As the second overall pick of the 2015 CHL import draft, Libor Hájek has lived up to the hype in his WHL rookie season. The Saskatoon Blades blueliner has solidified himself as a potential first-round pick while netting three goals and 20 points in 52 games.
Scouts have been impressed with the 6-foot-2, 196-pound Hájek’s appealing blend of composure, puck skills, hockey sense and a smooth skating ability.
“The first thing I noticed about the youngster was his confidence and ability to calm plays down when there was pressure introduced to a situation,” says Justin Froese of Future Considerations, who has him pegged 29th overall in the 2016 NHL draft class. “His elusiveness in the defensive zone while being harassed by forecheckers is impressive. Hajek uses brilliance and slick puck handling skills to weave away from opponents and avoid checks; passing smoothly to a teammate or transitioning pucks out of the defensive zone himself when he finds a lane.”
Hájek’s decision to leave the Czech Republic for North America came down to bettering his hockey development. He felt the Blades gave him a great opportunity to advance his career to the NHL.
“(I came to Saskatoon) because Canada has a much better junior league,” says Hájek. “My agent told me the WHL is like the NHL; the shooting, the hits and it’s a very fast league. It’s a really good league and has great coaches. Every game has lots of NHL scouts and the hockey is much better. It’s a hockey country and I love it here."
The 18-year-old freshman was comforted with his decision to join the Blades by hearing a strong review of the organization and league by Prince Albert Raiders winger Simon Stransky, a close friend of his. Stransky joined the Raiders in 2014-15 and his brother, Dallas Stars pick Matej Stransky, formerly played for Saskatoon.
“Simon told me last year that it’s good and he likes it,” he says, “He said it’s a very good league and that I should come here.”
1. Do you have a favourite NHL player?
“(Kings defenceman) Drew Doughty. He plays forward but on defence. He has good shooting, good vision and is fast.”
2. Do you have a favourite NHL team?
“No, not much. But I watch Toronto because I have family there, a grandma and auntie, and I watched lots of games.”
3. How did you get involved in hockey?
“My dad helped me a lot. He helped me every day and we would practice. I started at three or four and my dad would coach me.”
4. What’s the biggest difference you have noticed in living in Canada compared to the Czech Republic?
“Everything is different: the food, the people and everything. It’s better here. Here there are more opportunities and the Czech Republic is small.”
5. What’s your favourite movie or TV show?
“Rocky. He’s a good person who works hard (in boxing).”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen