Martin Frk: “I have never seen anybody shoot the puck like that,” – Bety
The 17-year-old Czech forward was selected third overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in this summer’s CHL Import Draft, mainly because of scouting reports suggesting he was an elite offensive player. The Mooseheads were so confident he was going to be an impact player they talked about him leading their team in scoring even before he’d stepped on the ice for his first practice.
But based on his performance through the first half of the 2010-11 season, it’s obvious all of those expectations are being fulfilled.
“With a young team like we have we were expecting him to come in and be an impact player every game,” said Mooseheads head coach Bobby Smith. “That’s a difficult thing to ask of a 17-year-old, I don’t care who he is, but he’s done that. There’s also been a language adjustment for him and we haven’t had the luxury of having another Czech player who is a year or two older than him to help him along. But the sky’s the limit on his upside. There aren’t many guys in Canada who shoot the puck like he does.”
Frk is a solidly built right-winger who is a tremendous power-play player and elite passer. But as Smith mentions, it’s his heavy wrist shot and slap shot that stand out.
“I have never seen anybody shoot the puck like that,” said teammate Charles Bety. “He’s a very skilled player.
“We took him in the draft because we knew he was a scorer and he has proved it so far. He’s a guy on the power play we need. He does so many good things for us and he’s a very important player to our team.”
Through 34 games with the Mooseheads – exactly half of their schedule – Frk has 11 goals and 31 points. He receives heavy ice time and routinely stays out for the entire two minutes of power plays. With Halifax stuck in 16th place in the 18-team QMJHL with a 10-23-0-1 record, it’s obvious how much Smith leans on him.
But the Mooseheads coach readily admits he tries to be careful not to overwhelm his star player. Smith often reminds himself that Frk is living far away from his home for the first time in his life and only turned 17 in October. But that said, Smith said the likeable Czech has made an excellent transition to life in North America.
“I think he has,” Smith said. “He’s popular with his teammates and he’s just now getting to the point where his English is getting there. He’s got a good sense of humour that’s showing through now and he’s having fun here. That’s going to make it easier for him on the ice.”
And his teammates say that even though Frk said very little during his first few months in Canada, they had little trouble warming up to him right from the start. He is one of the most popular players on the Mooseheads and teammate Alex Souligny said he is almost always smiling.
“Marty is a very special guy,” Souligny said. “He came here and he didn’t speak a word of English, but now he is picking it up. The guys are very good with him. We teach him a little bit of English every day and he’s starting to get better. On the ice he’s just incredible. He just turned 17 years old and he has one of the best shots in the whole league and he’s first in (scoring) on our team. He’s a very skilled player and he’s so important to our team.”
And based on everything his coaches and teammates say about him, the responsibility of being the team’s go-to player as a rookie doesn’t even faze him. If anything, he invites it.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him but I think he can handle it,” Bety said. “He has shown what he can do since the beginning of the year. He’s doing really good.”
Based on what he’s shown so far and the early reviews from scouts, it’s likely Frk will be a high selection in the 2012 NHL draft. He seems to have the makings of a first-round pick, especially if he continues to adapt well to the North American game.
“Next year is his draft year and he won’t be surprised to see him go early,” Souligny said. “He has so much talent and he’s a pretty big guy. There isn’t much that he is (missing) to be a pro.”
Frk is currently trying to crack the Czech Republic’s world junior team, but it’s rare for players his age to make the jump.
“Well, he’s a world class player,” Smith said. “We expect a lot from him and he has done very well so far so we’ll see what happens.”