By Harry Allison
Bring up his spot atop the NHL leaders in points this season and Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek will smile and laugh as he delivers a one-word retort.
Voracek says lucky, but does he feel he belongs in the discussion for the top players in the NHL now that he has 48 points in 39 games, one more point in one more game than Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin?
“It’s  games,” Voracek said before he had an assist in the Flyers’ 5-2 loss Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. “I mean, listen, the guys that are on top, they do that for 10 years. Right now I’m focused on trying to get on a winning streak as a team because the team makes the player.”
But how has this particular player all of a sudden become one of the best scorers in the NHL? Voracek, always affable and engaging, tried to provide some reasons.
Here is a Q and A with Voracek conducted for NHL.com:
You and I both know luck is not the reason you’re at the top of the scoring leaders list. So what is different? What have you changed to get points at this clip because it has never happened for you before?
Two years ago, the lockout year, I scored 22 goals, so it was a very good year personally. It’s too bad we didn’t make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs. Last year I got hurt in the beginning, and if I didn’t get hurt I think I would have ended up around 70 points. This year, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just experience, having great teammates, a good power play. I’m always saying that the team makes the player. If you have a good team, a good locker room, a good group of guys, you feel more comfortable on the ice.
Your personal statistics have taken off since you started playing with Claude Giroux. Why does playing with him work so well for you, and for Giroux?
He’s one of the best players in the League, so obviously that helps. He’s a very competitive guy with a lot of skill, and if you put those two things together it’s always very dangerous. He hates losing. It’s been fun to play with him, obviously. I agree that [Giroux] has made me a better player. I think we’re both very competitive. If things don’t go well during the game we still stick with it and still want to be the best. We go out every shift and leave everything out there. That’s the biggest difference. We are good friends off the ice as well, which helps. We talk a lot about hockey. We know what we want from each other and we’re getting more and more on the same page. This isn’t the easiest thing to do, but we’re getting better with each game.”
You came into training camp 10 pounds lighter but you like to play a heavy game on the wall, that Jaromir Jagr-type game where you use your backside to create space for yourself and hang on to the puck. Were you concerned that giving up some weight would affect that part of your game?
To be honest I was concerned. That was my biggest concern, how my body was going to respond in the board battles, behind the net, 1-on-1. Sometimes you need to have a heavy stick in the battles against good [defensemen]. So that was my biggest concern. But I have found a way. So last year I was 218 [pounds] so I could afford to hang onto the puck a little longer, but right now I know I don’t have that strength anymore, so I kind of make a simpler play. That comes with experience as well. I think that was the biggest difference. I think overall [being lighter has helped] with my quickness. Around the net, in the corners, when I’m in trouble with the puck or without the puck, I can get out of trouble quicker than I used to. That’s the biggest difference. I always felt good at the end of games, I never had a real problem, but it’s true that I feel better and more explosive at the end of games. If you prepare for it and you maintain it during the season you’re always going to be fresh in the end.
I remember seeing you play in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in 2008 and thinking to myself, ‘This guy plays like Jagr.’ Did you try to play like Jagr then? Do you still try to play like Jagr?
No. I mean, it’s hard to play the same style of game as a player who has almost 1,800 points. Never, really. I was just always a tall guy and I broke out with my strength when I was 16 or 17, before I went to Halifax [Quebec Major Junior Hockey League]. I never really tried to play like him, but if I have a strength or if I’m capable of hanging on to the puck longer than everybody else and playing in 1-on-1 battles more than everybody else, why shouldn’t I do it? It has come with being confident and gaining experience. Obviously you can’t just skate around with the puck for one minute, but when I was younger I was hanging onto the puck and I’d just throw it away or make a dumb play. These days it comes with experience that I’m hanging onto the puck and I make a simple play. I don’t force things as much as I used to.
When you got traded to the Flyers did it shake you up, humble you a bit, considering you were a high draft pick for a team that was building for the future?
I wouldn’t say humbled. I was always pretty humble. I never had a problem with that. I have respect for the game, for the players, for everyone. I never really thought, ‘Here I am, I’m making a lot of money now, I’m the best and I can do whatever I want.’ I got traded because Columbus decided to go the other way. They got a great player for me [Jeff Carter]. For me it was a fresh start, something different. I came to an organization that has been around for 40 or 50 years. That was different. I look at it that Homer [Flyers president Paul Holmgren] had confidence in me and I tried to take advantage of it. Hopefully that’s what I’m doing.