On Thursday night (Jan. 6) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Jakub Voracek skated in his 1,000th regular season game in the National Hockey League. With one shot in 20:26 of ice time during Columbus’ 3-1 loss to the Devils, Voracek became the 12th native of the Czech Republic to accomplish the feat and the fourth player to reach the mark as a Blue Jacket.
“That I’m old, first of all. It’s just, I’ve been really fortunate not being hurt much throughout my career. I didn’t miss many games. I take a lot of pride in that. Even if I’m banged up or was banged up throughout the year, I can always find a way to play the game.”– Jakub Voracek, on what reaching 1,000 games means to him
To commemorate the milestone, let’s take a look back at the road the vivacious Voracek took to get to 1,000 NHL games, starting with his first stint in Columbus, then his star turn in Philadelphia, and then finally, his return to the team that drafted him.
Voracek Makes a Good First Impression
Born in the Czech town of Kladno in 1989 (when the country was called Czechoslovakia), Voracek was selected seventh overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The 19-year-old made his NHL debut on Oct. 10, 2008, scoring a goal 15:53 into the first period of his first game. He later added an assist in a 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars.
Voracek appeared in 80 games that season, scoring nine goals and adding 29 assists. The rookie helped the Blue Jackets qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history, and he had the lone assist on the first playoff goal in Blue Jackets history (scored by R.J. Umberger).
Voracek improved in his second season, scoring 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists) in 81 games. After tallying 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 80 games during the 2010-11 season, the 21-year-old was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23, 2011, along with a first-round pick and third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, for Jeff Carter — a deal that worked out much better for Philadelphia than it did for Columbus.
Voracek Becomes an All-Star in Philly
Just as he had with the Blue Jackets, Voracek made a strong first impression on the Flyers, scoring 19:57 into the the first period of his first game in orange and black. His goal turned out to be the game-winning one in a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Oct. 6, 2011.
Voracek scored 49 points (18 goals, 39 assists) in 78 games during his first year in Philadelphia, and he added 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 11 playoff games. In addition, he got to play with fellow Kladno native Jaromir Jagr, whom the Flyers signed to a one-year deal not long after acquiring Voracek.
Voracek signed a four-year extension on July 26, 2012, and was expected to fill the top-line role that Jagr had occupied the year before. During the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the right winger finished with 46 points (22 goals, 24 assists) in 48 games. He also secured his first NHL hat trick on Feb. 20, 2013.
The 24-year-old made a jump the next season, scoring 62 points (23 goals, 39 assists) in 82 games. He made another jump the following season, scoring 81 points (22 goals, 59 assists) in 82 games and making the NHL All-Star Game. During that All-Star Game, which was held in Columbus, Voracek tallied six points, tying Mario Lemiuex‘s 1988 record for most points in the annual meeting of stars.
After playing in 73 games (and scoring 55 points) in 2015-16, Voracek got back to playing a full season, tallying 61 points in 82 games during the 2016-17 season. His best year came in 2017-18, when he appeared in 82 games and scored 85 points (20 goals, 65 assists). The veteran totaled 165 points in 200 games during his final three seasons in Philadelphia. In all, he played in 727 regular season games for the Flyers, racking up 177 goals and 427 assists. He also tacked on nine goals and 18 assists in 45 playoff games.
Voracek Returns to Columbus
On July 24, 2021, Voracek was traded back to the Blue Jackets for Cam Atkinson, bringing his career full-circle. But the circumstances were much different, as rather than being a young star prospect trying to show his skills, he was a veteran presence with known playmaking ability brought in to help create for young goal scorers.
Voracek has appeared in all 32 of the Blue Jackets’ games so far in his return season in Columbus, tallying one goal and 22 assists. He has often been on a line with talented rookie Cole Sillinger and dangerous sniper Patrik Laine, where he can really maximize his passing ability. When Laine was out, the 32-year-old Voracek was at one point even paired with the 18-year-old Sillinger and the 20-year-old Yegor Chinakhov.
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Although he’s now the elder statesman on this Blue Jackets team, Voracek continues to show the playmaking ability, durability and toughness that got him to 1,000 career NHL games. He is currently tied for 125th all-time in career assists in the NHL (544), and he has missed five or fewer games in 13 of his 14 seasons in the league, including thus far this season. Congratulations to Voracek on hitting the 1,000-game milestone.
Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.