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Jakub Voracek ready for big season after World Cup

Flyers forward says tournament should help him have bounce-back season

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek believes he's in midseason form because of the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

After the way last season started, fast-forwarding to the middle of this season can only be a good thing.

The 2014-15 season was Voracek's best in the NHL. He finished fourth in the League with 81 points, played in his first All-Star Game and had NHL career bests in assists (59), power-play goals (11) and power-play points (33). He also signed a contract extension reportedly worth $66 million for eight seasons, with an average annual value of $8.25 million.

Voracek, 27, said he worked out exactly the same during the summer of 2015, but when last season began, the offense disappeared. It took him 17 games to score his first goal, and after 30 games he had 16 points (one goal, 15 assists).

In his first 30 games the season before, he had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists).

Video: NYR@PHI: Voracek skates by defense to win game in OT

"It was hard to watch at the beginning," Voracek said. "When you have one goal in 30 games, that's almost half the season. … Everything was mixed up with the extension I got, the people expected the same kind of season I had. Just didn't get off to very good start, everything was dragging.

"I just felt [terrible] at the beginning of the season. … Sometimes that happens at the beginning of the season because you're not at that tempo yet. But when it drags, drags, drags, you start thinking about it more and more and you start questioning yourself."

Those around Voracek could see him pressing.

"I think Jake takes things personally sometimes when he should let them roll off his back," teammate Wayne Simmonds said.

That crisis of confidence was a first for Voracek.

"[In previous seasons] I was feeling good [at the start] and maybe the points didn't come, so I was pretty calm," he said. "When you don't feel well on the ice plus the points don't come, that's when you start questioning yourself."

The harder he tried to find those answers, the further away they seemed.

"Like any good offensive player, when things aren't going well they expect more of themselves," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "I think that's what I saw out of Jake through the early part of the year."

Video: NYR@PHI: Voracek rips PPG to give Flyers 2-0 lead

Voracek was moved up and down the lineup, and was switched to left wing from his natural right wing on Dec. 15. In 30 games from Dec. 15 to Feb. 25, Voracek led the Flyers with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists). But during that Feb. 25 game against the Minnesota Wild, he sustained a lower-body injury that kept him out for three weeks.

When he returned March 19, the offensive struggles came back with him. Voracek had one goal and six assists in 13 regular-season games, and one goal in six games against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Playing-wise, it wasn't good enough," Voracek said. "Eighty-two games, if you play 50 good games that's not good enough. Especially if you play 22 minutes a night. I wasn't good enough last year. Maybe if I stayed healthy, if I didn't get hurt, that's when I was feeling my best. Then I got hurt and everything went off the tracks again."

Thanks to his time with Team Czech Republic at the World Cup, Voracek feels like he's back on the right track for a strong season. He had one goal and one assist in three games, but it wasn't the numbers on the stat line that have him feeling good.

"The World Cup helped me so much," he said. "I was playing playoff games in September. And it wasn't only the three games at the World Cup. It was the [pretournament] games before that. It helps. I feel it in practice. I got my feet moving. I'm in midseason, basically. It's very good for me.

"Only year that I had a good start was two years ago and I ended up with 81 points. … I don't know point-wise how it's going to start, but I know if I play good, I'm a game-changer."

His Philadelphia teammates are just as confident the Voracek of 2014-15 will return this season.

"Everyone knows in here how Jake is, his mentality and how he plays the game," Simmonds said. "He's going to have an unbelievable year this year, that's for sure."

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