2010 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Petr Straka

The first draft profile I did, New Jersey high school star Kenny Agostino, it seemed that he'd be available far past the Devils' second round pick at 38th overall.  Therefore, I think it's somewhat fitting that the second draft profile would be for a player who may be taken before 38th overall - possibly in the first round.  Or not.  Apparently, there's a lot of flux beyond the top players in the 2010 Entry Draft; therefore, it shouldn't be too surprising if some players fall out of the end of the first round.

Petr Straka - RW - 6'1" 185 lbs. - CSS Rank: 23 - Hometown: Plzen, Czech Rep. (Source: NHL.com)
2009-10 Team: Rimouski Oceanic - 62 GP - 28 G - 36 A - 64 Pts. - 54 PIM

Straka made the leap to North American hockey last season, moving from Plzen to Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.  At first glance, it appears he's done quite well.  Let's see what others say about Straka and his game after the jump.

First, here's a summary of Straka's stats both in Rimouski and when he played on Plzen's juniors team from Elite Prospects.  He's been quite productive at the U18, U20, and Canadian major junior levels. That's good.  I especially like that he nearly went a point per game in both the QMJHL season and the playoffs.  While it's not necessarily indicative of anything in the NHL level, it's indicative that he did well in his first season of hockey in North America.

 

The only gap on that record is at the international level.  As in, he hasn't featured for the Czech Republic except in the World U-18 tournament back in 2009.  He played 6 games, got no points, and that's it on a team that finished sixth in that tournament.  He wasn't on their U-18 team this year and definitely not selected to their U-20 team.  I'm not so certain if this really an issue?  His teammate and fellow countryman Jakub Culek has been in the same boat - good production in the Q, but not a part of the Czech set up. Some European teams seem prefer to stick with domestic players (e.g. possibly why Alexander Urbom wasn't picked for Sweden's WJC team last year), and so that leaves Straka and Culek among others left out.   Given that the Czechs haven't done all that well in these tournaments, one would think a player doing well in Canadian junior hockey would help.   Maybe there's another underlying issue?

Hopefully, his successful year in the QMJHL and getting drafted will help him get another shot with the international youth team. 

Anyway, Straka accomplished quite a bit in his first season in the 'Q.'   He led all rookies in scoring with 64 points, played in the CHL Top Prospects game, and was named both offensive rookie of the year and overall rookie of the year of the league. NHL.com's page on Straka notes that he moved up quite a bit in the Central Scouting Services ranks from 33 at mid-term to 23.   The scouting report tab has this brief quote from E.J. Hradek, director of NHL Central Scouting:

"Good skills with high-end potential. He's over here (playing for) Rimouski from the Czech Republic. His adjustment is ongoing. Good playmaking ability – he reminds me of Pavel Demitra or Martin Erat."

If he turns out like either of those players, then that would be a fantastic result.  Since Straka was one of the better prospects coming out of the Q, he was featured twice at Hockey's Future as a top QMJHL prospect.   Back on December 24, 2009, Kevin Forbes summarized Straka's game as such:

 

Paired with fellow Czech Culek, Straka's game dovetails nicely with his fellow 2010 eligible. Where Culek's game is all about vision and playmaking, Straka, the better skater of the two, has been able to consistently send Culek's pretty passes to the back of the net.

With 18 goals and 33 points in 34 games for Rimouski, Straka leads not only the Oceanic but also all QMJHL rookies in goals. A sniper, Straka is also learning to round out his game from Clem Jodoin and has adapted quickly to the North American style of play.

Clearly, the adaptation continued through the second half of his season as Straka remained productive for the Oceanic.  Though, in retrospect, I don't think calling him a sniper makes sense given that he finished with 28 goals. That's not bad, but hardly deserving of the term of sniper unless those were off fantastic shots.  In any case, after the season ended, Forbes and Hockey's Future listed Straka as the third best QMJHL prospect.


A speedy winger with great hands, Straka has learned plenty playing under Coach Clem Jodoin, especially how to round out his game and play effective hockey at both ends of the ice. Although he sometimes struggled with his consistency, the reigning QMJHL rookie of the year has a nose for the net and will only get better as he continues to develop and get stronger.

