Thursday, June 26, 2008

Plymouth chooses Czech defenseman Latal

The Plymouth Whalers announced the selection of 18-year-old defenseman Jan Latal in the annual Canadian Hockey League Import Draft Thursday.

Latal – a right-handed shot from the Czech Republic – was taken by the Whalers with the 55th selection of the draft.

The Whalers were scheduled to have the 25th pick in the draft, but GM Mike Vellucci decided to trade down when he moved the pick to Belleville for the Bulls’ 55th selection in the Import Draft. Belleville also sent a fourth-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection to the Whalers to complete the deal.

Plymouth passed on its second selection of the Import Draft (85th overall).

Latal played for Kladno in the Czech Republic last season, scoring three goals with three assists in 28 games. A knee injury (since repaired) cut Latal’s season short last year. Before that, Latal played internationally for the Czech Republic in the Under-16 and Under-17 World Tournaments.

“Our scouts knew about him,” said Vellucci. “Latal’s a steady, stay-at-home defenseman. Although we traded down, he was still available and we were able to get a fourth-round pick as well.”

“Latal’s got an excellent shot,” said Plymouth scout Willy Langer. “He’s a good skater with good vision. He’s not afraid to play in traffic in front of the net or along the boards.”

Latal comes from a hockey-playing family. His brother, Martin, is a Phoenix Coyotes draft choice who has played the last two seasons for Prince Edward Island in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Latal’s uncle, Jiri, played from 1989-92 for the Philadelphia Flyers.

CHL teams can play with two imports. The Whalers currently have three, and all defensemen – Carolina prospect Michal Jordan, overager Jozef Sladok and now Latal. Jordan, Sladok and Latal are expected to report to Plymouth’s training camp in late August.

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