There was a time last season when Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t positive he would get Michael Spacek back this season.
But the Czech Republic native cleared that up and brought a smile to Sutter’s face when he said he would be returning for sure for his 19-year-old season.
“I could go back to Europe, but my dream is to play in the NHL, and that’s why I’m here,” he said. “That’s my dream since I was five.
“I also like to play with the Rebels. I get lots of ice time and play everything.”
The five-foot-11, 187-pound centre, who had 18 goals and 54 points in 61 games last season, has been outstanding since returning from the Winnipeg Jets camp.
“He’s played extremely well,” said Sutter. “Obviously he’s our big-time go-to guy offensively and has also taken a lot of pride in being better in his own zone.”
Spacek understands he needs to be strong at both ends of the ice as he looks toward a professional career.
“I need to learn the defensive zone even more. It’s important for me if I want to play at the next level … every game I want to be better.”
Spacek says his strength is in the offensive zone. He’s proving that every game as he has 14 goals and 31 points in 22 games.
“He wants to be a difference-maker and lots of nights he has been” added Sutter. “He’s such a big contributor for us offensively … he’s a game-breaker type guy and loves to be in those situations.”
Spacek considers himself a pass-first player.
“My passing is better,” he said.
But Sutter believes he’s an all-around player.
“He’s a passer for sure … he sees the ice so well and has great vision, but he also has a great shot, and we have him shooting the puck more. He’s been really good for us, and a really good player in this league … really good.”
Spacek came up through the Czech minor hockey system. He was selected by the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first round (51st overall) in the 2014 CHL Import Draft, but decided to stay at home. The following year the Rebels picked him in the first round (47th overall). In 2014 he was a fourth-round pick (140th overall) by the Minsk Dynamo in the KHL draft. He was also a fourth round selection (108th overall) by the Jets in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
He attended the Jets camp this year and played in an exhibition game against the Calgary Flames.
“That was an amazing experience,” he said.
He had a solid camp and admitted he was a bit disappointed when he was returned to the Rebels.
“I trained hard during the summer (at home) and I think I played hard and played well there (in Winnipeg). Of course I would have liked to have made the team, but, as I said, I’m happy to play for Red Deer. I hope next year I’m in the AHL. But now I’m here and happy.”
He’s happy with his statistics, but stressed he wants the team to win “it’s first for me.”
Spacek will likely leave the Rebels in December to compete for the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championships.
“I’ve played with the team last year and hopefully this year with it being in Montreal and Toronto. There will be lots of fans.”
He indicated that’s different than at home.
“Everything is different here from home. The ice size and people here love hockey more than in Europe.”
Spacek has played with the U17, U18 and U20 national teams the past three years. Last year in five games at the World Junior Championships he had two goals and three assists.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca