The Columbus Blue Jackets seem to have to answer to their fans a lot these days.
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock and company have been steadily rising in the ranks of the Western Conference, but have not made the playoffs recently.
Enter the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus, OH itself. The Blue Jackets needed a poster boy—they needed a new hope, if you will. That boy is Kladno, Czech Republic's Jakub Voracek.
Standing 6'1", 200 lbs (he gained a lot of muscle this summer), the skilled right winger Voracek is a player that makes things happen. The naysayers will claim that he's too young. He just turned 19, but the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Stamkos were all in their teens when entering the NHL as well.
I'm not putting Voracek among those names just yet—we'll have to wait and see what happens, but if you have ever seen this guy play you will probably think he's Columbus' next best thing.
There is a lot of hype is surrounding his rookie campaign, which starts this week, he is expected to be on the wing for either the second or third forward line.
Whether your expectations are high or low, Voracek should be a healthy fit into the Blue Jackets' mantra of developing a new, offensively skilled team. And with Pascal Leclaire coming off from a breakthrough season last year, the team is looking to be more well-rounded than ever. It may be a while before we see Columbus in the playoffs, but when they do get there, you can bet Voracek will play a key role.
Keep an eye out for him and you will see what everyone is talking about. Give him time to adjust and you got yourself a future scoring leader. I almost guarantee it.
Note: Voracek and Leclaire both played junior hockey for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
And since this is a preview/prediction article, I am going to predict Voracek's stats for 2008/2009.
GP: 60 G: 15 A: 30 P: 45 PIM: 18 +/-: 10