Jakub Voracek finding his place in Philadelphia

By Charlie O’Connor http://twitter.com/thg_charlie
 

Photo Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Following Jakub Voracek’s one goal, two assist performance against the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 5th, Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette lauded his young forward’s effort.

“[Voracek] was close, he was doing the right thing and it was nice to see him get some of those rewards tonight.  He’s talented enough to do that, I think, on a nightly basis, to produce points.”

Laviolette has proven to be a prophet.

Since his breakout game against his former team, Jakub Voracek has been one of the Flyers’ top forwards. His early season struggles now a distant memory, Voracek’s speed and scoring instincts have been on display on a nightly basis.

The statistics highlight Voracek’s improvement. Through the first 13 games of the regular season, the 22-year old forward had only two goals and three assists for five points, numbers hardly befitting a player taken seventh overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.

Since the Columbus game? 16 points in 19 games, including a whopping 13 assists.

While injuries to Flyers’ forwards Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux allowed Voracek to seize a more prominent scoring role on the team, his numbers have not been drastically inflated as a result of more ice time. During his first 13 games, Voracek averaged 14:41 minutes per game. Over his past 18 games, he’s averaged 16:17 minutes per contest. It’s an increase, but not a significant one. His new 18-game TOI average would rank him fifth among Flyers forwards.

Advanced statistics only serve to further support the notion of a midseason breakout.

Corsi measures the amount of shots (saved shots, missed shots, and blocked shots) that were fired while a player was on the ice. A positive raw Corsi score would mean that, during a player’s even strength ice time, more shots were fired at the opposing goalie than were fired at his own netminder. It’s essentially “shots fired plus/minus.”

Through his first 13 games, Voracek’s overall season raw Corsi was a -2. But over his past 18 games, Voracek is a whopping +41.

His fantastic Corsi score is supported by the eye test as well. Voracek’s slick skating allows the forward to create space in the offensive zone, and his imposing size helps to ward off defenders. In fact, Voracek’s puck possession ability has earned comparisons to teammate and fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr commented on his countryman’s playing style to CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio prior to the start of the season.

“[Voracek] was a strong guy on boards who skates with puck. But if he shoots more, he should have more points.”

Jagr may be disappointed that Voracek’s shot volume has only slightly increased since the Blue Jackets game, improving from 2.0 shots per game to 2.16. But the young forward’s stellar puck possession and creative passing have overshadowed his lingering hesitance to shoot.

Unlike fellow offseason acquisition Wayne Simmonds, Voracek was not signed to a multi-year extension by the Flyers. While Simmonds received a two-year, $3.5 million contract, the team chose to sign Voracek to a one-year, $2.25 million deal. The Czech forward will remain under team control as a restricted free agent for the next three seasons, but it is telling that the Flyers chose to avoid a multi-year extension with Voracek, preferring to go year-to-year and better evaluate his future potential before committing long-term.

If Voracek can sustain his strong play through the remainder of 2011-12, he would likely be in line for a significant raise in the offseason.

But as his coach had hinted on November 5th, this recent stretch of strong play by Voracek doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise to team insiders.

“I think sometimes you can see things when they’re starting to come and a player starts to get comfortable and the scoring chances are there and they have the puck a lot and make plays.”

Clearly, Jakub Voracek has justified Peter Laviolette’s faith.

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