When Dominik Uher came to North America from his native Czech Republic three years ago to play junior hockey, he said transitioning to both the style of play and lifestyle was very hard for him.
But he put his head down and worked hard to adjust, and after his first season with Spokane of the Western Hockey League (WHL) – where he posted four goals in 53 games – Uher thrived in his second season, scoring 21 goals in 65 contests in 2011-12.
And in his third season with the Chiefs, Uher – drafted by the Penguins in the fifth round (144th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft – improved even further, potting a team-leading 33 goals to go with his 35 assists and 68 points in 63 regular-season games.
That commitment to growing as a hockey player is just one of the reasons the Penguins like Uher so much.
“You just knew when you watched him last year at development camp that he’s a player that you’re easily attracted to because his work ethic is so strong,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said at the start of this year’s prospect development camp.
If Uher’s first season was night, his third was day. He’s now completely comfortable with the North American style of play – in fact, he prefers it.
“It’s way better,” he said with a grin. “I like when the game has got some compete level and when there’s physical play, fighting, stuff like that. It’s something you won’t find in Europe. For me, the American style is better. I like it here more.”
While Uher classifies himself as a hardworking player similar to a power forward, who thrives on the physical aspect of the game, perhaps his biggest strength is being able to slot in anywhere in the lineup.
“He complements skill players well and he will complement grinding players real well,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s just a hockey player.”
Now that Penguins prospect development camp has come and gone, Uher is looking ahead to training camp – and the opportunity to continue impressing Pittsburgh’s staff.
“The main goal and the biggest goal is just to earn a spot in Wilkes-Barre,” said Uher, who was a member of WBS’ ‘Black Ace’ practice squad during the 2012 Calder Cup playoffs. “Just get a third, fourth line role and just convince coach (John Hynes) that I’m able to play and able to play every game, that I’m going to be in the lineup consistently.”