Even during their glory years during the 90’s and early 2000’s, developing great goaltenders has been a tough task for the Czech Republic. Once you get past the obvious success created by Dominik Hasek and Tomas Vokoun, the country has struggled in the goaltending department, especially in recent years. Put it this way, Ondrej Pavelec has the fourth most amount of wins ever seen by an NHL goalie from the country, and if you remember from the Olympics, he surely didn’t prove to be the best on his own team.
Buffalo Sabres backup Michal Neuvirth was the highest drafted goaltender out of the three current NHL puck-stoppers from the Czech Republic, having heard his name called 34th overall by Washington at the 2006 draft. It’s clear that when Petr Mrazek, as good as he may be, is the third and final current NHL goaltender from the country, the position needs help. Vitek Vanecek has a lot of potential to be a great NHL goaltender, but considering he was just drafted by the Washington Capitals earlier this year, he’s still a few years away.
So who else will throw their ring into the court? Meet Daniel Vladar. The 2015 NHL Draft prospect has already won silver medals for the Czech’s at the 2013 U18 World Juniors and 2014 Hlinka Memorial tournaments. Vladar has competed for HC Kladno at a variety of levels over the past few seasons, seeing action with the U16, U18 and U20 junior teams since 2012-13. This past season, Vladar made the jump to the men’s level, competing with Kladno in six Czech2 league games as a backup to Jan Chábera. His play with Kladno caught the eye of European scouts everywhere, with HK Sochi selecting him in the 2014 KHL Draft earlier this year.
The kid is 6’5″, and while it’s natural to think that all he needs to do is just sit and cover the net, he has the rare ability to be flashy, yet safe with his play. For a guy of his size, he has above average quickness and is almost unbeatable across the goal line. His positional play could use a bit of work, but Vladar has cat like reflexes, similar to Hasek, but in a more contained fashion. His rebound control may be the very best in the draft class, absorbing pucks with ease from pretty much every angle.
Just because he’s from overseas doesn’t mean you wont hear about him in the near future. There is a strong chance that Vladar could be one of the Czech goalies at the 2015 World Juniors in Canada this year, but he’ll need to outplay Washington Capitals prospect Vít Vaněče and experienced 19-year-old puckstopper René Svoboda. This may simply not be Vladar’s time to shine on the world stage, but that just means he will be ready to steal the spotlight in 2016 or 2017. Regardless what happens, Vladar is ranked as the top goaltender in the ISS Top 30 Draft Rankings for the December, and will continue to prove himself with Kladno, where he will learn from the likes of veteran goaltender Chábera and fellow youngster Jan Lukáš.
Get ready hockey fans, you’ll know all about this kid in due time.
Steven is a junior hockey reporter for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and also focuses on international hockey for his website, TheHockeyHouse.net. You can follow Steven on twitter,@StevenEllisNHL.