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Voracek earning Jagr-level attention

Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:17 PM / News
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Voracek earning Jagr-level attention
Jakub Voracek grew up in the Czech Republic as a big Jaromir Jagr fan. Now a teammate of Jagr\'s, Voracek scored a big playoff goal in Game 1, something his idol knows a lot about.

PITTSBURGH -- Like so many hockey-playing kids in his neighborhood in Kladno, Czech Republic, Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek had a poster of Jaromir Jagr tacked on his bedroom wall. He even had a mullet when he was 5 or 6 years old, though Voracek swears it only was because his mom made him sit in the barbershop chair and get one.

"It was popular then," he said with a smile. "I'm sure other kids had them because of Jagr, though."

Voracek, who said his hair is long enough for him to have a mullet today, has found a different and more fulfilling way to take after his childhood idol.

While all the kids in his neighborhood dreamt of meeting and perhaps one day getting to skate with Jagr, who also is from Kladno, Voracek now carpools with the future Hall of Famer to practice because they live in the same neighborhood and play on the same team in the National Hockey League.

And after playing the role of Game 1 hero Wednesday, Voracek can say he, like Jagr, has scored a huge goal in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. Jagr has four playoff overtime winners in his career; Voracek now has one after hammering home a loose puck from the right side of the net to complete Philadelphia's comeback from a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against Pittsburgh.

Voracek's phone was buzzing like a bee after the game.

"I had a lot of messages from Halifax [where he played junior hockey], from Columbus [his former NHL team], from Philly, from back home," Voracek said. "It's pretty exciting. Everybody is watching this series. It's the most-watched series in the NHL right now. It's exciting."

A year ago there was nothing really all that exciting about Voracek's hockey life. He was en route back to Kladno after failing to make the playoffs with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time in his three seasons. At 21 years old, Voracek, who was selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, still was searching for the special something that defines NHL players and their careers.

He wasn't looking for a Jagr-like moment; just a slice of excitement to call his own.

He was traded to Philadelphia on June 23 as part of the Jeff Carter deal, and his career path had changed. He was coming to an organization that was changing its identity while still looking to remain a contender.

Voracek was going to be one of the young players given a chance to grab a major role and run with it, and he did, scoring a career-best 18 goals.

"It was a great thing that happened to me," said Voracek, who had 49 points in 78 games during the regular season. Just over a week after the trade, Voracek learned that Jagr was going to be his teammate. It was a dream come true then, just as it still is now, but Voracek has gained so much more than a lasting memory from his time with Jagr, who he called a "priceless" member of the team.

"When I made it to Columbus my first year, it was my dream to play against him one day," Voracek said. "Then he left for Russia, so it was like, OK, that might be it. We met at the World Championship and all of a sudden in 2012 I'm playing with him on the same team. It's pretty cool. He's such an experienced guy. He knows what it takes to win. He won everything, and he's a great leader."

Voracek isn't Jagr, but he does have the same body type. He's big, especially in his lower half, and his speed down the right wing is impressive to watch.

"The first time when I saw him in training camp I said, 'This guy can skate,'" Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "If he can stay healthy and he can skate like that throughout the year, he is going to score some goals, create some offense for us. He's done that. Hopefully he can keep doing that throughout the playoffs because he's one of the key guys for us."

So far, so good.

Even before scoring his first playoff overtime goal, Voracek was one of the Flyers' best forwards in Game 1. He finished the game with three shots on goal and three hits.

"He is at his best when he's moving and skating, so after the first period, again, he got going and our team got going," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's a hard player to defend because of his quickness and his speed and his agility."

Sidney Crosby told NHL.com he's been impressed with Voracek every time he's played against him. Nothing that happened Wednesday changed his opinion.

"I think he's a good player," Crosby said. "He's physical up and down the wing. He uses his body well. He's physical throughout the game. He was always around the net [Wednesday]. He keeps it simple."

Now that he has confidence that he can score a Jagr-like goal to go along with his skating ability and speed, there's reason to believe Voracek's overtime goal may only be the starting point for a breakout postseason.

The Flyers love that -- Jagr included -- even if Voracek has since taken down the poster that used to hang in his childhood bedroom.

"He's one of our top offensive guys, naturally talented," Flyers center Matt Read told NHL.com. "If he shows up to work every night, he's going to always be a great player for us.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 82 28 58 7 86
J. Voracek 82 23 39 11 62
W. Simmonds 82 29 31 -4 60
S. Hartnell 78 20 32 11 52
M. Streit 82 10 34 3 44
B. Schenn 82 20 21 0 41
M. Read 75 22 18 -4 40
S. Couturier 82 13 26 1 39
V. Lecavalier 69 20 17 -16 37
K. Timonen 77 6 29 5 35
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 33 18 7 .917 2.50
R. Emery 9 12 2 .903 2.96
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