BOSTON -- Jakub Lauko has proven he's a clutch player in major junior hockey, and this fall he'll aim to prove to the Boston Bruins that he can do the same at the NHL level.
"Let's just say I will go here and just try to fight for a spot right here in Boston," said Lauko, who was selected by the Bruins in the third round (No. 77) of the 2018 NHL Draft and had two goals in two preseason games last fall. "But you never know what's going to happen, so I will just stay positive all the time and what happens is going to happen."
The 19-year-old forward thought he was ready to join the professional ranks, but the Bruins steered Lauko toward Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Things couldn't have gone better; Lauko had 41 points (21 goals, 20 assists) in 44 games in the regular season and 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 19 playoff games to help Rouyn-Noranda win the QMJHL championship. He then led all scorers with eight points (two goals, six assists) in five games to help them to the Memorial Cup championship.
Lauko (6-foot, 169 pounds), a Czech Republic native, adjusted to a different culture on and off the ice in North America.
Video: BOS@WSH: Lauko exits penalty box, finishes breakaway
"Well I hated the first month, but at the end of the season, we just would look at it and we won two trophies, so it was the right choice after all," Lauko said at Bruins development camp in June. "And I think I changed a lot as a player, improved my English too. I think I'm a different player after the season, different person, and just happy that I made that choice."
Lauko said he didn't regret playing through a lower-body injury in the Memorial Cup. His perseverance and production helped endear him to his teammates.
"I had meetings with my coach every day," he said. "Not always the positive meetings, so he was tough on me. Like at the end of the season, the guys in the locker were telling me I played like a Canadian so it was nice to hear. And it helped me, every meeting, every training, you see how everyone is challenging you and every player is doing 100 percent. So it's like a Canadian mentality that will get into you and you just get in with them."
Lauko, who also impressed Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner, could return to Rouyn-Noranda, play for Boston's American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, or earn a job with the Bruins this season.
"It was tough living-wise for him early on, but his game continued to grow," Langenbrunner said. "And he played his best hockey at the end of the year. That's what we're hoping for and we'll see where September and October [go for] him. I don't think we're 100 percent certain where the best spot for him is yet. We'll have those discussions."