Thu Feb 02 03:05am EST
One will see Radek Faksa in full effect once he has the build to back up his game.
The past two NHL drafts have seen lanky centres such as current Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Ryan Johansen and the Barrie Colts' Mark Scheifele, who had a NHL stint in October with the Winnipeg Jets, jump into the top 10 picks. In each case, teams were projecting what both players could do once they physically mature. Faksa is not a carbon copy of either, but the 18-year-old Kitchener Rangers standout seems like he could be a fairly complete package once his body fills out. He's scratched the surface quite extensively in his first North American season with the Rangers, as he's ranked fourth in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings.
"I think I'm a big, strong centre, good puck protection," says the 6-foot-3, 202-pound native of the Czech Republic, who went pointless in Wednesday's CHL/NHL Top Prospects Games but generated some threatening chances that always seemed an inch or two off from producing a goal. "I need more weight, more power. It's been harder because I always grow, I've always been tall. I don't know why because neither of my parents are that tall."
Faksa leads all first-year players in the OHL in scoring with 22 goals and 47 points in 41 games for Kitchener, which is tied for third overall in the league. The Rangers, typically accustomed to having veteran scorers, have instead gone on a long way counting on clutch goals from 18-year-old Edmonton Oilers pick Tobias Rieder or Faksa, who just turned 18 three weeks ago. The latter's point-a-game pace is all the more noteworthy when it's taken into account that Faksa had just four points in the season's first 10 games.
"I was really scared I didn't know what I could do at this level of hockey," Faksa says. "The first 10 games was very tough for me because here it's smaller rinks and it's faster and harder than Czech Republic. After 10 games, it was fine."
Faksa also had the thrill of helping his homeland nearly reach a medal game in the world junior championship. The Czechs became a tournament darling after relegating Team USA. They lost a 2-1 quarter-final heartbreaker to Russia and wound up placing a strong fifth.
"It was very fun because I'd never played before 15,000 people," says Faksa. "I saw my parents [mother Alena and father Jiri] there and we had a good team, very good guys. It was sad that we lost in the quarter-final [to Russia] after having a power play in overtime."
1. How has your season progressed?
"This season has been very good, I'm getting lots of ice time in a very good league, I'm happy that I play power play and penalty kill. I got to play world juniors. I'm very happy with my decision to come [to the CHL]."
2. No doubt there are a lot of people in Kitchener have helped you get settled into the OHL life, but who are a couple teammates who've been really great to you?
"All the guys have helped me. Maybe [Rangers centre] Zach Lorentz or our captain, Michael Catenacci, because he's the one who always drives me to practice since he lives close to me."
3. Who is the most challenging goalie you have faced in the OHL?
"Maybe Petr Mrazek [his teammate in the world junior championship who was voted the tourney's top goalie]. He's a very fast goalie so it's hard to score a goal on him."
(Note: Faksa actually had two goals and four assists in Kitchener's two games vs. Mrazek's Ottawa 67's.)
4. Who are the players in the NHL you look up to?
"Pavel Datsyuk [of the Red Wings]. It's fun to watch out to see what he does. James Neal from Pittsburgh is another guy I watch for. He's a big guy."
5. One adjustment anyone moving to a new part of the world must make is the food. Canada isn't famous for its cuisine, but any strong likes or dislikes?
"I never ate steak as much in Czech Republic. I'd had it, but here it's a lot better. It's my favourite meal here."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).