When Czech world junior coach Filip Pesan was picking his squad for the 2018 tournament in Buffalo, he thought back to his day job in the Czech League. There, Pesan is the bench boss for Bili Tygri Liberec. And whenever his squad played Pirati Chomutov, youngster Jakub Lauko stood out. “This guy plays against my team, and he’s awesome, even if he’s young,” Pesan said. “He has speed, he’s strong, he finishes his checks, and I like the way he plays.”
Lauko went to the world juniors and used his speed and physicality to help the Czechs advance to the semifinal in one of their best finishes in years. Coupled with his work in the Czech League, Lauko had a solid enough resume to get drafted 77th overall by the Bruins in 2018. Now, the mission is to work out the kinks in his game. “It’s the consistency of my performances,” Lauko said. “In the Czech League, I’d play two matches very well and then one bad match.”
A mid-sized center who also plays left wing, Lauko is making his North American debut with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this season. Despite being a third-round pick, Lauko made an immediate impact in his first NHL training camp, scoring two goals in his first two pre-season games and signing his rookie deal with the Bruins before heading to the ‘Q.’ His fearlessness makes him seem bigger than he is at six-foot and 170 pounds, and anyone is more intimidating when the hits are coming with speed. To that end, the NHLers he looks up to possess a mixed bag of skill sets. “I like to watch Johnny Gaudreau – he’s so clever and fast,” Lauko said. “But my idol since I was a child is Ryan Getzlaf. He plays so well in the offensive and defensive zone, and he’s a leader.”
As a potential returnee to the Czech WJC team this winter, Lauko could be a leader himself. Whether the likes of Filip Zadina (Detroit) and Martin Necas (Carolina) will suit up for the Czechs will depend on what kind of impact they make in the NHL this fall. If they’re unavailable, that void would have to be filled by players such as Lauko. Fortunately, leading with maximum effort has never been a problem for him.
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.