The Philadelphia Flyers offense remains a potent force, and the surprising play of forward Jakub Voracek is a key component of that success.
Voracek is off to a red-hot start, by far the best in his NHL career. The 25-year-old native of the Czech Republic has already scored five goals and 18 points in the first 12 games of the season. That has him in second place overall in the league, just one point behind Sidney Crosby.
This is the fastest start for the Flyers player in nearly a decade.
Last season, Voracek scored 23 goals and 62 points, both career highs. This season he is on pace to score 34 goals and 123 points, nearly double his previous best effort.
There are many reasons for Voracek’s early-season success. The first is that he came into camp this year in the best shape he’s ever been in. During the offseason, Voracek changed his diet. As a result, he lost 10 pounds without sacrificing strength or quickness.
“No pasta, no bread,” Voracek told Randy Miller of NJ.com. “It was tough…I tried it and so far it’s good. I feel quicker.”
His coach noticed the difference right away. “We talked about him coming into camp in really good shape and he put himself in a good spot from the get-go,” Flyers head coach Craig Berube told Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He works hard and when you work hard, your skill takes over.”
Voracek’s increased speed and hard work has produced consistent results. He has at least one point in 11 of the Flyers' first 12 games this season. Voracek already has six multiple-point games to his credit. Last season, he had 16 while playing in all 82 games.
In addition, his stamina is better. Last season, he averaged 17:15 of ice time per game. This season, Voracek is averaging 18:28 of ice time per contest.
"When you’re in better shape, you last longer in a game,” Berube told Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly. “[His] speed doesn't drop off in the third period.”
The big winger is happy with his fast start to the season. “I felt pretty good, but most importantly, I’m a year older again, more experienced,” Voracek told Panaccio. “I’m in the spot where I can get the puck the most. It’s important to me and I feel pretty good about our line, so that’s very important.”
Playing on the Flyers' top line also helps. That means Voracek is paired with one of the game’s elite setup men in Claude Giroux. Giroux’s presence means that opposing teams cannot focus primarily on Voracek and that the talented winger will get plenty of quality scoring chances.
Giroux has noticed the improvement in his linemate’s game. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Giroux told Miller. “With that kind of confidence and skill, it’s dangerous. I’m just enjoying playing with him and it’s a lot of fun, but at the same time, we have to keep going.”
Keeping up this torrid pace is also on Voracek’s mind. He refuses to jump the gun and declare himself among the league’s best players—at least not yet.
“I have a good start, but we are only 11 games in,” Voracek told Narducci. “We can start talking about it 60-65 games in and now I am just trying to help the team win.”
He told Miller, “Those guys [Crosby, Corey Perry, Evgeni Malkin] have been doing that for the last 10 years. It’s good to hear that, but I don’t want to get overconfident. We need to make sure we focus on winning games.”
That will remain an important issue for the Flyers. Despite Voracek’s fast start and the team’s explosive offense which is presently ranked sixth in the NHL in goals per game, the Flyers are 5-5-2 after 12 contests. That mark will have to improve if the team hopes to qualify for the playoffs this season.