Best known for his slick stick-handling as exhibited in videos like the one below, the-19 year-old Slovakian winger plays a dynamite two-way game, using his size and strength effectively both with and without the puck in a style of play modeled after that of NHL star Marian Hossa.
It’s a style that’s clearly working for him; Jurco recorded 30 goals and 38 assists in 48 games for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs last season, adding another 13 goals and 16 assists in 16 playoff appearances, helping to lead his team to its second straight President’s Cup. It was the best season of his junior career and helped lift his totals to impressive heights.
Jurco’s talents are readily apparent, which is why the team was thrilled to select him 35th overall and why they’re still high on his ‘high-end skill’ today. Yet it will take more than raw talent for Jurco to rise to the NHL ranks. He’ll need to continue to refine and hone his skills while adjusting to what he likes to call “men hockey” in the AHL.
I’m expecting myself to play in Grand Rapids this year. I’ll do my best, obviously. I’m going to try to get used to playing men hockey. I hope it won’t be problem for me. Maybe I’ll get a chance for a couple (NHL) games this year, maybe next year.
But you won’t find Tomas simply waiting around for his NHL chance. He’s made it clear that he intends to earn it, and he’ll have to.
I want to impress everybody, maybe surprise some people. Let them know I can do it. They might not give me chance right away, but during the season when there are some injuries I’ll be playing well in AHL and they will know they can call me up any time.
It’s that kind of commitment and drive that often separates the great from the good. There are many talented players in the NHL, but few develop into true stars on that talent alone. It takes a strong work ethic to reach that level. The kind of work ethic that Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom possessed and credits another Hockeytown legend, Steve Yzerman, with teaching him.
What I learned from him over the years was his work ethic. He never took anything for granted. He worked hard whether it was on the ice in practice or in the gym afterward. When you see a player like that, one of the leaders and one of the best player in the world do that, it’s easy for young guys to follow.
Now Jurco will have the same opportunity to learn from his captain, likely Henrik Zetterberg, the kind of hard work it takes to reach the next level. The kind of hard work he has appeared willing to commit to since day one.
He’s no stranger to giving everything he’s got either. Earlier this year while participating in the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships, Jurco fought through a painful hip flexor injury all in the name of helping his team.
I was supposed to come out just for power plays on the ice, but it felt a little bit better so I tried. I wanted to help my team to win, but I think as you saw I wasn’t skating hard because it really hurt. I tried. I did everything I could and I’m really disappointed that it happened in a game like that.
And he again fought through injury during the QMJHL playoffs this year after injuring both his shoulders in the third round, an injury he told the Free Press “still hurts.”
A driven, committed, hard-working, deeply talented, patient, and mature team player. What more could you ask for? If his actions line up with his words, the sky is the limit for the young Slovakian sniper. The talent is clearly there, now it’s just a matter of following through on his word and working to turn that talent into skill. Tomas Jurco could be the next Red Wings star. It’s all up to him.