2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 20 Tomas Jurco
May 28, 2011 1 Comment
Originally drafted fourth overall in the 2009 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, Slovakia native Tomas Jurco had large expectations thrust upon him for his rookie season. He failed to disappoint, scoring 26 goals and 51 points in 64 games, along with a plus-34 rating. This season, he bettered himself by five goals, posting 56 points in just 60 games – with a plus-46 rating to boot.
But it was not the easiest time for Jurco, who had to leave his family behind in Europe and adjust to a different style of play in North America.
“When I first came (to North America), I didn’t really speak English,” Jurco said to NHL.com. “It was really hard to learn to speak English. At first, I would say the hardest thing then I had to get used to the league and the off-sides and different play. The neutral zone is smaller; it’s really hard for a European player so I feel real confident right now.”
Just under two years later, Jurco is a YouTube sensation, with numerous videos of him performing incredible, breathtaking moves, both on and off the ice, with a stick and a puck.
“Based on his YouTube clips alone, Jurco should be a household name considering he’s also eligible for the 2011 NHL draft,” said Yahoo! Sports writer Nathan White. “But to this point he’s still one of the Canadian Hockey League’s best kept secrets.”
Playing at the World Junior Championship helped Jurco progress his skills and prove to scouts that he was more than simply an offensive sensation.
“I played against all those best Under-20 players in the world so it was pretty hard,” he said. “It was hard to play for Slovakia because we were trying to get to playoffs and trying to play defensively. It’s kind of not my role. In St. John, we’re playing offensively. But I was playing on the penalty-kill there and trying to help the team the best I could. I can say I like it. It proved I can play defensively…not only offensively.”
“He’d certainly be in there among the top two or three guys (in the QMJHL) for sure,” said one scout in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, citing Drummondville’s Sean Couturier and Yannick Veilleux of the Shawinigan Cataractes as other players to watch. “He’s a smart player, he knows where to shoot the puck, how to find the open areas, and one thing he does really well is read off his linemates regarding positioning. I don’t know if a lot of people pick that up or not, he’s got that ability to read off their position and he’s pretty good at getting himself open.”
The young Slovak has impressed scores of scouts with his vision, skating, size (6-foot-2, 193 pounds), and of course, his hands. But it’s his dedication to the game and desire to succeed that may ultimately lead him to professional glory.
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.