At the tail end of the summer of 2008, I was invited by some in the Red Wings organization to attend the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, as a sort of pseudo-scout. This was the first time I was able to watch Jan Mursak in action. Admittedly, I was not especially impressed. I had read quite a bit about the speedy Slovenian on the internet, and I expected a dominating performance, which he did not deliver. A season later, Mursak added ten pounds of solid muscle, and his swiftness was beginning to resemble that of a legitimate NHL speed merchant. Much has been said of Mursak’s determination, and his desire to be an NHL regular. As time has passed since that summer, Mursak appears to be more and more ready to take the ultimate step in his career.
Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill has said that Mursak’s speed alone could be what gets him into the NHL and keeps him there. Now in an earlier post of mine, I said that the days where speed and strength by themselves were sufficient enough for a player to be of significant use to his team, were long gone. Now who am I to disagree with Jim Nill? However, it is thankfully the case, that speed is not all that Mursak has to offer. A player can skate as fast as he likes, but put a puck on the end of his stick, and all bets are off. Mursak seems to have passed this test, however. His puck handling while hitting the top gear is truly impressive, and he displays a consistent ability to escape from overly crowded areas with the puck still in his possession. One scout even compared his puck wizardry to the now legendary Pavel Datsyuk’s. Now I rule this out as basically impossible, but it is an encouraging statement to hear being made.
It is still unclear exactly what the Wings have in Mursak. Does he have the potential to be a scoring line winger? It seems he does. But the world is filled with potential, so there is no guarantee that Mursak will have an impact. “Will beats skill”, is how the saying goes. It’s obvious that Mursak has an abundance of both. But whether or not he will put it all together, remains to be seen. Slovenia is not a country known for producing exceptional hockey players. There are around ten rinks in the entire country. Can Mursak beat the odds and become just the second Slovenian (Kopitar being the other) who has made a name for himself in the greatest league in the world? I believe he can, and will.