By Peter Gleason
The Flyers may not challenge for this season’s Stanley Cup, but at the pace he has played during the first mointh Jakub Voracek is sure to be in the running for the NHL’s scoring title.
With a two-goal performance in the Flyers’ 4-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night, the 25-year-old right winger leads the league with 13 assists and is just one point behind Sidney Crosby in the scoring race with 18 points to Crosby’s 19.
He has recorded 11 of those points in the past six games and has posted six multipoint performances through the first 12 games this season. He is second in the NHL in points per 60 minutes with 4.80, according to hockeyanalysis.com, and he leads the Flyers with a 52.8 percent Corsi rating. His shooting percentage is at 11.9 percent through 12 games.
He dropped 10 pounds before the season began by cutting carbs as part of a painstaking diet, but, according to Voracek, the key to his recent success is quite simple.
“To be honest, I feel really confident with the puck on my stick,” Voracek told ESPN.com Wednesday. “I’m a year more experienced, so I’m kind of picking my spots on the ice, but it’s only 12 games. I’ll be happy if it lasts the whole season, but I don’t want to get too carried away.”
Modesty seems more appealing to Voracek than star status, which is fitting considering he might be one of the league’s most consistently underrated players. The seventh overall pick in 2007 — by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who traded him to the Flyers as part of the Jeff Carterdeal in 2011 — has posted back-to-back seasons of 20 goals or more. He has finished second in team scoring both seasons. He has been an integral piece to the club’s power play.
One Eastern Conference executive who saw Voracek play recently noticed one stark improvement.
“His play away from the puck was way better than I had seen before,” he said.
Yet he doesn’t receive the same sort of recognition as other players with his production often garner. That might be in part because he plays primarily alongside one of the game’s most exciting talents. Voracek and Giroux have forged chemistry through playing together the past three seasons, and Voracek said each member of the duo is becoming more and more adept at anticipating the other’s moves.
“Claude’s been a top player for the past four years,” said Voracek, who was born in Kladno, Czechoslovakia. “He’s so good and so strong on the puck and so competitive. Obviously, he’s smart with the puck and he draws attention with the puck so that opens up space for [me].”