Horak heating up in Abbotsford
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- Early on in the AHL season, after Roman Horak had scored in each of the first three games of the year, fans on Twitter handed the Abbotsford Heat forward a new nickname.
While the 21 year-old doesn't have a Twitter account himself, he is aware of the moniker circulating on social media.
"Yeah, I saw it on a website the other day," he said with a laugh. "I think it's pretty funny. It's always nice to have people say things like that but it's still the beginning of the season.
"It'll be better to say I'm Scorak at the end of the season ... if I keep it going this year."
Horak has turned more than a few heads in the opening month of the 2012-13 campaign with his torrid offensive production. He has an AHL-leading 10 goals in 10 outings, has points in 9 games this year, and leads the Heat in both power play goals (3) and shots on net (34).
Last Friday, he notched his first career hat-trick last in Abbotsford's 4-2 win over the Toronto Marlies.
"I try to play the same way every night," Horak said. "I've been playing with some really great players in Ben (Walter) and (Sven) Baertschi. That always helps. They're just great players."
Head coach Troy Ward has used Horak at three forward positions this year and the Czech forward hasn't missed a beat. He's been able to produce offensively on both wings and at centre ice, his natural position, and has handled playing in any situation the coaching staff uses him in with ease.
One factor playing into Horak's success this year is his confidence level. He played 61 games with the Flames last year, accruing 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists), as well as spending some time in Abbotsford during the regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs. Having one pro season under his belt has given him a better understanding of the demands placed on players at the AHL and NHL levels.
"I've got the experience now. I know the pro game more now. I'm going to net more, feeling good about playing in the offensive zone. Things like that. It helps, that experience."
Horak also looks more steady on his skates early on this season. Last year, his 6-foot, 170 lbs. frame didn't always look like it was withstanding the physical rigors of the pro game so he spent the off-season working on his strength training. Those efforts have been noticeable as he has been far more willing to engage in physical battles and play in the tough areas this year.
Horak's efforts have played a large role in the Heat's 6-1-2 record this year - good for top spot in the North Division and third in the Western Conference.
They take on the eighth-placed Oklahoma City Barons - the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate - on Friday and Saturday in Abbotsford. The Barons have several players who were regulars in the NHL over the last couple of years and Horak feels that lining up against them will be a great test for his club.
"They're a skilled team," he noted. "They have an NHL line, really - Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall. Those guys produced at the NHL level so I don't think they'll (ever) have a problem doing that in the AHL.
"We haven't seen the Barons this year yet but we definitely know they're a skilled group."