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Czechia’s Samuel Drancak feeling at home in Red Deer

Pre-season begins on Friday night
Red Deer Rebels forward Samuel Drancak poses for a photo after practice at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Thursday. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Red Deer Rebels’ import player Samuel Drancak may be a long way from where he grew up in Strakonice, Czechia but central Alberta is already beginning to feel like home.

The 17-year-old forward was selected by the Rebels 54th overall in the first round of the 2023 CHL Import Draft in July and within the last week skated alongside his teammates at training camp.

He told The Advocate the opportunity to take part in camp as a member of the Rebels has been great.

“Training camp was super nice and my teammates are good so everything is nice,” he said. “All the people here have been great so I’m excited for the season.”

Drancak played in the Czech U17 league last season for the HC Motor České Budějovice and recorded 17 goals and 48 assists for 65 points in 34 games. His impressive point total was the league’s second-best.

He also suited up in the Czech professional league for two games and played nine games at the U20 level where he contributed 12 points.

This is just his second time on Canadian soil.

The first was when he played for his country at the 2022 World U17 Hockey Challenge in B.C. where he contributed two points in six games.

This summer he also competed in the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in his home country. They took home the silver medal after losing to Team Canada in the gold medal game. During the tournament, he posted two points in five games.

“It was fun because we weren’t expected to go to the final. There were some fun games and against Canada was awesome,” he said.

The Rebels and Drancak begin pre-season play this Friday in Calgary before facing the Edmonton Oil Kings on Sunday at the Peavey Mart Centrium.

Drancak said he’s excited about playing in his first Western Hockey League games this week.

So far, it has taken some time to adapt to the WHL game. Playing against older players on the ice has been a more physical style and the ice surface is smaller than what he’s used to.

“Everything has been faster and I have less time [to make decisions] but it’s been fun,” he said. “[The smaller ice surface] for me has been better. I have lots of speed and harder hits.”

Even if he is still adapting you wouldn’t notice it by watching him play.

During the Rebels’ annual black-and-white game this week he scored not once, but twice in the third period to tie the game 3-3. He also nearly scored during the overtime period.

“I had great guys on my line and I got lucky. It was a great game on both sides,” he said.

Drancak will soon be named to the final roster after pre-season play wraps up. After the departure of defenceman Christoffer Sedoff, Drancak will fill the second import spot on the team alongside fellow Czechia forward Frantisek Formanek.

He explained his goal for the season is to contribute on the offensive end. He described himself as more of a playmaker rather than a goal scorer. That doesn’t mean he can’t bury opportunities when they come to him.

“I’ll do my best and we’ll see,” he said. “I play a physical game and have a good hockey sense. I don’t usually score goals but in training camp, I’ve scored some.”

Drancak first started playing hockey at just three years old. He’s the first in the Drancak family to play hockey and what drives him is to eventually make it to the professional level.

His favourite player in the NHL is Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs but compared himself to Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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