Q&A with Jan Mursak

By Adam Danter
Slovenia is making a name for itself as it has begun to develop solid young hockey prospects.  The first big-name prospect to be drafted by an NHL club from Slovenia was Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar.  The next prospect who should make a name for himself is speedy 20-year-old winger Jan Mursak.
 
Mursak was picked in the sixth round, 182nd overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, by the Detroit Red Wings.  The Red Wings love his speed, vision on the ice and scoring touch.
 
The 5’11, 191-pound winger has enjoyed a fine sophomore year in the OHL, netting 17 goals and 47 assists for 64 points in 57 games. He started the year with the Saginaw Spirit and then was traded to the Belleville Bulls for their run at the Eastern Conference title.
 
Coming off of a Belleville 4-0 series sweep over the Barrie Colts, Mursak has played inspired playoff hockey posting five goals and six assists for 11 points in nine games.  The slick playmaker has been solid on both the penalty kill and power play.
 
Hockey’s Future spoke with Mursak after practice on Wednesday following an optional team skate in Belleville.
 

HF:      How did you feel when you were first drafted by the Red Wings?
 

JM:      When I found out that Detroit had drafted me, I was very happy.  Detroit is so good to their players and staff.  The whole organization is like a big family.  They have been great to me.  I get calls regularly from the management to see how I am doing.  Growing up my favorite team was Detroit. 
 
HF:      What skills do you possess that makes you important to the Red Wings?
 

JM:      I am a player that likes to set up my teammates for scoring plays.  I am a good passer. To me, setting up a play is just as valuable to a team as a goal scorer.  I am also a great skater which helps at all areas of the game.

HF:      What were your experiences like at Red Wings training camp and playing for Grand Rapids during the playoffs last year?
 

JM:      Both were great experiences.  In Detroit, I worked out with Niklas Kronwall and spoke with Daniel Cleary and Kris Draper quite often.  I got to know them pretty well.  I roomed with Cory Emmerton at the Red Wings camp in Traverse City and picked up good chemistry with him. We added to that chemistry on ice when we played together for Grand Rapids during their playoff run last year.

HF:      You on the wing with Emmerton, and add another good prospect like Justin Abdelkader, and that has the makings of a great future line in Detroit.
 

JM:      Yeah, it does.  You never know what might happen.  I will play with anyone that I am asked to play with.
 
HF:      How do you feel your year has gone so far?
 

JM:      I am happy with the way the year went.  I put on 15 lbs in the off season and it took a while to get my skating style back to the way I was used to. Once I got used to it, I was able to play the way I have always been used to.  Being traded from Saginaw to Belleville was an adjustment, but things are great now.
 
HF:      How has your role differed from playing with Saginaw and Belleville?
 

JM:      Aside from working on the power play and penalty kill I was providing leadership to a younger team in Saginaw.  In Belleville, we have a team that is full of leaders.  We all take responsibility for the leadership and get along great because of it.
 
HF:      So far Belleville has had little trouble with its opponents in the playoffs, why is that?
 

JM:      I wouldn’t say that we have had little trouble.  Both Peterborough and Barrie have played us very tough.  We were very surprised that we swept Barrie, as they are a good team.  We weren’t surprised that we won the series though.
 
HF:      What players in the OHL do you think are underrated?
 
JM:      To be honest, I feel that there are too many to mention.  The players in this league are so talented.
 
HF:      Coming from a small hockey nation such as Slovenia must be quite an accomplishment.  How does the country view you as a player?
 

JM:      The media has helped people recognize me.  Slovenia doesn’t have many ice rinks for the kids to use, so it is a big deal for anyone that becomes a drafted prospect.
 
HF:      Being that Slovenia is a developing hockey country, do you see a future for yourself promoting hockey in your homeland?
 

JM:      Oh for sure.  If given the opportunity I would like to promote Slovenia as a country that is becoming more familiar with the game.  Perhaps when I am done my career I could work more with it at a different level.
 
HF:      What do you do to prepare on the day of a game?
 
JM:      I will arrive at the arena really early, like three hours before.  I like to take my time getting ready.  It gives me time to think and helps me relax.  Before I go to the arena I will usually eat a good meal and take a nap so that I am well fed and rested.
 
HF:      What do you do during your down time?
 
JM:      I like to take it easy.  I hang out with friends and with the guys from the team.  We like to play Xbox or go to the movies.  It’s pretty easy going.
 
HF:      What are your plans for the summer once hockey is finished?
 
JM:      I will go home for a while and then go to mini-camp in July.  Then it will be back home to Slovenia for a bit.  Then once the fall starts I will be attending full training camps.