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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mursak strives for perfection

TRAVERSE CITY -- Jim Nill likes the way that Jan Mursak adjusts the knot in his tie.

When the Detroit Red Wings' assistant general manager went to scout the 19-year-old prospect, Nill saw the skating ability, the stick-handling, the hockey sense. What stood out in Nill's mind, however, was the precision with which Mursak worked on his tie, adjusting and caressing it until the teen-ager had the knot just so.

"He's a perfectionist," said Nill. "It's his personality and his work ethic. That's how he is on the ice and off the ice."

The perfectionist came very close to putting in a perfect season last year. Drafted late -- the sixth round in 2006 -- and coming out of a country -- Slovenia -- that is second-tier among the world's hockey powers, Mursak had a good training camp last fall and then lit up the Ontario Hockey League.

Despite adjusting to playing and living outside of Europe for the first time in his life, Mursak tallied at least one point in each of his first 22 OHL games with the Saginaw Spirit against the best junior-age competition in North America. That streak set a Saginaw franchise record.

By Christmas, Mursak was among the top 10 OHL scorers. The 182nd overall draft pick was looking like the perfect late-round selection.

"Certainly, he was a real pleasant surprise," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. "What he did for us last year is show us he's a legitimate prospect. He's stronger. He can skate. He can handle the puck. He can think."

Mursak is back in Traverse City this weekend for his second training camp with the Red Wings. He'll stay here for the team's main camp that begins Sept. 14.

Mursak finished last season as the Spirit's leading scorer with 80 points, including 27 goals, in 62 OHL games. He also skated for Slovenia in the second-tier World Junior championships.

It was while playing in an under-18 international tournament against countries like Belarus and Austria that Mursak got his break. Noticed by an Austrian agent, Mursak was given the opportunity to play hockey in either Sweden or the Czech Republic. He chose the latter because it was closer to home.

"I learned Czech in one year," said Mursak, who is now fluent in English as well. "There's some good players in Slovenia. But there are only six or seven rinks (in the entire country). It's very hard for hockey. Everything is about soccer. All the money goes to soccer. It's getting better, but it's really hard. No scouts, no agents, no one there to see you."

Because he played in a hockey power like the Czech Republic as an 18-year-old, Mursak was seen by scouts and eventually drafted by the Red Wings.

That led Mursak to playing in Saginaw as a junior, learning more about playing on the small North American ice surfaces, picking up the English language and finishing his final year of high school at Saginaw Nouvel Catholic. He also set up his own web site (

A long-shot to stick with the Red Wings this season, Mursak is likely bound for Saginaw once his stay in Traverse City ends. The Red Wings' management is high on Mursak's skill, hockey sense and competitiveness. They also like that he added 20 pounds since last fall's training camp.

"He's a guy that you call in the office when he's 165 pounds and you show him what Kris Draper and Henrik Zetterberg can do with their strength," said Holland, "and he goes to the gym and he gets physically stronger. He's improving. Some kids are slow learners … They've had success and they think they're going to get by on their skill. He's not like that. He knows that he needs to get stronger to have a chance as an NHL player."

It's a detail in the development of a hockey player that can't be overlooked. But details don't intimidate perfectionists.

"I really like to have things in line," said Mursak. "I hate to have my room messy. I put all my things where they need to be. I think I learned this from my parents. Working out takes working on a lot of little things. I don't mind that."


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