Mysak making quick adjustment
Jan Mysak traded plenty to get to Hamilton.
He’s acquired much in the move from the familiar confines of his hometown — the oil city of Litvinov — for the less-familiar surroundings of Canada’s steel city.
The opportunity to play more, get better, and improve his stock in the 2020 NHL Draft, for starters.
“It’s really different from the Czech Republic,” said Mysak, who in eight games with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League has seven goals and has nine points.
“Obviously, it’s harder for me because it’s not my home, I’ve never played on a different team than my home, so it’s a little tough. But this is why I came here. It’s a new challenge for me. My first games — I haven’t played my game — I just have to be better because I have to get used to things.
“It’s the size of the rink, the change of the style of play, it’s the tactics — it’s really different than Czech. We have different tactics, I just have to learn it and then I’ll be better.”
But prior to his arrival in North America, Mysak had lived and played exclusively in his hometown of Litvinov. Litvinov is home to one of the Czech Republic’s most-famous players in the legendary Ivan Hlinka.
And it was at his namesake tournament that he decided he needed to find a better way to handle pressure.
“I don’t think it’s good to feel the pressure,” said Mysak, who is 18th in Future Considerations’ Winter ranking for the 2020 draft. “I felt the pressure during the (Hlinka Gretzky Cup) tournament and I played so bad. When I played at the World Juniors, I said to myself, ‘Don’t feel pressure. Just play and enjoy the game.’ So I try not to feel pressure.”
At the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, Mysak scored one goal and one assist in five games.
This followed a half season where he scored five goals and nine points in 26 games with his hometown HC Litvinov squad.
He left home shortly after the WJC, but he said his mind was made up before that.
“I don’t know — probably before the World Juniors. It’s a new challenge,” Mysak said. “I don’t think in Litvinov — I had smaller ice time. Here I play a lot and it’s better for me. I just talked to [Hamilton Bulldogs’ teammate] Jan [Jenik] who played here — he had a bad injury, so that’s tough — but that’s why I came.”
Hamilton coach Vince Laise said that integrating any player into a new team has its challenges.
The fact that Mysak is coming from another country doesn’t really add any wrinkles. Other than adjusting to the size of the rink.
“I don’t think there’s anything special,” Laise said. “It’s just patience and understanding that he’s learning a new system. It doesn’t matter where he’s from. Obviously for him as an individual, getting used to the size of the rink is probably the biggest dynamic — not having so much time and space.
“But we’re happy to have him.”
Mysak’s command of English is strong, which has helped his transition.
And Laise said the team itself has done a great job of integrating Mysak into its fold.
“I think with the hockey community being so close — and we have a good group of kids in there, they’re really welcoming to him — he’s fitting right in,” he said.
Mysak agreed, adding that things have been happening so quickly he hasn’t had much time to miss anything from home.
“Guys are awesome to me,” he said. “They’re trying to help me so that’s good. I’m not missing anything yet. I’m just playing hockey and this is what I love. I’m not thinking of anything different. I like it here, I’m training, and I’m just playing games.”
Laise added that Mysak’s brought a lot of positive qualities to the team and has shown a deep curiosity and willingness to get better.
“Speed, his skills, hockey sense. And, you know what? He’s really curious about the defensive side — wanting to be better there, obviously,” Laise said. “He’s asked a lot of questions about that. You see that he wants to learn and that’s great from the coaching end of it.
“[To improve] I think it’s the same as everything — just be reliable and be consistent, focus on leadership qualities, and be a good teammate. I think those things are unspoken now. He’s a high-character kid. Again, the style of play will continue to grow on him and he’s a really good player.”
Mysak knows it’s a process and he’s committed to learning everything he can in Canada.
He wants to improve, he wants to hear his name called on draft day, and he’s determined to show he can adjust to the style of play on this side of the Atlantic.
“I have to be ready for this Canadian style of game,” he said. “It’s different in Czech, so I have to learn all of these things. I have to watch videos all the time. Coach helps me a lot, so that’s been good. I have to be stronger and probably there are a lot of things for me to improve.
“This is what I expected and I’m really enjoying it. I have to get used to these things and play like I did in Czech — don’t be afraid. I think I’ll keep getting better game after game.”