GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tomas Jurco had a lot of pressure on him coming into his first professional hockey season.
On top of being the Detroit Red Wings’ first pick in 2011, he’s kind of a big deal on YouTube.
A video of Jurco showing off his puck-handling abilities from a prospect camp has more than 300,000 views, but he was determined this year to show he’s not just some viral video star.
“After (the video,) it was all about the tricks,” Jurco says.
In the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, it’s been all about the goals for the Grand Rapids Griffins forward. Jurco has eight of them in 20 postseason games.
The 21-year-old Slovak native finished the regular season with 14 goals and 14 assists – but didn’t feel confident in his pro abilities until midway through his first season.
“It was February,” he says, “and I did a couple nice moves a couple games in a row. I told myself, ‘This might be the time.’”
“He could have gotten real down,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill says. “I was hard on him lots early. I think he understood I was hard on him because I just wanted him to be great.”
“He kept working to get better and better and I’m real proud of him.”
Jurco’s early success has turned the head of a living legend – former Red Wing great and volunteer Griffins assistant coach Chris Chelios.
“Physically, there’s no question he’s ready – his size and his strength, and his skill,” Chelios says. “It’s still a big adjustment – being a pro – and he figured it out a lot quicker than a lot of people thought he would.”
Proving to those people that Jurco isn’t just a one-trick pony.
“I was trying to get my name back as a hockey player,” he says, “and I think it’s working.”