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Voracek Growing Up Fast

by David DiCenzo / Columbus Blue Jackets

Here's a new Blue Jackets combo for you – Tollefsen, Russell, Boll and Voracek. No, it's not a line on the ice. It's a musical foursome when the Blue Jackets get together for some Rock Band at Kris Russell's house - (check out Blue Jackets TV at the end of next week for the Blue Jackets Rock Band feature)

Russell mans one guitar, Boll another, and Tollefsen plays the drums and the gifted rookie winger is the front man, something he came by pretty honestly growing up in Kladno.

"I like the 80s," Voracek says of his musical preferences. "Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2 is very good.

"My father was around music a lot. He would stand on the roof trying to get the German stations. He listened to it all so I grew up on that."

Ask any Blue Jacket player and they'll tell you that Voracek isn't shy singing. The crazy part is that he's not too bad.

"We should actually videotape it," Mike Commodore says of the Rock Band performances with Voracek headlining. "It's funny to see this Czech guy trying to belt out English words. "But he's actually pretty good."

Commodore knows all about Voracek's interests off the ice. The two room together on the road, a decision that Commodore made back in the fall.

"I'll be honest, I didn't have the first pick, nothing against Jake," Commodore recalls. "By the time it was my turn to pick when I showed up at the rink, there were maybe about seven or eight guys left. I think I talked to him maybe once in camp. It was either go with a veteran guy or a younger guy. I went with a younger guy because I have complete control over the room.

"And Jake seemed interesting. I know the other guys liked him and thought he was funny."

It hasn't taken Voracek very long to establish his reputation as one of the more charismatic and engaging young players in the Columbus room. But come game time, the 19-year-old winger is showing maturity way beyond his years. Voracek was recognized as one of the most NHL-ready players available when Columbus drafted him in with the seventh overall pick in 2007, in front of the Nationwide Arena crowd.

After capping a stellar junior career with 33 goals and 68 assists in 53 games with the Halifax Mooseheads last year, he had an immediate impact at the start of this season playing with Jason Chimera and Derick Brassard. The rookie seemed to slow down a little around December but in the last month, he's earned more minutes and is making the most of them, producing nights like his game-winning goal against Ottawa or the three-assist outing on Nikita Filatov's hat-trick.

"I feel pretty good on the ice," says Voracek, who has eight goals and 16 assists with an impressive +11 rating through 50 games. "I'm more confident on the ice and don't make as many mistakes. I hope it continues through the season. "But I'm most happy about the team. We're playing great hockey and we've won very important games."

Voracek has been helped along by the veterans in the Columbus room.

"When I play with Pecs or Freddie Mo, they talk every shift on the bench, they tell me where they want me to be, where I'll get the most pucks," he says. "They've been in the league many years. When I was 15 or 16, I never thought I would play with guys like that."

Voracek has made believers out of the Jackets' brass, especially head coach Ken Hitchcock, who recently raved about the rookie's ability and attitude.

"Confidence and energy," Hitchcock says in assessing Voracek. "Things aren't new to him now. The cities he goes into aren't new, the level of play isn't new. He's not tentative anymore. He's just going out there and playing hockey."

Hitchcock says that Voracek has gotten away from the junior style game and is now playing like an NHLer, moving his feet and making plays at top speed instead of trying to slow the game down.

"I think at the end of the day, he's going to be a player that can play in every situation," says Hitchcock. "Before the end of the year, he's going to kill penalties, he's going to play on the power play and he'll play five-on-five.

"Smart players that are competitive know how to do it. If he continues to improve at the level he's improving at, you can't help but think about that.

"He's dangerous every shift."

So for the time being, Voracek can put the music career on hold. He's needed in Columbus – and he's loving it.

"I've never had this much fun in my life," says Voracek.

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