Jakub Voracek is having a resurgent season in his return to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Through 19 games, Voracek, a sublime playmaker, has posted 1-17-18. The 17 assists put him in the top 10 in the NHL in the category (tied), and somehow within striking distance of Connor McDavid (22) for the league lead. That on its own is impressive, but there's even more to it than meets the eye. For starters, Voracek has averaged fewer minutes per game than any other player with at least 15 assists this season (18 total players) at 16:44, more than a minute less than the next closest skater, Johnny Gaudreau, who has averaged 18:03 per night. Then there are his linemates. We all think highly of Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger, his most consistent teammates over the past month, but they are both rookies.
The 32-year old is getting something of a production bump with the much-improved power play. His only goal this season came on the power play, and nine of his 17 assists came on the man advantage. And while the power play has certainly buoyed his stats, the same can be true for many of the top players in the league. Plus, Voracek was brought in to help improve the power play, and he's done just that.
But Voracek has earned his success. His 15 'primary' assists lead the entire NHL. Primary assists are the assist that leads directly to the goal. And while secondary assists certainly count for something (they all count for assists, to be clear), primary assists do a better job to illustrate who is actually making the final play that led to a goal, versus being the player that started the play but didn't find the eventual goal scorer.
Amazingly, Voracek is on track to have the most assists in his career, which is incredible when considering he has 539 assists in 987 regular-season games.
Voracek's secret sauce is his ability to draw opposing players towards him before slipping a pass through their 'triangle' (think of the defenders' stick and two skates forming the shape) and onto his teammate's tape. It wasn't the Blue Jackets' best game, but check out this setup on Adam Boqvist's first goal of the game against the St. Louis Blues.
When Voracek isn't threading it through players' skates/sticks, he's feathering it to a spot. This goal was disallowed but was pure genius. Voracek walked to the middle of the ice, froze the last defender (Oliver Ekman-Larsson), then slid it behind his skates to the streaking Chinakhov.
Voracek didn't let the disallowed goal stop him, though. Later in the game, he set up Jack Roslovic for the game-winning goal.
This Blue Jackets team has some flaws, but the organization has to be pleased with the play of Voracek through the first quarter of the season. If he can keep up this pace, the team could/should continue to be in a battle for playoff position when the music stops.