Samuel Honzek knew the skate cut into his calf that ended his World Junior tourney was deep.
What he didn’t know was how it would affect his future, both as a player and as a draft eligible prospect.
On Wednesday he found out, boldly striding to the stage at Bridgestone Arena as the 16th overall pick by the Calgary Flames.
“If I had played all season maybe I’d be on a different team, and be higher in the draft,” said the uber-confident 18-year-old from Slovakia.
“But I’m very happy to be a Calgary Flame.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward’s journey to his emotional draft selection took a major detour at Christmas when he was stepped on by an opponent, forcing him to miss almost two months of action.
However, despite limited play, Honzek finished second in scoring amongst all rookies in the Western Hockey League with 23 goals and 33 assists in 43 games.
It was a promising North American debut for the towering winger who scored ten goals a year earlier against adults in the Slovak Extraliga.
Selected tenth overall by the Vancouver Giants in the CHL Import Draft, Honzek stepped right in to snag 13 points in his first 13 games before going on a 17-point tear his next eight games.
Flames GM Craig Conroy said he saw Honzek play “a ton” this year, noting just how much he progressed from start to finish.
“He bounced right back and he looked great,” Conroy told Sportsnet 960 after selecting the ninth-ranked North American skater, according to Central Scouting.
“You talk to people in the organization and they rave about him.
“He might be the captain in Vancouver next year and that says a lot, for a European player to come over.
“He’s got a big frame, but he can grow into it a little more. And he’s got a really nice stride – his technique and stride are very good.”
Speaking to Honzek’s coachability and fortitude, he took the setback at the world juniors hard at first, before turning it into a positive.
“Injuries are part of hockey and it’s all about your mindset,” he explained in English he learned through a tutor his mom provided him growing up.
“I was mad and upset, but my mental coach said really smart things and it was helpful for me.
“I came back better and stronger.”
Honzek averaged a point per game in his final 20 outings, using a style of play he likens to his idol, Leon Draisaitl.
“He’s a really big guy, good at protecting the puck and uses his body well,” said Honzek.
“His hockey IQ is very impressive.
“I have a long journey to be like him, but I have to be focussed and work hard.”
So quick to pick up the North American game, Honzek finished the season running Vancouver’s powerplay, while doubling as a trusted penalty killer.
“I would describe myself as a two-way forward, good on both sides of the puck,” said Honzek, whose parents and brother traveled from overseas to be with him for his emotional evening.
“I’m a player who can do whatever the coach will tell him.
“I will accept my role and do whatever I can to help the team.
“I want to be in Calgary one day.”
He’ll be in Calgary for next week’s development camp.
The Flames have five more selections Thursday, starting with pick no. 48.
NOTE: One day after trading for Yegor Sharangovich the Flames signed the 25-year-old forward to a two-year extension at $3.1 million AAV. The deal walks him to unrestricted free agency.