2007 prospects: Jakub Voracek

By Kevin Forbes

In the team’s 13 seasons of existence, a number of Halifax Mooseheads alumni have been drafted and gone on to play in the NHL, ranging from Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks, to Alex Tanguay of the Calgary Flames to Ladislav Nagy of the Dallas Stars. However, at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Jakub Voracek looks primed to be the highest drafted Moosehead in team history.

Ranked fifth overall by International Scouting Services, Voracek had an outstanding rookie season with the Halifax Mooseheads after they selected him first overall in the CHL Import Draft. Halifax had high expectations for the young Czech Republic native, but even they could not have expected him to lead both the team and all QMJHL rookies with 23 goals and 86 points in just 59 games. Voracek followed this with a sizzling performance in the playoffs, where he tallied seven goals and 24 points in 12 games, helping sixth seed Mooseheads dispose of the third-seeded Moncton Wildcats in seven games, before eventually falling to the eventual league champion Lewiston MAINEiacs in five games. In fact, the Mooseheads were the only team to win a single game against the MAINEiacs during Lewiston’s entire playoff run to the QMJHL championship.

Halifax’s coach, Cam Russell was frank when discussing what Voracek brings to the table, stating that "he’s the best player on the team" and "it’s a great privilege for myself and the other players to play with him and to coach him, because eventually he’s going to be in the NHL and he’s going to be a very good player." He admitted that the Mooseheads threw a lot of responsibility on the back of the 17-year-old and that Voracek handled it extremely well.

The one skill that immediately stands out with Voracek is his ability to distribute the puck, something that NHL Central Scouting’s Kim Houston spoke highly of.

"I haven’t seen a kid that can the pass the puck like he can in a long time, especially on his backhand," said Houston. He referred specifically to a particular playoff game against Lewiston where made an impressive move in close to feed the puck to frequent line mate and fellow 2007 eligible prospect, Logan MacMillan.

"He’s in the slot, he’s spinning away and then all of the sudden he just fires it straight across onto MacMillan’s stick. I mean, he brings something special."

Naturally, passing isn’t the only aspect of his game, although Houston did remark that "he has a tendency to make the pass a lot more than he likes to shoot." In fact, Voracek’s vision of the ice made him a fixture on the point of Halifax’s power-play unit. In addition to his playmaking, Houston said that "He’s very highly skilled in terms of his skating, he always attacks with speed, and his passing skills are what really stand out to me. He obviously has some finishing skills as well." Houston continued by saying simply that: "Voracek is certainly a special player."

Despite his skills, Russell was quick to point out his work ethic and attitude as the reasons for his success, stating "he brings leadership through his work ethic and through his ability, he comes every day to the rink, whether it’s a practice or a game, he comes with a smile on his face and a desire to work hard and get better." Russell also noted that despite the fact that Voracek is still learning English, he fit in well in the Mooseheads dressing room and pointed to fellow Czech defenseman Jiri Suchy as being a big help in the rookie’s adjustment.

Voracek and Suchy were also teammates on the Czech Republic‘s Under-20 World Junior squad this winter. However, their trip to Sweden did not prove successful as the Czech team finished fifth overall. Voracek ended the tournament with a goal and two assists, placing him tied for sixth in team scoring.

In addition to his poor performance at the World Juniors, there are a few other chinks in Voracek’s armor that will probably lead to dropping slightly at draft day after he was an early favorite to challenge for first overall. Most notably is his overall strength and conditioning, which is something Houston also discussed: "He probably has to get a little stronger in his upper body. When he gets to the next level, when you get down low and you got to fight and you got to battle and he’s probably going to get pushed off the puck a little bit."

Voracek’s strength or lack thereof was brought to the forefront at the NHL Draft Combine earlier this month. He also showed improvement in his defensive coverage and his physical play over the course of the season, but both will still need additional work as he continues to mature.

Despite these concerns, there is little doubt Voracek will be among the top 10 players drafted on June 22. There’s a very good chance he’ll also surpass the previous franchise record of the highest-drafted Moosehead, which is currently eighth overall (Pascal Leclaire in 2001).

Copryight 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.