The difference between the Dominik Volek of this season and last is more mental than physical, according to the Red Deer Rebels forward.
“I think my head is a little more in the game,” Volek said Thursday. “I’m trying to prepare better for the games, focus on myself. The biggest change is in my head, not (with) my hockey skills.”
The 19-year-old from Praha, Czech Republic, has sniped a team-leading 14 goals in 30 games this season after scoring nine in 32 outings in 2012-13. He’s also third among Rebels scorers with 23 points.
Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come that a healthy chunk of Volek’s offensive production has come over the past six weeks.
“I have a little bit slow start in the beginning, but now it’s going for me and I’m really happy about myself,” he said. “But we have to work better as a team and get some wins and push for the playoffs.
“But with myself, I can be better, but points and goals are coming now so I just need to work on my game.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt looks at Volek and sees a player who in his third WHL season — he was a rookie with the Regina Pats in 2011-12 and joined the Rebels out of Europe last December — has become accustomed to the North American style, changed his approach in the opposition’s end of the ice and taken advantage of his scoring chances.
“I always think that for a European forward coming over here, the biggest challenges are obviously the straight-line game and the defensive zone coverage, which is always emphasized here,” said Truitt.
“The good thing about Dom is he’s been very opportunistic. When he gets these chances in the offensive zone he’s starting to bury them in a lot of different ways. He makes some really nice plays off the rush and he’s also been fortunate in that he’s had a couple of long shots that have gone in. But he’s also shooting more than what he did last year.
“He was more of a playmaker, whereas now he’s making plays and finishing plays off, which is nice to see.”
Volek’s scoring prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed by the powers that be in his home country. He’ll attend the Czech Republic national junior team selection camp next week and hopes to be playing in the World Junior Championship later this month.
“They’re going to cut two forwards so I hope it’s not going to be me,” he said. “I’m going to try everything to make the team. I’m going to try to bring there what I learn here. We are in a pool with Canada and the U.S., so I think that’s going to help me because I’m here for three years now and I know the style type of hockey.
“Brent (Rebels GM/head coach Sutter) is coaching Team Canada, so it’s going to be nice to play against them.”
Volek has talked to Rebels netminder and fellow Czech Patrik Bartosak about the world junior experience. Bartosak played for his country in the 2013 WJC in Russia.
“He talked to me a bit. The (Czech Republic) coach is the same as last year, so he just tell me what he’s about,” said Volek. “But he’s a goalie so it is a little bit different.
“I’m excited to go to the camp and fight for the team. It’s an honour for me.”
Volek leaves for the Czech Republic Wednesday and — assuming he plays in the WJC — will rejoin the Rebels Jan. 8 for a game in Regina.
For now, he’s enjoying his role as a goal scorer and just enjoying the game in general.
“I’m having fun right now, just trying to enjoy this,” he said. “This may be my last year here so I’m just trying to enjoy it and do everything my best. What’s going to happen next year, I don’t know. I’m just having fun right now.”