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Preds prospect Jáchym Kondelik on his development and career

Later this week, the University of Connecticut Huskies will open their Hockey East Tournament play as the conference’s fourth seed, having tied 2021 NCAA champion UMass with 14 conference wins.

After five straight sub-0.500 seasons from 2014 to 2019, senior forward Jáchym Kondelik is a big reason why the Huskies are winning again, going 18-15-0 overall so far this season.

Although he’s scored more than 20 points in each of his four college seasons, Kondelik has taken a big step forward in 2021-22. In 33 games, he’s scored double-digit goals for the first time (12), leads the team in points (32), hit the 100-point mark on his career, and is now the all-time leading assist-getter in program history.

“I think it’s [been about] just constantly putting the work in, and I think I’ve been doing that over the past four years,” Kondelik said about his breakout offensive season. “I knew it was going to take me a little longer to develop as a 6’7” guy. But now I realize I can use my speed more, I can actually beat people wide, and I’m faster and stronger.”

“I’ve kind of grown into my body, and confidence is a huge part of it as well,” he shared.

You can see that confidence every night when Kondelik leads the Huskies onto the ice. He’s winning puck battles and foot races, he’s controlling the area around the opposing crease, and he’s been slamming home any loose puck that comes his way. In the ten games I’ve tracked, 10 of his 22 shot attempts have come from high-danger areas, and he hasn’t sacrificed his playmaking, recording 34 primary shot attempt assists. He’s got a 56.8% success rate on his zone entries at even-strength, and that goes up to 73.9% when he skates the puck in.

As Kondelik has grown his game, the UConn program has risen with him. In 2017-18, the Huskies finished with a 15-19-2 record. It was an improvement from their 10, 11, and 12-win seasons the three years prior, but they were nowhere near a Hockey East contender. Then came a freshman class that included Kondelik, Marc Gatcomb, Carter Turnbull, and Johnny Evans.

“One of the main reasons why I came here was that I knew the coaches had a vision and believed that [we] could be a top program,” said Kondelik. “That definitely helped my decision to come here, because I saw the class that was coming in with me, and it was a bunch of really good players.”

He added: “It’s been really exciting and rewarding putting all this work in over the four years, and we’ve been constantly getting better.”

Now—although it would likely require them winning the Hockey East Tournament—Kondelik is trying to captain that now-senior class to its first-ever NCAA tournament berth. And he’s doing so with more skills in his arsenal.

“I don’t think I’m that typical of a really tall guy. I’m not skating around just killing people,” admitted Kondelik. “That’s something Nashville has been talking to me about, trying to play a physical game, and I really think I’ve been doing a much better job of that this year.”

Part of the reason Kondelik wasn’t always the most physical player was his skating, which has been a focus of Nashville’s development plan for him since he was drafted four years ago.

“The NHL is super fast,” he noted. “So it’s important for me to be able to keep up with those guys. I have a skating coach back in the Czech Republic, and I’ve been trying to get stronger and get my legs stronger.” But Kondelik has taken stock of his progress. “[Now] I think my skating, for a 6’7” guy, is not bad at all. I’m pretty good at passing and [have good] hands. But my limits to improve are really high, because like I said, it takes me a little longer to get there.”

With a career year under his belt, an entry-level contract will likely be next for Kondelik. But he wouldn’t show his hand at all when it comes to negotiations, saying he’s not focused on an NHL deal until the season’s over. But he did praise the Nashville organization and his relationship with them.

“I’ve been talking with them a lot over the years,” said Kondelik. “They give me good feedback and watch a lot of my games. It’s definitely been a really good learning experience for me.”

The Hannover, Germany native’s connection to the organization extends beyond himself, too. He’s best friends, “brothers,” as he would describe it, with 2017 fifth-round pick Tomáš Vomáčka—a former Huskie and currently playing for the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. I could tell how much it would mean to him to sign a contract with the same NHL club:

“It would be great to just be together again. He’s one of my best friends…we lived together for three years, so we’ve been together every hour of every day, basically. He watches all of our games, and I watch his games when I can. We just talk together a lot, play video games, FaceTime, and stuff like that.”

But much like earning a berth in this year’s NCAA tournament, Kondelik isn’t looking too far ahead on an entry-level deal: “No matter if I end up with him or not, we’re always going to be friends. Our friendship has definitely been something special.”

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com or manually tracked.

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