When Dominik Uher came over to North America from Czech Republic three years ago, he admits his game was strongly European and the physical side wasn‚??t there.
During Sunday‚??s intra-squad scrimmage at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp, Uher‚??s physical upside was on display.
Skating on a line centered by Zach Sill, the 19-year-old rookie forechecked relentlessly and didn‚??t hesitate to drive players into the boards.
Uher played a lot like Sill, and he said that was intentional.
‚??We have the same roles and I want to play like him,‚?Ě Uher said. ‚??We created some chances and I really enjoyed playing with him.‚?Ě
After spending the last three seasons in juniors, Uher comes to training camp as a prospect with both goal-scoring ability and a bit of an edge on the ice. With Spokane in the Western Hockey League, Uher amassed 54 goals in 128 over the last two years, including a 33-goal, 68 point effort in 63 games last season.
As proof that his physical play has developed, Uher also posted 60 penalty minutes each of the last two seasons.
Uher is quick to point out that his goal-scoring success in juniors is a result of hard work around the net, and not necessarily fancy moves.
‚??Last season, I can truly say I scored 25 goals just around the crease,‚?Ě he said. ‚??And it wasn‚??t fancy toe-drags. It was from forechecking, driving to the net and being physical.‚?Ě
Those are the elements that Uher wanted to display during Sunday‚??s scrimmage.
‚??I have to be physical every game. That‚??s my foundation,‚?Ě he said.
Still, such a style is different to play when it comes to the AHL. With bigger, stronger players, Uher said it‚??s important to go all out every shift.
‚??In juniors guys don‚??t always go full speed into the boards. Here, you have to put everything into it because the players are so much stronger,‚?Ě he said.
Listed at 6-0, 195 pounds, Uher acknowledged he is on the smaller side for the power forward style that he plays. He also said he needs to get stronger in order to play the physical style effectively as a pro.
It‚??s something that Uher has been working on ever since he arrived in North America three years ago.
Now, in his first professional training camp, Uher is hoping that work will lead him to emulate the way Sill plays the game.
‚??I‚??m not a big guy but I can still play this role. Once I get to the point where I can play like Sill, it will be good,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I still have lots of work to do, but I know I can get there.‚?Ě
‚?Ę After a 0-0 deadlock at the end of regulation, a shootout was needed to decide Sunday‚??s intra-squad scrimmage. Paul Thompson and Eric Tangradi scored to lead Team A to the win. Riley Holzapfel scored a shootout goal for Team B.
‚?Ę Standouts during Sunday‚??s scrimmage included Jayson Megna, who displayed his speed and puckhandling skills, Brian Dumoulin who was steady on defense and Warren Peters with a nifty faceoff win against Megna. After losing the initial draw, Peters quickly reached over Megna‚??s back and swept the puck through his legs to his teammates behind him.
‚?Ę Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait also stood out on defense with their composure with the puck.
Dan Bylsma was behind the bench for Team B, while Bill Guerin served as the coach for Team A.
‚?Ę Dumoulin was impressed with the style of play during his first scrimmage with the Penguins. ‚??They‚??re awesome. You can see the quality of the players and the defense. I know it‚??s still early, but everyone seems to be working well together,‚?Ě he said. ‚??It‚??s a high quality group.‚?Ě