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Halifax Mooseheads forward Voracek dominant force in QMJHL this season

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HALIFAX - Jakub Voracek is sporting quite the hockey mop these days.

The Halifax Mooseheads forward hasn't seen the barber since returning from the world junior hockey championship in January and the Czech's curly blondish hair is fast approaching the 1990s look of Jaromir Jagr, whose trademark curls flowed out the back of his helmet.

"I have to dye it black first," Voracek said of one day matching the former style of his countryman.

"(But) if I go two straight games without a point, I'll cut it," he added.

Based on his exceptional play this season, expect the locks to stay - and grow.

Voracek, a first-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2007 NHL draft, has been a dominant force in the QMJHL all season. He's recorded points in 44 of 47 games and has never gone back-to-back outings without at least a goal or an assist.

He also sports a league-best 30 multi-point games, including one five, three four and nine three-point efforts.

It's why the 18-year-old Voracek, who has missed 16 games because of Blue Jackets training camp and the world juniors, is leading the QMJHL in scoring with 95 points, including 31 goals. He also has his Mooseheads sitting as one of the teams to beat going into next month's playoffs.

"I try to show everything," said the six-foot-two, 190-pound right-winger, whose point total is nine more than he had last season in 59 outings as a rookie. "Score goals. Get assists. Score game-winning goals."

What makes Voracek so dangerous is his ability to dominate.

Voracek is a smooth skater with unbelievable hockey sense. His playmaking ability takes a back seat to no one in the QMJHL. He also has a great shot and a tremendous work ethic.

Voracek rarely takes a shift off, working hard at both ends of the rink and playing with a real competitive edge.

"I've seen him do some amazing things," said Mooseheads coach Cam Russell, a former NHL defenceman with the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche. "It's my opinion that he's the top player in the league. He's the kind of guy that makes it enjoyable to come to the rink every day."

The Blue Jackets are also impressed. A late cut at training camp, Columbus officials are watching Voracek closely in Halifax and are happy with his progress.

"How could we not (be happy)," said Paul Castron, the team's director of amateur scouting, who was surprised Voracek was still available in the draft when the Blue Jackets picked him seventh overall last year. "He's done everything really."

Many feel Voracek will be ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.

For that to happen, he needs a strong off-season, which includes adding more muscle. Then, at training camp, he'll have go out and earn his position.

"He has to force us to make a move on another player for him to land a spot," Castron explained. "But he's making all the right moves to do that right now."

Voracek is not without some faults. Although unbelievably skilled, he sometimes falls victim to trying to make the fancy play. And like most players his age, a better understanding of the defensive game is necessary.

"If you look at the way Columbus plays, they play a very defensive oriented system. That's something he'll obviously have to buy into," Russell said. "He'll have to get very good at it if he's going to play at the NHL level (next season)."

Voracek, the Canadian Hockey League's top import pick in 2007, doesn't hide the fact he wants to play for the Blue Jackets next season. The team signed him to a three-year entry level contract last August, and as a 19-year-old, Voracek would either play in the NHL, or go back to junior.

"I have to improve everything," Voracek said. "I think you can improve every year, every game, and every practice. You have to be bigger, stronger. "

"I can improve everything."

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