Czech Mate: Skarek and Dostal Among Top Goalies At The 2018 Draft
There may not be a Dominik Hasek or Tomas Vokoun in this current group, but Czech goaltending is boasting its deepest roster ever. If this comes as a surprise, you simply haven’t been paying attention.
Five Czech goaltenders appeared in NHL games last season: Petr Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth, David Rittich, Ondrej Pavelec, and Marek Langhamer. Four more appeared in AHL games: Vitek Vanecek, Marek Mazanec, Daniel Vladar, and Matej Machovsky. Two more have recently inked pro contracts to join that group: Pavel Francouz in Colorado, and Josef Korenar in San Jose.
That list will soon get longer by a pair of names that are headed into the 2018 NHL Entry Draft: Jakub Skarek and Lukas Dostal.
Skarek was the #1-ranked European goaltender at the mid-term ranking by NHL Central Scouting, and Dostal came in at #3. Dostal leapfrogged Skarek in the final ranking, snagging the #1 spot, while Skarek dropped to #2.
Realistically, the pair could be the first two goaltenders taken off the board at the NHL draft this season.
Unlike the active hands of Finnish goaltenders or positional efficiency of Swedish goaltenders in recent years, there isn’t a defining shared trait that sets Czech goaltenders apart from other countries. Each goaltender seems to excel in their own unique way – which may be an important lesson in itself.
Both Skarek and Dostal play smart positional games for their individual sizes. Skarek has a decided size advantage and will very rarely stray from the blue paint of his crease. Dostal isn’t necessarily aggressive, but he does understand that taking depth is needed in certain situations – and he has very solid positional awareness for a goaltender of his age.
Sealing the ice first is also a priority for both goaltenders. Both goalies are very mindful of taking away the lower half of the net, almost to a fault at times. Skarek is slightly better at holding his edges due to a very wide stance, but Dostal tends to get a bit slide-happy at times. The ability to hold your edges is key in today’s game because it is easier to make a lateral move from a standing position than from the butterfly.
Another thing both goaltenders have in common is their flexibility. The flexibility of goaltenders is almost taken for granted because such a high rate excel at it. Skarek and Dostal take it to another level, which also plays into their noted ability of sealing the ice and taking away the bottom of the net. Whether it’s being able to keep a foot on each post while the puck is being worked behind the net, or sprawling out into the full splits during a jam attempt – it really is a sight to behold.
As mentioned above, Skarek at 6-foot-3 has more size than Dostal who clocks in at 6-foot-1. Dostal is not undersized by any means, but Skarek takes full advantage of his frame. By restricting himself to playing mostly within the blue paint, he doesn’t get caught floundering out of position very often. He stays anchored to his posts and ventures out only in extreme circumstances. Dostal is forced to be more aggressive in certain scenarios, but as stated above, his situational awareness is strong.
Skarek also seems to have the better vision between the two goaltenders. His tracking is generally very good. His skill is especially noticeable when screens are involved, as he battles well for sightlines and has very good hand discipline which allows him to not only stop screen shots – but control rebounds as well. Dostal, on the other hand, still has some work to do in this area.
[Skarek’s tracking] is especially noticeable when screens are involved, as he battles well for sightlines and has very good hand discipline which allows him to not only stop screen shots – but control rebounds as well. Dostal, on the other hand, still has some work to do in this area
Where Dostal gets his edge is in his explosiveness and reactiveness. He will certainly force shooters more often than his counterpart in Skarek. Whether it’s moving off the post, or simply pushing to the top of the crease to get set, Dostal really excels in this area. Skarek certainly doesn’t struggle in the speed department – Dostal is just a hair quicker.
In situations where Dostal is likely to attack, you will see Skarek retreat to his post first. His “angle over depth” approach is extremely rigid, for better or for worse. With continued improvement in the hand discipline area, this could become a big strength of his down the road.
For a draft that has been seemingly accepted as a “weak year” for goaltenders, these two Czech prospects could end up slipping through the cracks. They may not have first round pedigree, but both Skarek and Dostal have shown too much potential to be ignored.
It will be interesting to see which goaltender comes off the board first. Skarek’s larger frame could end up being the deciding factor that nets him a higher position. Whatever happens, it will be a great moment for hockey in the Czech Republic as their list of NHL-bound goaltenders continues to grow.