The platinum blonde hair is a dead giveaway. The hair may turn the
girl’s heads, but his speed down the wing is what’s turning the
scout’s heads. The white flash of uniform that flies around the ice,
wreaking havoc and bringing scoring chances with him, that’s the
Jozef Balej that has scouts looking.
Balej was found by the Winterhawks entirely by chance. GM Ken Hodge
was on a scouting trip in Minnesota, and needed to kill some time. He
took in a USHL game, and has been thankful ever since. Balej was
seeing limited ice time, but more than enough to catch Hodge’s eye.
As other European players on the Hawks draft list were selected by
other teams, Hodge remembered Balej, and took a chance.
Hodge’s chance is beginning to pay dividends. Balej came out hot in
preseason, but then most of the WHL’s older veteran players were at
NHL camps. When the regular season started, Balej had trouble finding
his scoring touch. But it was only a matter of time before his
talents took over. Through 12/11, Balej had yet to miss a game, and
had 8 goals and 9 assists. He also had a 4 game point streak going.
The 12/11 game against Medicine Hat was probably Balej’s best to
date, and demonstrative of why he’ll get more than a passing thought
from the NHL. Not only did Balej post his first WHL hat trick, and
add an assist, but he played a complete two-way game: mucking in the
corners, back checking and going down to block shots. Sadly the
blocked shot led him to miss the Spokane game with a charley horse.
The knock against Balej may be his size, he is listed at 5’11″ 170
pounds. But he plays the game as if he were much bigger. And playing
together again with former teammate Marcel Hossa, perhaps Balej will
bulk up as the younger Hossa did this summer working out with his
brother, Marian. Some beef on his frame, and with his skating and
puck control, Balej could end up being a second or third round NHL
I’d say the future for Jozef is as bright as his blonde mane.
Marcel Hossa leaves 12/13 for the Slovakian WJC. Hossa has a 6 game
point streak, and is the Hawks leading scorer with 32 points. Jeffery
Urban, a 19 year old from Alaska, was with the Hawks for a tryout
this weekend. He has the size (looked to be about 6′-6’3″ around
190-200lbs), but looked weak on the boards, and was easily checked
off the puck. His playing time was limited. Former U. of Minnesota
Gopher Shawn Roed will reportedly join the Hawks after the Christmas
break. He left UMinn for academic reasons. Roed was the WCHA leader
in power play points with 7, and should help a struggling Hawks power
play. Former Kootenay Ice player Nick Marach continues to impress,
with a goal in each game this past weekend. Best “fight” of the
weekend was linesman Chris deHaan’s takedown of Medicine Hat’s Kevin
Labbe. Better wrestling moves aren’t seen on WWF. NYR draft pick
Jason LaBarbera has a respectable save percentage (hovering around
90%) despite a near 4 goals against average). some 2000+ teddy bears
were tossed on the ice in the second annual teddy bear toss night