Jakub Voracek Finding Other Ways To Contribute

10 Jan

Jakub Voracek didn’t really know what to expect. He was traded to Philadelphia from Columbus, where the last year of his entry-level contract was marred by only one point in his final 16 games and coach Scott Arniel calling out the top-six forward for his conditioning, or, apparently, lack thereof.

“It was the worst time in my life in my NHL career,” said Voracek in early November. “Even though it was a tough situation, in [16] games if you are playing on the first or second line you have to be able to get more than one assist, secondary assist. I mean, somehow you’ve got to get it.

“It’s impossible to not have it, but really that time nothing went in and we didn’t play well as a team. I didn’t play well as a player, point-wise, and the season ended that way. But I did everything in the summer to [not] let it happen again.”

Recognizing the fresh start, Voracek went to Montreal to begin working on his conditioning and on his shot. He was one of the last ones to arrive at camp, but that’s no reflection of his work ethic. He wanted to be in top shape when he arrived.

Voracek came with high expectations in Columbus. He was drafted seventh overall in 2007, and the Blue Jackets were hoping for a 20-goal scorer, but he never seemed to pan out. Many there said that he had a problem with work ethic – but that hasn’t been an issue in Philadelphia.

“I think Jake is one of those guys who has been playing better and better and better as the season goes on,” said linemate Danny Briere. “I think when you go from one team to another, there’s a lot at first. You’re trying to get in as far as a system, teammates, how it works, new house, new place. There was a lot of work into that for him at first. Slowly, he’s starting to get more and more comfortable.”

Voracek has gotten comfortable on the second line. He’s gotten comfortable on the penalty kill. He’s gotten comfortable on the power play. The only thing he’s not comfortable doing, apparently, is shooting. And he knows it, too.

“I have a good shot, I just don’t use it,” said Voracek. “So many times I can shoot it and at the last second, the pass comes in my head. If I change it and I be a little more selfish — I don’t mean I won’t pass — but if the pass is not there and I’m not looking for it and I shoot it, that way I can be better at it. It will be better for me and the team.”

Voracek is eighth on the team with 82 shots taken. He has six goals, but two of which were game winners. On the surface, the total seems low, but his game this year has been finding his teammates. He already has 20 assists, nearly halfway through the season. His career-high is 34, and he’s on pace to beat that by seven. His first instinct is simply to pass.

“It’s tough,” said Voracek. “You have the puck, you have a clean shot, then you see a teammate back door or something. Just that little time, you stop thinking about it. Then when you want to shoot the puck, it’s too late.”

The pucks have only gone in a handful of times for Voracek this season, but he’s been effective in other ways. He sees time on both the penalty kill and the first unit on the power play.

“Well, I was prepared to play power play,” said Voracek. “I wasn’t prepared to play penalty kill. Regardless, I’m playing almost 20 minutes a night, which is great. Penalty kill, power play and when you see the coach trusts you, it’s a good sign.”

The knock in Columbus was against Voracek not living up to the hype. Here in Philadelphia he isn’t expected to be a star and, so far, he’s done everything the Flyers have asked of him.

“I always say if the team is playing well, the player is playing well,” said Voracek. “I think we’re playing very solid hockey games. We are four points out of first.

“It’s hard to say. The team’s playing well and I think I’m where I wanted to be. If the coach trusts you and has confidence in you, it’s always a great sign.”

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