Kundratek who is playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL is the one prospect who Ranger fans as well as the Ranger media know the least about. I made a special trip so I could see for myself what the Rangers saw in him and it was well worth the trip.
Everything that I had heard about the young defender from Pretov in the Czech Republic was dead on. What I saw from Kundratek is that this is a player with some very good potential to help the Rangers down the road.
I have to wonder just how far along Kundratek would be right now had he now suffered his wrist injury during the preseason. Kundratek did lose a lot of "learning time" because of that injury which we finally got the story on.
Kundratek did not hurt his wrist while with the Rangers but just prior to his arrival at the New York Training Camp. It is a shame as both Tiger Assistant Coach Shaun Clouston and Dave Andjelic (Director of Marketing and Public Relations) were talking about how impressive Kundratek was during preseason.
There is no question that this is a player with some very solid defensive skills and that he has been well schooled on his fundamentals on the defensive end. In talking to Tomas, he called it his technical side and this soft spoken young man talked to me about how in the Czech Republic they drilled on those technicals all the time.
As for the game itself, it took all of 1:09 for Kundratek to get our attention as he earned an assist on Medicine Hat's first goal. In that first period, Kundratek had 5 shifts with 2 very solid hits as well as a diving play to strip a Winterhawk of the puck when it look like he was going to have a breakaway.
Kundratek also showed that he has some learning to do as well as he turned the puck over in his own end and then compounded his mistake by then grabbing one of the Winterhawks to draw a holding penalty at 13:51. The Winterhawks scored on the resulting power play and Kundratek sat on the bench for the rest of the period.
For me it is a great opportunity to see how a prospect reacts to being sat down, to his credit Kundratek did not sit on the bench and pout. He watched the action and like the rest of his teammate stayed focused on the play.
In the second period, Kundratek was back in his regular spot and showed us some good reasons why the Rangers drafted him. 8 shifts where Kundratek where showed that he is very good at breaking up plays with both his body as well as his stick.
I counted 4 play disruptions and 2 zone clearing for the second period. I also saw Kundratek always looking at where everyone was on the ice (maybe a tad too much as it led to a bit of wandering) and communicating with his defensive partner Jace Coyle.
In the third period, no shots on goal but 9 shifts with 3 more play disruptions. Kundratek was on the Tiger penalty kill and with the Tigers leading 4-3 turned up his defense.
I really liked the way that Kundratek squares his body up as he gets ready to throw a bodycheck. That checking style allows him to play a physical game while showing the refs that they are clean hits.
After 2 periods we had credited Kundratek with 3 solid hits and 4 play disruptions.
As much as we liked Kundratek's defense, his offense on the other hand does need some work. To his credit, Kundratek expressed frustration about his offensive issues as he does want to contribute on offense.
Coach Clouston when we talked said that he felt that Kundratek could be equally good on both sides of the ice and mentioned how Kundratek had played well on offense before he got hurt.
The Tigers won the game 5-3 as Kundratek wound up with that assist, a +1, 2 PIM and our thoughts about here was Michael Del Zotto's future partner. Any concerns about Del Zotto's defense will be cleaned up by Kundratek as his defense is first rate and will get even better.
Kundratek is now heading to Ottawa to join the Czech Republic's World Under-20 team; this will be his second straight appearance which alone tells you this is a talented player. I think this will do Kundratek some good as he will get a chance to play against the best of his peers as well as having several of the Rangers scouting staff to work with him.
It will be interesting to see Kundratek at the end of January which I think I will do just to measure his progress.
(Kundratek Courtesy of the Medicine Hat Tigers)