VOORHEES, N.J. – Petr Straka doesn’t want to dwell on the past, but at the same time, he doesn't want that past to continue to hang over him like a stingy storm cloud.
He doesn’t want to look at the reasons he didn’t stick with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization despite them drafting him in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft.
He doesn’t want to hearken back onto his time in junior hockey where he didn’t get along with Rimouski coach Serge Beausoleil, which forced him to sign as an overage player with Baie-Comeau where he had his breakout campaign.
Yes, that’s part of his story and yes, he wants others to know what happened in both instances and that together, he was sort of a victim of circumstances, but that since his move to Baie-Comeau everything has been moving in the right direction, including his signing with the Flyers.
“After I was drafted I had a few injuries the first year (2010-11) and the second year (2011-12) I wasn’t good with my coach [in Rimouski]. I was thinking too much about that stuff. Now I just feel that I don’t have to prove anything anymore.
“Last year in Baie-Comeau I played for Eric Veilleux and he was great with me,” Straka said. “The coach before (Beausoleil) – I don’t want to say anything bad about him. He was just different. He was a new coach to the junior league and it was his first time coaching European players as well. I didn’t really feel comfortable playing for him. In a way, I felt like I couldn’t ever try to do something on the ice [to help the team win]. If I tried anything and it didn’t work out I would get benched for the rest of the game.”
Feeling stunted, Straka’s numbers dipped. The Blue Jackets took notice and assumed they had made a bad pick, and although Straka seemed to rebound in the 2012 playoffs, posting 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points in 21 games, the Blue Jackets had apparently already made up their mind not to sign him.
|Straka, A Czech native, feels he can finally be the player he wants to be now that he's with the Flyers. |
They just didn’t tell Straka.
“They didn’t communicate with me or call me to tell me they weren’t going to sign me,” Straka said. I had to find out from [Aaron Portzline of] the Columbus Dispatch. They never said anything to me. I didn’t think that was right.”
Straka needed a next step. So he went to Baie-Comeau. They had a new coach there as well, but new only in the sense that he was new to the Drakkar.
Veilleux joined Baie-Comeau after a mostly successful seven year run for another QMJHL team, the Shawinigan Cataractes.
When he got there, he sat down with Straka and gave him the freedom he was looking for.
“With Veilleux he always said, ‘show me what you can do and as long as you work hard, if you make a mistake there won’t be any [consequences],” Straka said. “So, I worked hard. He liked it and let me play my game on the ice and I was more confident and I had a pretty good year and it all worked out.”
Straka, 21, finished with 41 goals and 41 assists for 82 points in just 55 games. He missed the start of the season because he had a standing offer from the St. Louis Blues to come into camp on a tryout contract, but it never came to fruition because of the lockout.
He continued to play well in the playoffs posting 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 19 games.
It caught the eyes of the Flyers scouts.
“We liked him from his draft year and so we had a bit of a resume on him to begin with,” said Flyers Director of Scouting Chris Pryor. “He’s got some assets that are hard to find. He’s got some real good speed, he can shoot the puck and his size is good. He’s going to get a chance. He’s got a nose for the net. He’s got a lot of potential.”
Pryor said the Flyers had him targeted as a second round talent in the 2010 draft, and that’s where he went with Columbus.
Once another team drafts a player, he doesn’t get scouted as much in junior hockey because teams know he’s part of another organization. But, once the Flyers found out he was a free agent, Quebec scouts Todd Hearty and Simon Nolet re-opened the book on Straka and with that being the case they were excited about what they saw with his progression.
Now Straka’s excitement to be with the Flyers matches their excitement having him here.
“It doesn’t matter if I start in the NHL or the AHL, all I care is that I’m in a professional league and that I’m getting a chance to play with better hockey players because I know I can play with them,” he said. “Everyone’s goal in this organization is to impress. Everyone works really hard and I’m going to do that too to show that I belong.”
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