Rangers Prospect Hajek Developing Nicely
The twenty-year-old prospect’s first full year in the professional ranks is well underway in Hartford with the American Hockey League’s Wolf Pack.
Prior to this season, Libor Hajek spent time in Juniors with the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats of the WHL. In his first full season with Hartford, head coach Keith McCambridge has given the prospect a larger role on the team as the season has progressed.
Despite registering three assists in 28 games with Hartford, Libor Hajek plays a well-rounded, 200-foot game. The defenseman is noticeable when Hartford is trying to settle down situations involving the opponents offensive attack. The prospect is able to block shots and ensure he is in the way to block the passing lanes or make it difficult for opponents to move around. His game is simple and effective for the Hartford blue line.
On the offensive aspect of his game, we will have to be patient. The Rangers prospect is still learning and adjusting to the professional life. It is also tougher to score in the AHL where he has more challenges facing him than in the WHL. The competition in the AHL is strong, considering Hartford faces other team’s top prospects. Libor Hajek has the potential to produce points with Hartford once he finds his touch. He had impressive numbers in Juniors, but not every aspect of his game can make the jump. The prospect has handled himself well. Often, younger players get frustrated when they miss opportunities and not be able to get on the scoresheet. For Libor Hajek, he carries on with his game and attempts to play his best in each game, and he has done that.
“It’s hard, coming here from Junior, being a pro,” Hajek said recently. “But I learn, each and every day, guys helping me lots, coaches helping me. It’s good.”
Since joining Hartford, the young prospect is also being mentored by Keith McCambridge, other experienced players in the AHL such as John Gilmour and Cole Schneider, and players with a lot of NHL experience such as Matt Beleskey. Hajek is able to get help in situations he had not faced yet from the WHL. As a young defenseman, mistakes happen; you learn from them and look to improve.In addition, Keith McCambridge has preached a culture in Hartford of practice hard and play hard. Every game matters despite the score. If there is a lack of effort in either, you could find yourself scratched for the next game.
“In regards to what Hajek is striving to improve on, McCambridge pointed out that, as is the case with so many young players at the AHL level, “It’s consistency. It’s, game in, game out, making sure that his game is not having a dropoff. We need him to make sure that every single night, as a coaching staff, we know what we’re going to get out of him. And from that consistency, now he has the opportunity to continue to grow and get himself to the next level.” – Keith McCambridge
With the scheduling in the league, Hartford plays games often on back to back nights or three games in three nights. Looking at the perspective of players, being strong mentally is a plus. For Libor Hajek, he has handled that aspect well. Dealing with the schedule, on ice situations, and other aspects of the game, he keeps on chugging along development wise.
“I really like the mental side of him, being able to turn the page when a mistake does happen, whether it’s part of where he is on the ice or just a matter of being one of the five for a goal-against that are on the ice at that time. We feel like he’s been able to have that belief in himself, and learn through video, learn through chalk-talk on where you need to be on the ice. And when you’re in those areas, you’re able to get the puck back and to play on the offensive side of it. We like the growth, he’s a young kid, he comes to the rink to get better every day, and there’s a lot of real positives to him right now.” – Keith McCambridge
The Rangers found themselves a great two-way player for the future. Despite his offensive struggles, the prospect plays consistent minutes and has a large role with Hartford. Keith McCambridge does not assign important roles to young prospects generally; so if Libor Hajek is being given a critical role early on in his career, then he is doing better than others in the locker room.
From a fan perspective, Libor Hajek is enjoyable to watch from the stands. His development is noticeable, from opening night to today, the prospect has grown and enabled himself to perform better under pressure and in situations where things could turn ugly. Hartford’s blue line is young. When Brady Skjei developed in Hartford, I have seen similar traits in Libor Hajek with the speed and playing style.
Will Libor Hajek play a game with the Rangers this season? I will say not yet. Let the rookie develop. He has earned a call-up later on in the season if the Rangers have a sudden influx of injuries.