London Knights’ forward Christian Dvorak has received that elusive second chance at making a first impression on NHL Draft gurus, returning sooner than expected from an ACL injury to suit up for the Knights at the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Dvorak, who finished 71st in Central Scouting’s rankings of North American skaters, injured his leg in December and underwent surgery in January. But the injury hasn’t impacted his stature in the eyes of the scouts — he dropped only two spots from his initial rankings.
The lack of a slide came as a bit of a surprise to the Frankfort, IL native.
“Maybe a little bit. Obviously it might hurt you if you’re out for half the year, but obviously it shows that they trust me and it’s nice to see. Hopefully I get drafted around there,” he said, adding that he tried to put his injury’s impact on his draft status out of his mind and focus on getting back on the ice. “You think about it a little bit. I was more concerned, though, with rehab and trying to get back as soon as possible.”
The Knights were followed around by a TV crew which was filming a reality series called "Quest for the Cup". The show covered Dvorak’s injury in detail and he said it gave him the opportunity to see what happened.
“That was the only chance I really got to see it was off that show,” he said. “I wanted to see it and it was tough to watch, but I have to deal with it.”
The injury came at the worst time for Dvorak. He was impressing with his on-ice performance and was establishing himself as one of the OHL’s elite rookie prospects. Dvorak admitted he didn’t expect that level of success at first. In 33 games, he scored six goals and added eight assists.
“I knew it was going to be a pretty tough transition and I knew that I wasn’t going to get a lot of ice time with all the great players on this team,” he said. “But I started the season off well and I started to get more ice time with all the guys away at the World Juniors.
“And then in the second game, when I got all that ice time, I got the injury. It kind of sucked, but you’ve got to deal with it.”
Dvorak explained that he’s been able to improve some other areas that needed work.
“When the injury happens you have to think about the positives. It gave me a chance to work on getting stronger in the upper body,” he said. “I got a chance to do that and it will help me be more confident.”
Dvorak was headed towards the University of Wisconsin, but chose the OHL route, mainly because of the team that drafted him.
“I chose the OHL because this was the best chance for me to be involved with the Hunters. Obviously this organization is unbelievable — just to be out there and practicing with all these great players is going to help make you better,” he said. “[The OHL] wasn’t too much of an option. I was always thinking more the college route. London was the team that drafted me and it was really the only team that I would have given the thought of changing my mind for.”
He said he’s seeing similar decisions being made by his cohorts who are forgoing the collegiate route for the perceived, more-direct junior path.
“I see it a little bit. I know a few ‘96's who have chosen the OHL instead of going the college route,” Dvorak explained. “They’re doing what’s best for them and that’s what I’m doing for myself.”
Growing up in the Chicago area, Dvorak is “definitely” a Blackhawks fan. And he has a pretty solid role model in whom he models his game.
“I’d say Jonathan Toews,” he said.
But as a Knight shouldn’t he say Patrick Kane?
“Oh yeah… well, they’re pretty close actually,” he added, laughing. “Since I grew up in Chicago, I’ll say Toews — I just love the way he plays at both ends of the ice and I hope to do the same.”
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