Florida Panthers prospect interview: Filip Novak

By Robert Neuhauser

Filip Novak
Team: Regina Pats (WHL)
Position: defenseman
Birthdate: May, 7th, 1982
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
Shoots: L
NHL draft: New York Rangers, 2nd round, 64th overall in 2000

When did you start playing hockey?

I was five years old when I started skating and at the same time I also started to play
organized hockey.

Where did you start playing hockey?

We lived in Ceske Budejovice, so it was quite logical that I started playing for the
local team, at that time it had the name Motor Ceske Budejovice.

Who directed your first hockey steps?

This was definitely my dad. He played at the highest level in former Czechoslovakia , in the
First League, and he was also the factor which brought me to the game. He didn’t need to
push me in any direction, I was eager to play and he gave me all the needed tips.

What is your biggest success in hockey so far?

I would mention the NHL Entry Draft. It was really unbelievable, the year before I left
Ceske Budejovice to play in the WHL and hopefully increase my chances for the draft.
Everything worked well, playing at the Top Prospects Game was also great, but the draft
was really exciting. A dream for me came true, I’m very happy to be a part of the Rangers
organization. The WJC three months ago was another highlight, I only feel sorry that we
finished at the fifth place.

How were your feelings when you weren’t permitted to play at the 2001 WJC?

My parent club Ceske Budejovice didn’t allow me to play last year because of some contract
problems when I left for Regina. Last year we won a gold medal and I wasn’t happy that
I couldn’t join the team, of course. But that’s life, maybe it will be for some good after
all…

Who is your hockey role model?

I don’t have one exact hockey role model. I watch all the good puck-moving defensemen, also
those who already hung up their skates. My favorites would probably be Bobby Orr, Paul
Coffey and the Rangers’ Brian Leetch.

Your favorite NHL team?

New York Rangers, without any doubt. They drafted me and I hope I can start my NHL career
with the Rangers soon.

Do you have a favorite number you like to wear on your jersey?

Yeah, it would be the number 14. I just like that one.

How would you describe yourself as a player?

I think that I have a solid offensive upside. I would say that I’m a good passer and that
I can skate with the puck well. I have worked on my skating a lot in the previous years
and it has hopefully payed the dividends. I have also quite a good shot. That would be
for my strengths, from the weaknesses, I definitely have to improve my overall defensive
zone coverage. Another thing would be keeping the play more simple and avoid any risky
plays. That would be the things I have to work on.

Have you had any serious injury in your previous career?

I had two injuries so far. I torn my ACL and then had also a concussion. Hope I can stay
healthy for the rest of my career!

Your plans for the near future?

Succesfully graduate from the WHL and then work my butt off in the summer to be in shape
for the Rangers camp. I want to play in the NHL next season, that’s my goal and every of
my plans is connected with this fact.

What are your experiences from your NHL camps with the Rangers?

The first camp was just awesome. It was the summer after I got drafted, I went to the camp
and could share the locker room with all the Rangers stars and one of my idols, Brian Leetch.
I was trying to have fun and learn as much as possible. Everything is a lot faster, but I
had quite a good first camp and was returned to the WHL as the last player to be cut.
Last summer I hoped to make the Rangers team, but things didn’t work out so well, also my
play wasn’t that good. So I’m with the Pats again. Now I know what it takes to reach the
NHL.

How were your feelings when you were demoted to the WHL?

Like I said, the first year I knew that it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be sent
down. I was aware that I was not NHL ready. Last year I thought I can make it, it was
a bit disappointing to be demoted, but I’m here with my mates and hope we can do well in
the WHL playoffs!

You have an experience from the Memorial Cup Finals. What do you remember most from the
last year’s run?

It was a great experience, I enjoyed it really very much! Regina was the host city of the
last year’s Memorial Cup and all the people in the city were really great! They supported
us a lot and there was a terrific atmosphere at the games. I’ll always remember it, pity that
we couldn’t win the Memorial Cup…

Last season you were the only Czech on the Pats team. Now you are joined by Matej Trojovsky.
Do you help him in his rookie WHL season?

Yeah, I try to help Matej a lot. He has already spent one year playing in the USA and so he
is quite used to another language and culture. In this way he has a better situation than me
when I was in my rookie WHL season.
I try to help him with his offensive game. Matej is
a big guy who likes to play hard and is very physical, I try to learn him some finesse plays,
mostly puckhandling. In the beginning I was trying to show him what it takes to play in the
WHL, now he knows and I want to help him with his offensive game.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to read a good book. It’s a good way how to relax. Of course, I like many other
sports, like soccer or tennis, not just one sport. And I also like to spend time with my
girlfriend.

Your hockey dreams?

Like every player, I want to make it to the NHL, that’s my dream. And also playing for the
Czech senior national team. So I have two hockey dreams. Hope they can come true!