Thursday, June 29, 2006

Whalers draft Czech goalie, Slovak defenseman

The Plymouth Whalers made two selections in Wednesday’s annual Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. The draft distributes non-North American players throughout the CHL.

Plymouth picked up the 27th selection in the draft in a trade with the Belleville Bulls for a fifth-round draft choice in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection and took 18-year-old goaltender Michal Neuvirth from the Czech Republic. Neuvirth (below left) was selected in the second round (36th overall) by the Washington Capitals in last Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft.

Neuvirth posted a 2.02 goals-against average in 45 games last season for Sparta of the Czech Junior League and played for the Czech Republic in last spring’s World Under-18 Tournament, posting a 2.44 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in seven games. The Czech Republic won the bronze medal in the tournament, defeating Canada, 4-1.

Here’s what various scouting services are saying about Neuvirth:

Central Scouting Bureau:
"Plays the butterfly style … moves well and reads the game very well … a consistent, cool goaltender under pressure … has quick reflexes … very quick feet and a good glove … a good competitor."

International Scouting Service:
"He is technically very sound and his work ethic is unparalleled. He is generally quiet in the net, but he has the ability to pull fans out of their seats with a great save. Moves well from side to side on the pass. Is quickly gaining a reputation for being a big-game goaltender. His improved rebound control and ability to steal games have resulted in him moving up our rankings. Good balance in both the stand-up and butterfly positions. Recovers quickly when he goes down. Stays square to the puck. The team that drafts him will have to be patient. He is a player that will need some time to develop."

The Whalers then selected 18-year-old defenseman Jozef Sladok with the 39th pick. Sladok, a 6-foot-3, 194-pounder, played in the Slovakian Junior League last season with HKM Zvolen and scored five goals with three assists for eight points and 86 penalty minutes. He also played for Slovakia in the World Under-18 Championships, adding an assist with 10 PIM's in six games.

Sladok was not selected in the NHL Entry Draft.

Neuvirth and Sladok are expected to report to the Whalers training camp in late August.

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