He wishes they would talk more about his play, because it's been quite impressive, but Columbus winger Jakub Voracek
is better known for his equally impressive blonde locks.
Until he trimmed it recently, something he claims coach Ken Hitchcock asked him to do -- "a mutual cutting," offered Jackets forward Jason Chimera
-- Voracek's hair, which still flows freely out of the sides and the back of his helmet, reminded many hockey fans of Jaromir Jagr
's do in the early 1990s.
Jagr and Voracek are both from the same town -- Kladno in the Czech Republic -- and Voracek, of course, lists Jagr as his idol growing up.
So, yes, he'll take any comparison he can get, but Hitchcock gave us all something else to consider when during the Jackets' recent trip to New York he was asked if Voracek, who is in his second NHL season, is using his size more, especially along the wall?
Voracek now weighs in at about 220 pounds and has a Jagr-like butt at his disposal.
"Yes," Hitchcock responded. "Just like Hossa."
As in Marian Hossa
Yup, that's who Hitchcock was talking about. It might not be Jagr, but that's still quite a comparison for the 20-year-old Voracek, the seventh overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft who already has 6 goals in 23 games after scoring 9 in 80 last season.
"He has a lot of tendencies for us like Hossa had when he was young," Hitchcock said. "We're hoping he gets to that level, but his one-on-one ability looks very similar to the way Marian looked when he first got into the League."
What's the difference?
"I think it's two things," Hitchcock responded. "Since the start of last year he is 17 pounds heavier and is using his size is to protect the puck. He is really good at using his size and reach to protect the puck. He's learning how to play one-on-one hockey which all good players have to be able to play and he's really using his size to his advantage."
For his part, Voracek is just happy to see his hard work paying dividends.
He lived this past summer in Hermosa Beach, Calif. (perfect for long, blonde surfer-dude hair) and spent three hours in the gym every day. He says he put on 17 pounds of muscle and calls his time spent working out "priceless."
Similarly, Voracek had to work out hard and build his muscle in the summer before his rookie season. He weighed only 181 pounds during his last season of junior hockey in Halifax, N.S., and was told by the Jackets' trainers that his body fat count was too high.
He was around 200 pounds entering camp last season and nearly 20 pounds heavier this season without gaining a percentage of body fat.
"I now know if I'm going to work hard where I can be next year or where I can still be this year if I still work hard," Voracek told NHL.com. "It pushes me everyday."
Hitchcock was startled at the difference he saw in Voracek this summer -- and not just because his hair looked like a replica of Jeff Spicoli's in Fast Times and Ridgemont High.
"I saw him in June and then I saw him six weeks later and I couldn't believe he gained 11 pounds in six weeks and he had no difference in body fat," Hitchcock said. "I was surprised how big he was already."
"I was bigger, but it was only July," Voracek added. "I still had a month or a month and a half in front of me.
Size and strength are essential for Voracek to be the type of player he wants to be in the NHL -- someone who is strong on the puck and nearly impossible to play along the wall.
Since he's a left-handed shot who plays mostly on the right wing, he does a lot of his work along the wall and sometimes with his back to the play.
"You have to be pretty confident to play with your backside to the play," Hitchcock said. "He's good at that."
"Since the start of last year he is 17 pounds heavier and is using his size is to protect the puck. He is really good at using his size and reach to protect the puck. He's learning how to play one-on-one hockey which all good players have to be able to play and he's really using his size to his advantage." -- Ken Hitchcock on Jakub Voracek
Voracek also said he wants to be someone "that will help his team win games by playing in important parts of the games."
He's already being used for more than two minutes a game on the power play. For now Hitchcock likes him at the point "because his wrist shot is as good as most people's slap shots. He doesn't slap the puck but he snaps it, and he's got great vision on the point."
The coach said he's also comfortable with Voracek in 4-on-4 situations and against the other team's top players, but not on the penalty kill.
"For future, yeah, but he's not there yet," Hitchcock said.
The odds are good that he'll get there. The kid is obviously willing to do anything to improve.
It's about time they all stopped talking about his hair.
"I would rather people would talk about how I'm playing, but they're talking about my hair," Voracek said. "I can't tell them what to talk about."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org