Samuel Honzek didn’t get any tips about being a Vancouver Giant from Andrej Meszaros.
The 17-year-old Honzek, a winger who’s in his rookie season with the WHL club, and the 36-year-old Meszaros, a defenceman who played from 2004-05 with the Giants before embarking on a 645-game NHL career, were teammates for a time last season in the Slovak pro league with Dukla Trencin.
Meszaros, who started playing in Europe in 2015-16 after his NHL run was over, got hurt last season and played just two games with Dukla Trencin. Honzek didn’t reach out to Meszaros when the Giants used the 10th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft in July to nab Honzek’s rights.
It would have been quite the tale if Honzek had gotten a heads-up on the happenings with the Giants from Meszaros. It never happened, Honzek says.
“It’s just crazy,” Honzek said of the odds that two Giants imports separated by 19 years of age would end up on the same team for even a short period last season. “He’s a good guy. I like him.”
Prince George Cougars vs. Vancouver Giants
7:30 p.m., Langley Events Centre. Radio: AM730
Giants fans are undoubtedly growing fond of Honzek in the early stages of this season. He’s getting first-line minutes with Ty Thorpe and Ty Halaburda, and goes into Friday’s matchup with the Prince George Cougars (2-2-0-0) at the Langley Events Centre with two goals and five points for Vancouver (1-2-0-1). Thorpe tops the team in scoring with his three goals and five points.
Honzek is 6-foot-3 and 181 pounds and has shown both a willingness to go to the high-traffic areas and deft touch around the net. Coach Michael Dyck picked him to take Vancouver’s second attempt in the shootout when the home-opener against the Seattle Thunderbirds two weeks ago at the LEC went to the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
Seattle’s touted as a championship contender this season. Vancouver was in Kent, Wash., on Saturday for the Thunderbirds’ home-opener and Dyck says that Honzek was one of the players he challenged to take his game to another level before a revved-up Seattle team playing before a raucous crowd. Honzek stepped it up, according to Dyck, and helped Vancouver rally from a 5-1 deficit before falling 6-4.
“He’s a big, strong guy who moves very well,” Dyck said. “He does a great job getting off the wall. He has a great shot and he’s starting to play much better away from the puck.”
This is Honzek’s draft year and he admits that’s why he opted to come to North America for this season. He isn’t showing up in early rankings lists just yet, but Dyck says that he’s already hearing from NHL teams about him, explaining that “he’s definitely on the radar and he was on the radar before he even came here.”
“The hockey is faster. It’s a smaller rink and some guys were already drafted by the NHL, so they have really good players here,” Honzek, who turns 18 in November, said. “It’s a good chance to play against them. You can compare yourself against them.
“I need to get to the net and be hard on pucks and win battles and shoot. That’s my role … I want to take it to even another level.
“I think we’ve (his line with Halaburda and Thorpe) have played well and if we keep it up we can help the team get even more points.”
Honzek, who has one brother, says that his family understood his desire to come to North America.
“They said that they will support me wherever I go,” Honzek continued. “They miss me but it’s part of the hockey life.”
Honzek had no points in four games for the Slovaks at the summertime world junior tournament. He had 10 goals and 14 points in 49 games with Dukla Trencin in the regular season.
Meszaros isn’t listed as playing anywhere this season.
Honzek, who’s from Trencin, is represented by the Sports Corp., the Edmonton-based company headed by agent Gerry Johannson. Former Giants general manager Scott Bonner is also Sports Corp. brass.
The Sports Corp. represents current Giants like forward Zack Ostapchuk and goalie Jesper Vikman, as well as former Giants like Milan Lucic, Brendan Gallagher and Brett Kulak.
The import draft has long been tied to connections with agents and the Giants have frequently relied on players from Johannson’s group.
Swedish winger Fabian Lysell, who was with the Giants last year, is also a Sports Corp. client.
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