captain Zdeno Chara may have lost a step, but the big Slovak’s unrelenting work ethic lives on. Patrice Bergeron is an IIHF Triple Gold Club member and three-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defensive forward.

On top of that, getting to shoot at 2014 Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Tuukka Rask daily in practice isn’t a bad apprenticeship either.

“Definitely there are older players with more experience there,” Pastrnak said. “I’m trying to pick up as much experience as I can from those guys. I’m pretty sure that experience is going to help me in this tournament.”

Among players selected in the 2014 NHL Draft, his 56 games played are second only to Florida’s Aaron Ekblad (#1 overall, 117 games) and Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (#3 overall, 64 games).

“It’s always great when you can play for your country,” Pastrnak said of coming to the World Juniors again. “Obviously, there are two sides. On the one side, I would rather be in Boston, and on the other side, I want to represent my country. So I’m happy here right now. That’s all my focus, to help the team and make the Czech Republic proud.”

No Czech team has won World Junior gold since the 2001 squad featuring Tomas Plekanec, Radim Vrbata, and Martin Erat. That was during the glory years when the senior Czech team won the 1998 Olympics, as well as each World Championship from 1999 to 2001. It’s been a long time. So in that context, even getting to the semi-finals in Helsinki would be a welcome step.

This year’s group has hung tough so far with fine goaltending from Vitek Vanecek (95.0 save percentage, 0.96 GAA) and a commitment to team defence. Will the Czechs be able to generate enough offence as we get deeper into the tournament?

How Pastrnak plays could determine the answer to that question. The former Sodertalje SK player had three points in five games at the 2014 World Juniors, and seven points in five games in 2015. He may still have more to give on the top line with WHLers Michael Spacek (Red Deer Rebels) and Jiri Smejkal (Moose Jaw Warriors).

Although the Czechs have earned points in both their games so far, including their opening 2-1 shootout loss to Russia, Pastrnak said they can’t get overconfident about Wednesday’s tilt with newly promoted Belarus, which has dropped two straight with a goal difference of 2-10.

“There’s no bad teams at this tournament. We have to play the same against every team. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing against the USA or Belarus. At the end of the day, it’s about us. It’s our story. And all that matters is how we’re going to play.”


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