Teply takes on leadership role
by Derek O'Brien|23 APR 2019
Michal Teply (#13) controls the puck during a Czech preliminary-round game at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
The Czech roster at this year’s IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Sweden includes only two returning players from last year’s fourth-placed team in Russia. One of them is tall winger Michal Teply, who is projected by many sources to be the highest chosen Czech at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. 

In 2017/18, Teply earned his way onto the Czech U18 national team as a 16-year-old through a solid season in the Czech junior league and a 14-game stint in Benatky nad Jizerou, the second-tier pro team that is affiliated with Liberec. While not expected to be a key contributor to the Czech team at last year’s U18 Worlds, he nonetheless tallied a goal and two assists in seven games.

“We were fortunate to get out of the group but finishing fourth meant we had to play the top team on the other side, which was Canada,” Teply said of last year’s Czech team that followed up a mediocre group-stage showing with a pretty big quarter-final upset. “Honestly, I don't even know how we beat them, but we won 2-1 and we were just full of euphoria. 

“Then we lost to the USA in the semi-finals and to Sweden in the bronze-medal game, which was disappointing. Overall, the whole thing was a great experience for me and, while it could have been better from the team’s perspective, that win over Canada was pretty memorable.”

After all of that, suddenly the season was over, but after just concentrating on the next game in front of him to that point, Teply suddenly didn’t know where he was going to play next. 

“Everything was up in the air at first,” Teply admitted. “I wondered if I’d get picked in the CHL Import Draft and if I did, would I go over there? Ultimately, I wasn’t and I went back to Liberec, but I think it worked out pretty well for me. It’s been a pretty eventful season so far and I hope the best is still to come.”

Staying home meant a chance to regularly play for both the Czech U18 and U20 national teams at international breaks. He also became a regular player in men’s hockey, playing 23 more games for Benatky nad Jizerou and recording 10 points. He also got his first taste of the top tier of Czech professional hockey – the Extraliga.

“That’s been a dream of mine for a long time and I was wondering what it would be like. I didn't want to be nervous; I wanted to enjoy it,” he said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to score a goal, but I got the chance to play 15 games, so that was a fantastic experience for me.”

Teply is following in the footsteps somewhat of fellow Czech forward Jan Jenik, who was also in the Liberec system. A year older than Teply, Jenik was a top-line player at last year’s U18 Worlds but is now too old to play at the event. He was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes last summer and moved overseas mid-season to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Teply and Jenik were teammates for a couple of years for a number of teams, and they still keep in touch.

“Jan is a good friend,” Teply said. “He had a similar position to me here – neither of us were able to stick with the A-team, so we played together in Benatky on the farm. Then when his (CHL) rights were traded from Flint to Hamilton, he decided to go over there and I think he’s very happy now.”

Bili Tygri Liberec is one of the top teams in the Czech Extraliga. In fact, the “White Tigers” have advanced to the finals for the third time in four years. That makes for a tough lineup to crack, and Teply knows that while his game has translated into success at the junior level, there are some things he’ll have to improve if he wants to fulfill his dreams as a professional. 

“I'm big, which is an advantage for me,” the 191cm, 85kg Teply said. “But in the pros there are a lot of big guys and they play physical, so of course I still need to get a lot stronger, and I think I need to work on my skating too. Mainly, I need to I need to play more games and gain more experience against the older guys but I’ve got to earn that chance.”

All of that makes Teply a player that is counted on to lead the offence of the Czech U18s in Sweden. Over the course of the season, he led the team with 23 points in 18 pre-tournament games at various international events, and he knows the team is counting on him to produce now if it hopes to have success. So far, he has two assists in three games, with the biggest games still ahead.

“I guess I knew that’s something that would be expected of me because I was there at last year’s U18 championship. I felt from the coaches and everybody that I should be one of the leaders, and that’s what I’ve tried to be,” he said. “But at the same time, this isn’t about me. It started at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Canada and we said we definitely want to win a medal at the World Championship and we’ll all do everything we can to make it happen.”

This time around, the Czechs are coached by Alois Hadamczik, a veteran Czech hockey coach who has been behind the bench of the senior men’s team at two Winter Olympics and six World Championships. Known for his old-school authoritarian style, some wondered if 66-year-old Hadamczik would be a good fit for a group of teenagers. 

“He's a well known figure in Czech hockey. Most people recognize him and it was the same for me,” Teply said of his new coach. “We’ve sat down and talked a lot and I like him and I think he likes me – we get along well. And, of course, this is good experience for all of us who want to play for the senior national team in the future, to play for somebody who’s actually coached them. I think it's great for us to have a coach like that.”

And Teply isn’t thinking beyond that, even though next year promises to be another interesting season for him and he’ll probably once again find himself in the same situation after this tournament – wondering where he’s going to play next. Coming up in June is another CHL Draft and, of course, the NHL Draft as well.

“Right now, I'm thinking mainly about making this experience here with the guys as good and as long as possible,” he said about the U18 Worlds. “We want to enjoy it and we want to represent our country well, get a great result and then when all that’s over, I’ll think about all that other stuff.”