Jan Myšák is recovering from a long season. There is a lot of work to be done this summer, especially since the playoffs dragged on for quite some time. The Hamilton Bulldogs were Ontario Hockey League champions and made it into the Memorial Cup, but could not finish the season on an even higher note.
Myšák, however, is proud — really proud — as he speaks about his team and the experience he gained from the deep playoff run.
“I would say this was my first full year in North America. I have played two seasons before, but other things caused those seasons to be shortened. Finally, we had a long year and we were prepared from the beginning to make it a good season. To win the championship. We made that and it was good. Unfortunately we didn’t win the Memorial Cup. For me, personally, when we won, it showed me how hard it is to win, what you have to sacrifice to win, so overall it’s been a good year.”
The adaptation to North American ice wasn’t that difficult. Myšák explains that all the practices and games makes it easy to adjust. He points out that a few teams in the Czech league are experimenting with different sized ice.
“I like that,” he says of those experiments, “because the game in North America is quicker. I think it is more exciting, which is better. When I came over, the first few weeks were a challenge, but after that it was okay.”
There has been an adjustment to his own size as well.
“Before the playoffs I was around 189 pounds, but during the playoffs when we played a lot I went a bit over that. I am trying to catch that weight back right now, 189 was the highest I had during the regular season.”
The added weight seems to have benefited Myšák, who had a good season of 64 points (34G, 30A) in 61 regular-season games, and had a strong playoff performance with 11 more (4G, 7A) in 17 games. An overtime winning goal was one of the most memorable moments.
“I still remember that game,“ says Myšák, “I don’t really know why I was so confident. I was saying to myself before that overtime happened, ‘It can be just one shot, and you can be the hero, so this is the best opportunity you can have, right?’ So I really just wanted to get in there and do the best thing I could, and sometimes you have that luck and you score. It was just what happened, I was ready to do everything to win it”
Last season and the current off-season have been important on other fronts as well. The Czech centre almost sounds philosophical when he explains his development.
“I am still learning. I want to learn something every day. During this year I have found a lot of great things to improve upon; like the nutrition, my habits [on and off the ice], workouts, everything really. I learned a lot during the year and I am still learning as of this summer. I am still trying to progress and develop. I am still looking for answers to all my questions.”
It is an interesting approach that Myšák has: if your body is in shape the rest will come naturally. One would also say that actively seeking out these answers is a strength that will benefit the player in the long run. As you continue to learn, you move forward, once you stop learning, stop asking questions and seeking the answers, your opponents will pass you.
What kinds of questions is he asking?
“It’s everything. Like, as an example: What food did I have? Is it really good to have it pre-game? You just play hockey, so during that time you see things you don’t understand so you want to ask about that, right? So thats the thing I am doing.”
Hockey is never far from a player’s mind, but it is in more general terms that he describes that development.
“I’m working on my overall game, O-zone and D-zone as well. I am focusing on everything to be honest.”
He also found the time to go check on what could be future teammates and opponents at the 2022 NHL Draft.
“I was so excited to be at the draft. It was great to see how everything worked. Unfortunately, I had my draft at home, watching the TV, but being there, especially in Montreal, the fans were awesome. It was a beautiful experience. I was there with the Czech guys. They had a good day. David Jiříček went sixth overall.”
It is obvious to hear and see what a draft means to the players involved. Myšák and over 400 other players were not given the chance to have their draft in person and just having been there as a helper to his Czech colleagues seems to have made an impression.
The obvious question is what he thought about the Montreal Canadiens’ first overall pick. Juraj Slafkovský is from neighbouring Slovakia, and it seems that Myšák has some skills in the scouting department, too.
“I played against Shane Wright this year in the OHL, and for me, I really like Slafkovský more because he is stronger; he is big. I watched him on videos and on games on the TV and he looks really mature and big, so I kind of expected maybe they will pick Slafkovský over Wright, but then they did it.”
There won’t be any problems with Slovaks as teammates. The breakup of Czechoslovakia was calm and as the team had qualified for the 1994 World Cup in soccer, the new nations sent a combined team to the tournament even if they had already parted ways. “I am excited to meet the new guys in person. It is a similar language so we can speak that,” says Myšák with a laugh.
On the horizon, just after the World Juniors, is Canadiens rookie camp and main camp with his new teammates, and it is clear that this is his main focus at the moment.
“I played in Laval already last year and it was a great experience because it showed me the next level. It was pretty intense. The players were really quick and strong so, like I said, these are things I try to work on this year. For me right now the important hing is to prepare myself for the training camp. I don’t see it further; I want to be ready for training camp. As I said something happened in the playoffs and I am trying to be healthy and be ready for that. I am really excited for the training camp we will see what happens, we will see after.“
He is prepared though he has kept in contact with a few of his former teammates all though the season by text messages, and it will make him adjust to a new team much easier. Right now, focus is on recovery, something that is expected after a long season that took a toll on the mind as well as the body.
“Because of the season finishing so late, this is my second week [of training] or something like that. I have just been trying to recover and rest. Now I am back to work. Like I said before, I am looking for the answers. I keep asking the questions, and I want to learn more so when I need something I’ll just ask the development staff in Montreal.“
It is an important season coming up for the young player. Myšák is always looking to improve, and seems to be making progress. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds some of those answers, and has a successful season with the Rocket, and who knows if there is another team in Montreal that will give him a call.