|Tomas Plekanec set career highs in goals, assists and points this past season. |
MONTREAL - He’s soft-spoken, wears turtlenecks, skates like the wind and boasts one of the league’s most impeccably sculpted goatees. Until last season, that was the extent of what Tomas Plekanec
was known for. Things have certainly changed for the speedy Czech centerman.
After a slow start to the season which saw him need a little time to shake the butterflies from being suddenly promoted to the second line alongside Alex Kovalev, Plekanec caught fire in the second half of 2006-07. With all of 12 points to show for his first 38 games last season, including only three goals, Plekanec seemingly made a resolution on New Year’s Eve. Unlike most of us, he kept his.
The final 44 games on the calendar saw the 24-year-old erupt for 17 goals and 18 assists, allowing Plekanec to reach the 20-goal mark and fall just shy of 50 points. His coming out party didn’t go unnoticed. With head coach Guy Carbonneau heaping on added responsibilities, Plekanec flourished as he became a regular come Molson Cup three stars selection time.
After an explosive first month of 2007 which saw him lead the team with 12 points in as many games, Plekanec earned top honors for the January segment of the Molson Cup, becoming the youngest forward in over a decade to do so. The last young gun to turn the trick was a pimple-faced, 21-year-old Saku Koivu in March of 1996.
Rather than kicking back and relaxing following his late-season surge, Plekanec then answered the call of his homeland for the World Hockey Championship in Russia. Already the proud owner of a gold medal from the 2001 World Juniors, the native of Kladno put up a team-high four goals and eight points in eight games for the Czech Republic. Despite those impressive numbers, Plekanec was unable to add to his medal collection this summer with the Czechs bowing out in the semi-finals.
While he’s now serving notice at both the NHL and international levels, Plekanec can still freely roam the streets of his hometown without being mobbed by autograph seeking fans—nothing like the David Beckham-like treatment received by his idol and fellow Kladno product Jaromir Jagr. But if Tomas keeps this up, that could change in a hurry.
As for his trademark turtleneck and goatee, it’s pretty safe to assume they will both be back in full effect for 2007-08.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com