Highly regarded as one of the Canadiens top prospects, Tomas Plekanec has put together an impressive career with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL thus far. Plekenec has quietly scored 176 points in 231 games during a three season span for the Bulldogs and he seems primed and ready for his shot at the NHL as soon as possible. Tomas recently took the time to talk to HW’s Jarda Zakravsky about his past, present, and future within the Canadiens organization. Below is a translation of the interview.
HW: What do you think about current season and what are your objectives?
The second half of the season was especially excellent for us. We were 15 points behind a play-off position and we erased that, which is a little miracle on its own. Since February we won 70 percent of our games, so we were one of the best teams in the league. If the first half of our season was better, we would probably win our division; but our team is very young and inexperienced so it took a bit longer for us to adapt. Begin and Komisarek are very important players on our team, and their late addition helped us at the end of the season. Our objective for this season is simple – to have the longest season possible. The first round match-up has us against the league’s best team [Rochester Americans] and we aren’t favorites; however this year we beat them in 3 of 7 games so we certainly have a chance. (hw’s correction: It was actually 3 of 10 games)
HW: During the lockout many NHL players went to the AHL. Is the level of AHL better now with their addition?
Maybe a little bit, but not drastically better. Only the young players from the NHL came here, no veteran stars. So the level is a little better, but it isn’t a huge difference compared to last season.
HW: Did you follow the Czech league, specifically Kladno during season?
Of course I follow the Czech league! Kladno was great this year. Especially with Patera and Prochazka coming back. During the lockout NHL’ers Tomas and Frantisek Kaberle and Jaromir Jagr played there. After three years at the bottom of the league or in the minors, this year’s sixth place finish is a big success.
HW: How it is possible that you were the fastest skater during AHL All Star Game skills competition, but in Hamilton’s team competition you didn´t win?
I have never been one of the fastest skaters. At the All Star Game I was surprised at how fast I was :-) But I’m not extremely fast.
HW: After 3 years in North America, what are you the most proud about?
Of course my first games in the NHL were fantastic; it was my big dream to play in the NHL, especially at the Bell Centre that is a sellout for every game. What a Great feeling! I believe that if there wasn’t a lockout I would have more than two NHL starts… On the other hand I enjoy every season. Each of them has been special. During the first year I had to adapt (not only hockey, but language…) and getting 46 points is I think a good number because we had great team. And of course the Calder Cup final, which was big success for our team which gives loads of experience to me as a young player. Second season I played my first NHL All Star Game and led the team in scoring, unfortunately our playoff performance was bad. Now I think that if we battled a little more we could have gone deeper into the playoffs. This year I was the All Star Game MVP, and the fastest skater [he he :-)] But I still have to improve many points in my game.
HW: What are your plans for next season; will you return to Hamilton if the NHL is still locked-out, or if you fail to make the Montreal team?
I don’t know what will happen after the season, and I’m not thinking about that right now. I will to wait and see what the options are after the season is over.
HW: Who is the biggest party animal on the Bulldogs team? Who likes to have the most fun off the ice?
The biggest Joker? I say Steve Ott, who is in the Dallas Stars organization. He talks and talks without end; from morning to night. :-)
Sometimes J.P Cote pulls some good jokes. But most of us are good jokers. And party animal? I won’t tell you that! Fans should not know these things. :-)
HW: What part of your game do you need to improve the most in order to make the NHL?
I think I need to work on the defensive part of my game, face-offs, as well as consistency.
HW: Which unknown/ un-drafted (to the NHL) player in the Czech Republic do you think would be the most successful in the NHL?
It is very difficult to say because I haven’t seen the Czech league for three years. Maybe my former teammate from Kladno Milos Horava; he can play here. He prefers the Canadian style of hockey.
HW: Since play-off final two years ago the Bulldogs team has changed a lot. Can you compare the 2002 squad with the current squad?
Comparing these two teams is impossible I’m afraid. Two years ago we had an “NHL team”. Next season more than 10 players from the 2002 Bulldogs played steady in the NHL (Conklin, Bergeron, Semenov, Stoll, Torres, Ryder, Bouillon, Ward, Lindsay, Hossa, Hainsey, Komisarek…).
HW: When do you get the most excited playing hockey?
I’d say the most excited for me is the moment that I score a goal; the arena explodes, fans are cheering, clapping etc. This is the best feeling. Of course winning a game is exciting too, but it is different. It isn’t as exciting because you know 5 minutes before the end of the game that you possibly will win, so you expect it. The emotion isn’t as high like it is after scoring a goal. Another moment that is very emotional and exciting, [and I hope I will see it in men’s hockey not only in junior] is to listen to the national anthem after winning the World Championship. I can’t imagine a better feeling!