Unmasking Jakub Skarek

by Alan Fuehring | AHL On The Beat

For Jakub Skarek, the aim rising up was by no means to be a hockey participant. Though he was born right into a household of athletes.

“It was type of an accident,” joked the New York Islanders prospect, who’s from Jihlava, Czech Republic.

His mom, Eva, was huge into basketball and likewise carried out excessive soar. His sister, Tereza, is proficient at javelin throw and his father, Josef, performed soccer and volleyball, competed in ironman occasions, and was even a mountain climber at one level.

“The tales are unbelievable,” Skarek reminisced. “He climbed Mont Blanc, which is the tallest mountain in Europe (elevation 15,774 ft), and likewise climbed another ones when he was younger. It takes quite a lot of laborious work and sacrifice.”

Arduous work — the epitome of what the 21-year-old, nicknamed “Scary” by his teammates, is all about.

“Once I began enjoying hockey, my dad was by no means concerned in that sport actually, so he purchased some books and watched some movies and type of discovered what goalies ought to do,” Skarek stated. “It was only a aim for my mother and father to show me find out how to skate at first, however one time, a goalie didn’t present as much as follow and the coach requested who needed to strive. I used to be 10 years previous then and stated I’d. From then on, I’m a goalie.”

One 12 months for Christmas, Skarek — who began out as a ahead — unwrapped some sticks and a pair of gloves that his father introduced residence from a enterprise journey. As he received older, his dad not solely turned his hockey coach, however a relentless motivator.

“My dad informed me if you wish to be higher than everybody else, it’s important to work as a lot as they do after which work even more durable,” Skarek stated firmly. “My aim coming to the rink on daily basis is simply to work laborious, combat for each shot on the ice.”

“We nonetheless discuss after each recreation,” Skarek continued. “He watches all of them on AHLTV so he has a pleasant view, and my household is having fun with that we’ve got earlier video games this season so he doesn’t should be up at 2 a.m.”

For these curious, 1 p.m. begins in Bridgeport this season equate to 7 p.m. native time within the Czech Republic. Prime time TV. And talking of tv, Skarek additionally discovered encouragement from watching video games in his lounge, simply not essentially hockey.

“I watched quite a lot of basketball rising up and actually favored Kobe Bryant, he’s type of my inspiration in his work ethic. He was a maniac, in a great way in fact,” Skarek laughed.

“I simply wish to make certain my physique is warmed up and activated for the ice and I’m used to being within the weight room to do additional stuff as nicely. It has change into behavior to me. I don’t really feel prefer it’s something particular.”

Whether or not anybody’s watching or not, it doesn’t matter to him. The 6-foot-3, 196-pound netminder sometimes isn’t the loudest man within the locker room, however his diligence speaks volumes.

“It’s ridiculous,” stated veteran Tom Kuhnhackl, whose locker stall is neighbors with Skarek. “Even when we’ve got a 1 p.m. recreation on the highway and we’ve got testing early within the morning, he’s all the time there first, stretching out, getting his yoga in. On follow days, it’s not simply that he’s on the ice early for goalie capturing, he’s on the market even earlier than that engaged on his recreation. That’s the largest attribute for a younger man, you’ll be able to by no means sleep. You all the time wish to enhance.”

Skarek and Kuhnhackl have gotten shut over the past two months particularly, drawing frequent floor from language and their roots abroad.

“I’ve all the time been fairly shut with European guys,” continued Kuhnhackl, a local of Landshut, Germany. “Once I performed in Wilkes-Barre, I lived with a Russian and a Czech man. If you’re round a Czech man and your dad is from Czech Republic, you choose up phrases. It’s all the time enjoyable to have a man like Scary subsequent to you. We joke round each morning once we’re each drained and a bit of grumpy. That cheers you up.”

“He’s every little thing you need in a participant, he understands what he must do,” Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson added. “He is available in able to put within the work and all the time has a optimistic angle. He simply desires to get higher. Makes no excuses.”

Jakub Skarek has a .939 save share over his final three begins with Bridgeport. (Picture: Greg Vasil/Bridgeport Sound Tigers)

Skarek has been recalled by the Islanders a number of instances and he’s definitely been the go-to man in Bridgeport this season, the place he has began six of 9 video games and every of the primary 5 previous to being referred to as as much as the Islanders’ taxi squad. In every of his final two begins, he’s carried a shutout into the third interval.

“I really feel just like the work is paying off, however I nonetheless should preserve targeted and know there may be all the time an enormous house to enhance,” Skarek stated. “I’m simply very grateful, particularly this 12 months, that I’ve an opportunity to play so many video games in Bridgeport. I really feel that video games are one of the best ways to get higher. Even the practices are nice, however the video games are one of the best ways to enhance.”

“I believed Skarek was superior,” Thompson stated after final Wednesday’s recreation in opposition to the Windfall Bruins. “I believed his puck choices, the saves he made, his management have been all good, and he tracked the puck extraordinarily nicely. He gave us an opportunity to win.”

Skarek was instantly recalled to the Islanders’ taxi squad after final week’s recreation. He continues to follow in East Meadow, N.Y., spending time across the rink with the Islanders goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, who’re among the many NHL’s prime netminder duos.

“[Varlamov] and Sorokin are nice guys to be taught from,” Skarek stated. “I’m lucky that I used to be studying Russian in school so I can converse a bit of Russian with them, mine isn’t that nice so it’s just a bit small discuss, however they each know English fairly nicely so it’s nice to get recommendation from them, particularly [Varlamov]. We focus on issues on and off the ice. Nice goalies, and nice folks.”

Russian isn’t the one language exterior of English and his native tongue of Czech that Skarek can converse. He can get by talking no less than six completely different languages in some capability together with Slovakian, Finnish and Swedish. It made it a lot simpler to adapt in a brand new atmosphere, which Skarek did previous to final season when he transitioned to the North American recreation.

Following a profitable begin to his European profession, the place he gained the 2016 Czech2 championship, he was promoted to HC Dukla Jihlava the next season. In 2017, he gained the Hlinka Memorial Gold Cup. Then in 2019, he got here to the USA full time and performed 30 video games between the Sound Tigers and ECHL’s Worcester Railers final season. Skarek was a member of Lou Lamoriello’s first draft class with the Islanders, the place he chosen Skarek within the third spherical (72nd total) on the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas.

Skarek in the end turned Lamoriello’s fifth-ever draft selection with the group.

“I like enjoying for each of them [Lamoriello and Bridgeport general manager Chris Lamoriello],” Skarek stated. “The atmosphere they’ve created and the folks they’re. I like that they’re fairly straight-shooters and they’re honest, real and trustworthy.

“They count on you to work laborious. Nobody owes you something, however you owe all of it to your self in terms of placing within the effort and time to achieve success.”

That’s prototypical Lamoriello philosophy. And Skarek feels he’s proper the place he’s meant to be.

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