Spitfires increase defense with addition of Czech defender Hebek in import version

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If there’s one area where the Windsor Spitfires could use some help for the 2022-23 season, it’s at the back of the team.

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That’s where Windsor Spitfires general manager Bill Bowler focused on Friday’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

With the 48th selection in the first round, the Spitfires selected Tomas Hebek, a six-foot-tall and 187-pound defender. The 18-year-old Hebek played for his hometown Dynamo Pardubice Jr. last season. club in the Czech Republic.

“He’s a young man we had our eyes on and it’s hard to sit and wait that long to make a selection, but Tomas was there and eager to go to Canada,” Bowler said. . “We are excited to have him join the Windsor Spitfires.”

Already faced with the loss of oversized defenders Louka Henault and Andrew Perrott to graduate, the Spitfires handed out potential oversized defender Nathan Ribau to Niagara.

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That left the club with a potentially overstretched Michael Renwick along with Daniil Sobolev, Nicholas De Angelis, Bronson Ride and Anthony Cristoforo, who was the first round of the year, on the defensive along with James Jodoin, who played most of the game. last season as a striker.

“We looked at the defense, if the right player was there,” Bowler said of the team’s hopes. “We expect him to come and play. He is a big man who defends with purpose and makes a good first pass.”

Hebek had four assists in 41 appearances for the Pardubice under-20 club and also played in 12 appearances for the Czech under-18 team, scoring a goal and two points.

“I’m very excited,” Hebek said of his selection by the Spitfires. “The junior hockey there is the best in the world and the NHL.”

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He has watched CHL matches to follow friend Frantisek Formanek, who was chosen by Red Deer in the first round last year.

“I know some things, but not too much,” Hebek said. “I watch some matches because my boyfriend played there, but I’m really interested in playing there.”

To select Hebek, the Spitfires had to release Russian forward Avval Baisov, who took the team 48th overall in last year’s draft, as teams are only allowed to carry two importers. The 18-year-old Baisov saw limited action at the club in 2021-22, scoring two goals and five points in 29 games, while going scoreless in seven play-off games.

“Avval was a great teammate and has a lot of potential, but at this point we thought we needed a defender and had to release Avval,” said Bowler, who will keep Sobolev as the team’s other import player.

Qualifying for the NHL Draft this month, Hebek is ranked 113th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, after ranking 98th in the midterm.

“I think there is a small chance (I get called up), but I don’t know if it will happen,” Hebek said.

For now, his focus is on getting to Windsor to join the Spitfires for the start of training camp in September.

“I think I’ll come sooner,” Hebek said. “I hope so. I want to be in Canada.”

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