Jakub Voracek named winner of Bobby Clarke Trophy

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Jakub Voracek named winner of Bobby Clarke Trophy

Even now, Jakub Voracek can hear Jaromir Jagr’s voice in his head when he’s on the ice.
 
“Skate, skate, skate!”  Jagr would shout from the Flyers' bench.
 
Voracek’s skating was noticeably improved this season and it’s a big reason why he has scored a career-high 21 goals.
 
Thursday, Voracek was voted the winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association as the club’s most valuable player.
 
“To be honest, I haven't even thought about it,” Voracek said of the award. “There are so many great players on this team that can win that award.”
 
Voracek says that Jagr, in just one short season, was very influential in pushing him to the next level as an NHL player.
 
“When he said that I have to move my feet to be better than the others, he was exactly right,” Voracek said. “If I don’t skate, if I don’t feel very well, then I don’t have my speed and I am practically useless.
 
“He was always yelling at me off the bench, ‘Skate, skate, skate.’  To be honest with you, when I didn’t feel very good or was flat on the ice, I heard his voice from the bench, ‘Skate, skate, skate’ and that got me going.”
 
Former Columbus coach Scott Arniel publicly ripped Voracek in 2011-12 as being a lazy player who didn’t take fitness very seriously.
 
“Before my first year and before my third year, I was in Columbus working out with the team,” Voracek recalled. “I wouldn't say I didn't work hard enough. Whatever [Arniel] said, I can't control the things that he thinks.
 
“Obviously, I came here and wanted to prove that stuff wasn't true about me. I think I did, and I'm going to keep going.”
 
No one calls Voracek lazy in Philly and Jagr’s work ethic rubbed off on him, and other Flyers, as well.
 
Were it not for the lockout, Voracek would have projected to 37 goals over a full 82-game season. His 45 points would have projected to 80 points. Not too shabby.
 
With Jagr having moved on, Voracek was given a chance to play with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell this season.
 
Things began slowly for Voracek, who sprained his left knee late during the lockout while playing overseas.
 
“After the lockout, he came back and was coming off that injury, but once he got about eight or 10 games into the year for us, the thing that came back that I noticed was his speed and quickness,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
 
“And from that 10-game mark on he's really attacked every game he's played. He's been a good fit with Claude and has been a good player for us. That line's been good. Whoever's gone up there has done a good job for us.”

Hartnell says Voracek hasn’t changed his style, but there is a noticeable difference.
 
“I think his speed is a lot better than it was last year,” Hartnell said. “It looks like it, anyway. He’s getting himself in position to get those shots, get those breakaway moves.
 
“On the power play, he does a great job of getting in position to get those shots. He makes great passes, so he’s had a hell of a year.”
 
The big change in Voracek this season was a craving for the puck. His game is more north-south and focused on going hard to the net now. When he gets the puck, he’s not looking to pass, but instead is looking to shoot and score.
 
“I think I got a little bit better than the years before and I'm shooting a little bit more pucks at the net, but there is still so much room for improvement about my game,” Voracek said.
 
“So many times I have a shot and I shoot the puck, but I shoot it wide or not hard enough. I still think I can get a lot better at it. Obviously, that's one of the things I'm going to work on.”
 
And while Jagr is no longer around, Voracek had that almost instant chemistry with Giroux.
 
“G is one of the best players and everyone knows it,” Voracek said. “He has shown it year in and year out. The last three years, he was a point-per-game guy. It's obviously a great opportunity for me to play with him.
 
“There are so many games we're working on so many things. I would say the last six, seven games together we really started clicking. You can tell on the ice that we both know where we are. We kind of get it together and hopefully it's going to work.”

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

VOORHEES, N.J. — Noah Cates was just a teenager playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
 
Then he spun himself into a national sensation.
 
Back in February 2016, Cates scored a goal you see in movies with a fairytale finish. To push Stillwater Area High School into the Class 2A state tournament, Cates shook the only defender in sight with a stunning spin move before reaching around the goalie and finding the net for the punctuation.

The result was a 1-0 overtime win and pure chaos in the stands. What ensued over the following days, Cates never could have imagined.
 
"Oh geez," he said with a smile last week at Flyers development camp. "Attention right away, but it was just a crazy experience all around. That, and the next couple days with the tourney and stuff — it was a great time in my life playing high school hockey with all my friends."
 
Cates, a junior at the time, was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, while the goal made waves on the internet across national media outlets.
 
All while he was preparing for states.
 
"It was just a whirlwind those couple days, but it was unbelievable," he said. "Unforgettable."
 
Cates is now moving on from Stillwater, looking to write a new chapter of his young but already exciting hockey career. His junior season ended in the semifinals of the state tournament. As a senior, Cates racked up 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 25 regular-season games.
 
A little over a month after high school graduation, Cates was skating on the Flyers' practice ice and seeing the NHL life. The 18-year-old left winger was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the June entry draft and took part in the team's six-day July development camp.
 
"Just see what elite players are like from my age, year older, two years older," Cates said of the Flyers' annual youth gathering. "See what I need to work on, see what the next steps should look like for me and my development.
 
"It was definitely cool to see but you try to calm down. They drafted me, so you've got to feel you belong here."
 
Cates will play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2017-18 before starting his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. He still has long ways to go in accomplishing the NHL dream, but his potential was obvious at development camp. Cates stands at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, and brings a slick shot as well as strong puck skills, as evident by his famous goal.
 
"I like skill, I like trying new stuff," he said. "Just kind of try new stuff, try new things out there."
 
Getting a feel for the Flyers was a nice start to his year of preparation for the college ranks in the USHL.
 
"Strength and speed, just getting bigger, faster, stronger," Cates said of what he hopes to improve. "Those players, you see them out here, they're so big, strong and skilled. They'll be tough to keep up with them, but if you're in the weight room and you're working out hard, it'll make it easier."
 
It's all part of moving on from high school. He'll never forget the spin and goal to send Stillwater into states — and how could he? It's hard to top such a memory.
 
An NHL goal might do it.