San Jose Sharks forward Lukas Kaspar is undergoing a major transition for the second season in a row. Drafted by San Jose with the 22nd pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Kaspar moved from Litvinov in the Czech Republic, where he split time between Litvinov’s junior-20 team and Czech Extraleague team, to the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. The 67’s had orchestrated a trade with the Oshawa Generals to allow them to take Kaspar’s Litvinov teammate Jakub Petruzalek with the 26th pick of the CHL Import Draft, and Kaspar followed shortly thereafter with the 29th pick.
His 21 goals and 30 assists in 59 games placed him fifth in OHL rookie scoring, but was somewhat underwhelming given the expectations of the NHL first round draft pick. Ottawa looked unlikely to make the OHL playoffs early in the season, but the team turned it around and Kaspar proved to be a vital cog in the playoffs. The speedy Czech winger with the booming shot scored six goals and added 14 assists in 21 playoff games, helping lead the 67’s to the OHL Championship and a birth to the Memorial Cup, where Kaspar added a goal and three assists in four games.
The 20-year-old could have stayed in major juniors, but he opted for the challenge of playing in the American Hockey League in 2005-06. His second major adjustment in as many seasons, Kaspar has had his ups and downs in 2005-06. The AHL rookie went 18 games between goals in November and December, but he still has a respectable 6 goals and 12 assists in 40 games, and is receiving ice time on the second line again after having been demoted to the fourth line earlier in the season.
Hockey’s Future caught up to Kaspar after a 3-0 loss to the Iowa Stars Jan. 10. The team suffered defeat, but Kaspar was one of the Barons best forwards on this night, creating offensive chances using his speed, stickhandling, and booming shot. The transition continues, this year without a familiar face.
HF: With your transition from the OHL to the AHL this year, what have you found the most different?
LK: It’s faster and lots of stronger guys, so there’s a big difference.
HF: Last year you played with Jakub Petruzalek, a teammate of yours from the Czech Republic, what kind of chemistry did you have with him in Ottawa?
LK: We played together for like five years, I think, back in Litvinov. So it was good for me and good for him to have a buddy out there, it was our first year for both of us in Canada. So, we knew each other and it was fun to play with him, he’s a smart player.
HF: What were some of the adjustments you had to make to your game coming from the Czech Republic to Canada?
LK: Yeah, it’s a big difference. In the Czech Republic nobody hits you and the rink is so much bigger. The first couple days I was just on the boards every time, just skating and hitting the boards. It wasn’t fun.
HF: Tell me about the adjustment from the OHL to the AHL.
LK: It’s lots of work. You have to work every day out there. In the OHL it’s still junior league, it’s more fun. It’s different hockey here, more serious.
HF: How do you feel your season has been so far?
LK: (Laughing softly) I want to have a better season, I hope it’s going to get better. I’m working on it, so hopefully I’m going to get better.
HF: What are some of the specific skills you’re working on?
LK: I have to be stronger for sure, there’s lots of big guys out there. I have to work on my defense and shooting more pucks on net. Lots of things.
HF: What do you feel your strengths are as a player?
LK: I have a pretty good shot. I can shoot, but I don’t shoot very often. I can skate, but I have to use it more.
HF: Going back a couple years, tell me how it felt to be drafted by San Jose in the first round.
LK: (Smiling) It was a great time. I didn’t even expect it, I didn’t interview with them. When I heard my name it was a great feeling.
HF: How was your experience in training camp at San Jose and playing with that caliber of hockey players, some of the regular Sharks?
LK: It’s a very good experience for all the young guys. When you see guys like [Patrick] Marleau and [Marco] Sturm, they are working 200 percent, they don’t give up anything. It’s a good experience for young guys especially. When you see them, how hard they work, it pushes you to work harder too.
HF: Anybody on the team you feel you have good chemistry with?
LK: There are lots of skilled guys here. We’re the youngest team in the AHL, we have lots of skill and a good team. I can play with everyone.
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