[NHL Central Scouting's Kim] Houston weighed in by saying, "I like Straka a lot, I think he's a smart, heady player, good solid skills, sees the ice well."

This is all quite positive for Straka.  Players can always get stronger, and two-way hockey can be learned. Speed and a "nose for the net" aren't necessarily teachable.  However, it seems that consistency is one of the bigger sticking points in evaluations.  The Scouting Report tagged Straka as the 37th best prospect in 2010 with this blurb:

Straka has really flown under the radar despite a very strong rookie season in North America with Rimouski. While he might not be making things happen every shift, he’s a good skater who is very opportunistic and has high end offensive skills. A good showing in the playoffs should solidify his status as a Top 45 pick.

OK, but who honestly makes things happen every shift?  If he did, he'd be ranked far, far higher, right?  Well, Kent Wilson had this to say on Comcast.net Sports, stating that consistency of intensity is an issue:

The Czech-born player is especially dangerous with the puck on his stick and is a strong finisher in scoring areas. He may need to learn to up his intensity at all times and in all areas of the ice in order to grow as a player, but Straka certainly has the offensive skills to be productive.

Moreover, back in April, Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief had this short bit on Straka in USA Today.

Petr Straka (Rimouski) — Our feeling much of the year was that he's a very talented dog. But he has sure shown up with some surprising passion and intensity in the playoffs. If he performed like this all the time, he'd be knocking on the first round door.

Hmmm.  If I'm reading this closely enough, Straka's not a sure-fire first round pick namely because he doesn't "get up" for all of the games.  Is intensity a learned trait?  I wonder if a more-acclimated Straka would be more intense more often next season?  At least he raised it for the playoffs - which is usually a good thing to see.  Incidentally, here's a recording of some guy's TV of one of the goals Straka scored in the playoffs.

Speaking of criticism, here's what Petr Straka has to say about his own game.  This quote comes from Fantatique.ca, posted by Remi Villemure:

Straka incarne parfaitement le style tchèque dans son jeu. Il ne joue pas de manière robuste, mais il est difficile à tasser et ne redoute pas le jeu physique. Le principal intéressé va plus loin dans sa description personnelle : " Je suis un bon patineur doté d'un tir puissant et précis. Je peux bien jouer offensivement, mais je dois améliorer mon jeu en défensive."

Well, that doesn't help unless you know French.  Let's translate it to English with Google:

Straka embodies the Czech style in his game does not play a robust way, but it is difficult to pack and is not afraid of physical play. The main interest goes further in his personal description: "I am a good skater with a powerful shot and precise. I can play well offensively, but I must improve my game defensively."

I'm assuming "difficult to pack" means difficult to stop.  Still, it's good that Straka is cognizant of his defensive game needing work.  Is he aware that intensity is another area he apparently needs to work on, though? Surely someone has told him about this?

UPDATE: ILWT User DrWhizBang took a stab at translating the original French - and it makes more sense. Thank you, DrWhizBang.

Straka embodies the Czech style in his game. He does not play an overly physical game, but he is difficult to check and is not afraid of physical play. This main point is further explained in his own words: “I am a good skater with a powerful and precise shot. I can play well offensively, but I must improve my defensive game.”

If you'd like to hear more from Straka himself, check out this profile video on Straka by John Moore. Straka himself is interviewed, along with the Rimouski coach. Straka's a talker, apparently.

Moore has a ton of video at his site, Sports & Moore - so check that out if you're inclined.

Truth be told, if he falls to 38th overall, then I would be very pleased if he's selected.  The Devils have many wingers in the system, but not a lot of players one would describe as being particularly skilled on offense.  Multiple reports confirm that he's got the goods on offense, and the other issues aren't immediate red flags in my mind.  Inconsistent? He just turned 18 three days ago, he'll get better there.  Defense? A learned ability.  Adjusting to the North American game? He did so well in his first season, I don't see how he'd regress in his second season on this continent. Playing internationally?  That may be out of Straka's hands anyway.  He'd be a fine prospect based on what I've read.

That's the impression I got, however. Perhaps you have a different take.  Maybe you've seen more of Straka and disagree that he's a worthy pick?  Maybe you've seen more of Straka and think he'll be a sure-fire first rounder?  Maybe you have additional information that I missed?  Please leave all of your thoughts in the comments.  Thanks for reading.

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