TORONTO — Robert Holik, an 18-year-old left wing with the Czechoslovakian national hockey team, is believed to have defected to the United States with the hope of joining the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League, according to a published report today.
"The question of the day is: Where is Robert Holik?" the Toronto Star quotes an unidentified NHL executive who is attending the league meetings in Minneapolis.
The meetings will be capped Saturday by the annual entry draft.
"If he's in North America, as is rumored, it could throw the draft upside down," the executive is quoted as saying.
"He's a top-five player, no question of that," an unnamed NHL scout said. "He's big and strong and really has no flaws. He's tough and has tremendous skills."
Holik's sister, tennis star Andrea Holikova, defected to the United States three years ago.
North Stars Coach Pierre Page said today that he knows nothing about the defection report.
"I've been talking to the scouts, and they haven't said anything," Page told the Associated Press. "I haven't been told anything. If it's a secret, it's a well-kept secret."
The newspaper says hockey officials believe that Holik is being kept hidden by the North Stars, who intend to select him with their No. 1 pick, the seventh overall, in Saturday's draft.
NHL general managers are concerned about drafting Finnish and Swedish players, the newspaper said, after recent decisions by former NHL players Hakan Loob and Fredrik Olausson to return to Europe.
"The thing about Czechs and Russians is that once you've got them, you've got them," an unnamed NHL scout said. "With the Swedes and Finns, you might have them four years and then they're gone."