“We have a clear goal of finishing this tournament with medal.”
On Monday, I, alongside my friend from our hockey blog in Slovakia, spoke to Los Angeles Kings prospect and Czech national under-20 team goaltender, Lukáš Pařík. The 18-year-old goalie was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. After an impressive start to his North American career, he is ready for the battle on the World Junior stage in his home country! Here is what he had to say about a few different topics I asked him about.
Samuel Tirpák (ST): Of course the numbers and performances show that you have transitioned very nicely and smoothly into North America. But how are you personally satisfied with the season so far? (Both team-wise and individually)
Lukáš Pařík (LP): “It’s something different (playing in North America) than playing in Europe, that’s a known fact. The ice is smaller and the game is faster. As for the start, my goal was mainly to establish myself quickly and get the first win, which I did. Now my goal is to win as many games as possible. We are successful in that, stats are not bad at all. When I’ve been in net, we’ve only lost two games in regulation. However, I still have room to improve.”
ST: How important was it to have a guy like Filip Král alongside you in Spokane while transitioning to North America and in adjusting to new environment?
LP: “He helped me a lot in the beginning. He explained to me how it goes in here, what the rules are, what is allowed and what’s not allowed, because it’s different than in Czech Republic. I’m glad that I have him here and that I can talk with him from time to time in Czech. Otherwise I always have to talk a lot in English and sometimes it gets on my nerves.”
ST: How helpful are your US/Canadian teammates in the process of adjusting?
LP: “The team is amazing. The boys are really kind and we get along really well. I must say, that I’m really happy for about that. The boys are helping me out with everything, for example when I need to go somewhere by car. They are really helpful, so are the coaches and staff. We have really good team here!”
ST: What are the biggest differences you’ve noticed between juniors in US/Canada and junior/pro hockey in Czech Republic?
LP: “You can’t really compare the junior hockey. Here in Canada, it’s in completely different league, different level, everything here is run absolutely professionally. Thousands of people are attending junior games here, while in Liberec, we were lucky for few dozens. We have a great atmosphere here – freshly in mind I have the not-so-distant Teddy Bear Game. Ten and a half thousand people came to the stadium. We played against one of our rivals – the Victoria Royals. We turned the game around in the third period and there was a fight in the last second of the game. Opposite to Czech Republic, nobody cares about that here in Canada. It happens on a daily basis here. I experienced this kind of an atmosphere only with the national team. Pro hockey atmosphere in Czech Republic is similar to junior hockey atmosphere here in Canada. I would say that generally CHL is something between Extraliga and Chance liga (top tier and second tier leagues).”
ST: It’s been almost six months since the draft. Are the Kings giving you some sort of updates about your development or do they put faith in the hands of the staff in Spokane?
LP: “Actually, the Los Angeles Kings’ goalie development coach was here last week. He stayed here for the whole week working with me on some things. He was here for my development. After a week, we had final evaluation. He told me what I’m doing well, what I need to be better at, and what to be aware of. I have some of his notes, but the most important thing for me is to look at my own goals.”
ST: The World Junior Championships are right around the corner, so what are the goals for your group and if he did say it, what is your head coach expecting from you guys?
LP: “I’m going to the airport shortly and I’m flying back to Czech Republic. The training camp starts soon. We have medal expectations. All our games are sold out. And we know the group is not easy, we have Canada, USA, Russia and Germany, but our nation is known for its attitude to never give up. We will fight for the best possible spot for the playoffs.”
ST: How special is it to play a tournament of this magnitude on home soil?
LP: “For our team, it’s extremely special to have this tournament at home. Our fans will propel us forwards, and the players feel when the arena is full. That can be our advantage as well, because Czech fans are somewhat different to those in North America – they are known for their passionate and wild cheering, chants, etc. They will help us immensely from a psychological standpoint!”
ST: Are you feeling that there is some extra pressure on your team in comparison to previous years, due to the fact that it will be a home tournament? Or, are you going into this tournament with a clear goal and nothing will stand in the way of achieving it?
LP: “I wouldn’t say that. The pressure is always the same and other teams are always the same. We have a clear goal of finishing this tournament with medal, and the pressure of playing on home ice shouldn’t tie our hands but help us achieve that goal.”
ST: You are in a tough group with Canada and others. Your teammate, Ty Smith, will almost surely be on the roster of Team Canada for the tournament. Will there be some friendly chirping between you guys during the game?
LP: “We would definitely say ‘hi’ to each other and then we will see. Ty is an incredible defenseman, has strong values and was drafted in middle part of the first round of his draft, and he shows his qualities on the ice.”
ST: You have great group of goalies on your roster before final cuts. How do you see this strong competition on your position?
LP: “First and foremost, I’m going to the camp to battle for spot on the roster for the tournament and to have as good of a position on the team as possible. That’s my main goal!”
ST: And last question. What are your plans after the World Junior Championships tournament for the rest of the season?
LP: “The tournament ends on January 5th, and two days after that I go back to Spokane. There is no pause mid-season, so the team continues to play without me. Therefore I don’t want to miss a lot of games. I would like to come back to Spokane as soon as possible. The goal of our team is to get to Memorial Cup finals and fight for the win!”
That’s it for the interview. I hope you enjoyed it, and let’s wish Lukáš Pařík and the Czech team a successful tournament!
Main picture courtesy of isport.blesk.cz