Freshly arrived in Laval, goaltender Jakub Dobeš held his first practice with the Rocket on Tuesday morning.
Coming off the ice, he had to take some pictures for promotional material. A characteristic and ominous sound was then heard by the few journalists present: that of skates on concrete. “Damn, I’m on concrete…” Dobeš said at the time, laughing.
Everything is new and learning for the 6’5″ guy. However, this is not the first time that he has been parachuted into a new environment.
The Czech left his family nest at 15 in the hope of one day establishing himself in the professional world. When he was 16, he went to the United States. Thanks to his mother, an English teacher, the language did not shake him too much. Surprisingly, neither does the charming town of Topeka, Kansas.
Because before playing in the USHL and then in the prestigious Big Ten division of the NCAA, Dobeš played 11 games with the Topeka Pilots in the NAHL, a second division junior championship.
“I liked Topeka,” he said with a smile. I signed with them because I had foreign player status in the USHL and they already had another foreign goaltender in Akira Schmid, who is now with the Devils. I was called back the day he was traded. But I had a lot of fun there. »
The Rocket will therefore be the 21-year-old goaltender’s fifth North American team. The self-described goaltender who “likes to play the puck” and who is “not stressed” enjoyed his first practice with the Rocket. He has also started to shoot the pipe of his teammates.
“Guys had a few lucky goals, but I’ll fix that,” he said.
After the elimination of his club from Ohio State University in qualifying for the Frozen Four tournament, Dobeš began his reflection for the rest of his career.
“We got kicked out on Sunday. On Monday, I was already wondering about my future. I decided on Thursday, then it went quickly. On Thursday evening we signed the contract and on Friday we announced it,” he said.
After two seasons in the NCAA where he earned a place among the ten “semi-finalists” for the Mike Richter Trophy, which rewards the best goaltender in the NCAA, the goalkeeper wanted to face another challenge.
“I chose the Big Ten to play against better players,” he explained. Great challenges make you better. […] By choosing to come here, I will face even better players and that will make me a better goalkeeper. »
Dobeš has a contract in his pocket for the years 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 with the Canadian, but for this year with the Rocket exclusively. Rocket head coach Jean-Francois Houle clarified that if the Montreal club “deems it’s ready, then it’s ready.” So, in this specific case, the question will not be put to Kent Hughes.
While his status as a 2020 5th-round draft pick doesn’t intimidate him compared to other teammates selected earlier, Dobeš knows he still has some work to do before he helps the Habs, or even the Rocket.
“I have to be better technically. Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon will find the slightest opening. So I have to adjust to facing better players. I have to take advantage of my greatness,” he noted.
Houle hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of seeing Dobeš in front of the Laval club’s goal this season, “because there may be injuries”. But all in all, the newcomer should stay behind by the end of the season.
He will therefore have time to acclimatize to the club, progress, without forgetting the chance to discover every corner of Place Bell.
Although a handful of NHL goaltenders wear high numbers – see here Kings Joonas Korpisalo (70) and Lightning Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) – few deviate from the few traditional numbers like 1, 30 and 31 Despite being aware that 71 “is a skater’s number,” Dobeš made a point of explaining why he’s worn it most of his career and now with the Rocket: “When I was little, I used to play PlayStation and a player who has the same nickname as me had the number 71 [Editor’s note: this player was Filip Kuba and Dobeš’s nickname is Kuba]. When I played with it, I thought it was me. The following week, we were choosing our number for the season, so I took it. It’s a unique number and it represents me. »