Pavel Zacha – Czech Republic
This one might be surprising to some, but Pavel Zacha is basically a lock to make the Olympic roster barring injury next year. The Czech team isn’t down to few NHLers like other teams. The combination of David Pastrnak, Tomas Hertl, and Jakub Vrana is going to be a very interesting first line. David Krejci and Jakub Voracek provide some veteran leadership.
On the bottom six, the talent drops off. There are some fun players like Filip Zadina and Martin Necas who should make the roster, but it’s clearly a dropoff. Zacha provides the two-way forward that teams need to compete in the Olympics. The style of play that will be in the Olympics next year will be very, very fast. Teams like the Czech Republic will want someone with experience in that type of system who can play defense while doing it. Lindy Ruff’s system is similar to the one used overseas, and the Czech coaching staff could use that to their advantage with Zacha.
Zacha can play both center and wing, which will give the Czechs someone who gives them flexibility. Zacha broke out last season offensively, but he needs to really take a step in the right direction in order to be a lock for this team. The Czechs have talent, and there are some young players looking to prove themselves, so Zacha needs to stay ahead of them all season long.