2023 World Junior Championship: Team Czechia Final Roster

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s World Junior Championship (WJC) time! Joining in the festivities is the underdog Czech team, who arrives in Halifax ready to compete and surprise hockey pundits with a better finish than in the 2022 tournament. Czechia has set its roster, and while it lacks the star power of its rivals Canada or Sweden, they do have a team deep in talent and confidence, ready to compete against the world’s hockey powers. 

Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship 

The 2022 tournament had several highs and lows. Czechia suffered a disappointing loss to a Latvian team that had never qualified for the quarterfinals before, and the Czech team provided them with the win they needed. The highs came later in the tournament when they eliminated a previously undefeated Team USA, 4-2, on their way to a fourth-place finish. For 2023, the final roster is in, and here is a look at what it is capable of.  

Team Czechia Goaltending 

Daniel Kral, Oliver Satny, Thomas Suchanek 

Czechia has chosen to enter the tournament with a trio of undrafted 19-year-old goaltenders. While they seem to be relatively unknown, they do have experience and a solid international pedigree that the coaching staff can rely on. 

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In the 2022 WJC, the undrafted Tomas Suchanek took over the crease from Detroit Red Wings’ 2020 fourth-round pick Jan Bednar. Once he settled in, he led the team to a surprise fourth-place finish. He’s returned for 2023 in the hopes that he can be a difference-maker for his nation and also grab the attention of NHL scouts. His stats don’t jump off the page and scream “star”, but his .901 save percentage and 13-9-0 record for the Western Hockey League (WHL) Tri-City Americans is more than respectable. As the workhorse for his junior club, Suchanek enters the tournament after a five-game win streak in the WHL, providing him a level of confidence that should help him raise his play to the level Czechia will need.  

Czechian Defense 

Marek Alsher (FLA), Ales Cech, Ondrej Chabada, Tomas Hamara (OTT), David Jiricek (CBJ), David Moravec, David Spacek (MIN), Stanislav Svozil (CBJ) 

The blue line has several NHL-drafted players and some youthful skill, which might be the strength of this Czechian squad. They have several solid two-way defenders, but they will be led by the Columbus Blue Jackets 2022 sixth-overall selection David Jiricek. In the last draft, he was the consensus second-ranked defenseman; he has already made his NHL debut and is currently playing in the American Hockey League (AHL), which adds some experience that could help Team Czechia. 

David Jiricek Team Czechia
David Jiricek, Team Czechia (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Another leader on this blue line is David Moravec, who plays for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Halifax Mooseheads. As a 2023 NHL Draft-eligible player, Moravec shouldn’t need any more motivation. However, he will be playing in front of the hometown crowd and will undoubtedly be a fan favorite throughout the tournament.  

Team Czechia Forward Group  

Ondrej Becher, Jakub Brabanec (VGK), Jaroslav Chmelar (NYR), Petr Hauser (NJD), Jakub Kos (FLA), Juri Kulich (BUF), Marcel Marcel, Adam Mechura, Matous Mensik, Lukas Pajer, Martin Rysavy (CBJ), Eduard Sale, Robin Sapousek, Matyas Sapovaliv (VGK), and Gabriel Szturc. 

Experience will be the strength of this team, especially up front. There are several 19-year-olds, and seven NHL-drafted prospects, with Buffalo Sabres first-rounder Jiri Kulich being the highest-drafted player. Kulich was dominant in the 2022 U18 WJC, winning MVP after carrying his team into the semifinals. The 18-year-old center will be in a leadership role as well as expected to lead the way offensively. 

But they aren’t just relying on Kulich for offense. Fans in Halifax would do well to keep an eye on 2023 Draft-eligible right-winger Eduard Sale who has a game that excites NHL scouts. 

Eduard possesses every single skill attribute that allows a player to impact a game in a significant way. He’s fast, quick, and agile when he needs to be. He’s got a brain that is advanced. He is two or three steps ahead.

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Czechia will need to rely on more than the scoring of two skilled forwards and will use their size up front as a weapon. With seven players 6-foot-3 or more, that size will not only be helpful playing on an NHL size rink but will also help their physical brand. Players like Petr Hauser and Marcel Marcel play a power forward style and will cause fits for the opposition as they finish every check and arrive with speed on the forecheck. 

Looking Ahead for Team Czechia  

Team Sweden and Team Canada should be too skilled and too deep to not finish the round-robin as the top two squads in Pool A. Yet, as a mobile, physical team filled with experienced players, Czechia should be very difficult to play against. This should lead to a third-place finish in their Pool, which would line them up for a quarterfinals game against either Team USA or Team Finland. While Czechia will have a difficult path to matching or improving upon their fourth-place finish in 2022, they do have the pieces to compete and even win a medal.