Havlat having great rookie season with Ottawa Senators

Originally published on EuroReport.com in 2001

By Lucas Aykroyd

Martin Havlat grew up far away from the plains of Africa, but the young Czech left wing’s speed and vision inevitably prompt comparisons to a gazelle. TV analyst John Davidson is awed by the way the Ottawa Senators rookie “explodes through the neutral zone.” Drafted 26th overall in 1999, Havlat can fire a laser wrist shot off the wing that even seasoned NHL netminders find tough to handle. The 6-1 forward hit the halfway mark of his team’s season with 10 goals and 11 assists in just 32 games, due to a shoulder injury in November that sidelined him for eight games. EuroReport caught up with the 19-year-old Mlada Boleslav native after his Senators raced past the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 at GM Place on 11 January 2001.

EuroReport: What are you enjoying most about your first NHL season?

Martin Havlat: I’m really enjoying everything, and I’m glad that I can play here. This is the best league in the world, with the greatest players.

EuroReport: Tonight you played with Vinny Prospal and Rob Zamuner. How do you like them as linemates?

Havlat: I like them very much. We played together at the beginning of the season too and we played well.

EuroReport: What areas of your game has Jacques Martin asked you to work on?

Havlat: I have to improve everything, because I’m just 19 years old. I usually like to carry the puck, but I have to dump it in more sometimes. I’m learning in every game.

EuroReport: You’re averaging about 15 minutes per game. How comfortable are you with that ice time?

Havlat: I played a little bit more at the beginning of the season, and it was great. But we’ve got lots of great forwards on this team. I’m the youngest here and I have to wait for my opportunity.

EuroReport: You’re listed at 178 pounds, but I know you took advantage of the time you were injured to bulk up some more.

Havlat: That’s another area I have to improve, because I’m slim and I have to build my power and strength. I weigh about 188 right now.

EuroReport: You started the year rooming with your teammate Karel Rachunek. How did that work out?

Havlat: Well, that lasted for the pre-season, but now he’s living alone and me too. He’s got a girlfriend at home. Usually if we have free time, we are at Bonkie’s house or Karel’s, because Vinny Prospal’s got a wife and little son, and he has to be with them. The rest of us are like the “Czech mafia”! [laughs] They’ve helped me very much. It’s great to have so many Czech and Slovak players on the team.

EuroReport: You were part of the gold medal Czech team at the 2000 World Junior Championships. What do you think of what Jaroslav Holik has done with that program?

Havlat: It’s his second year with the under-20 team now, and he’s won twice in a row. I think it was another great day for our little country. We’ve won everything in the last two years: two World Championships, two under-20 championships. Holik is “somebody” in our country. He’s got his son Bobby in New Jersey, and he deserves his success. I spoke with my friends on the winning team this year and they felt the same way as I did last year.

EuroReport: Who was your favorite player when you were growing up?

Havlat: My favorite player was Wayne Gretzky, but of course he’s not playing now. I like Modano. I like Jagr too. I think he’s the best player in the league.

EuroReport: How much pressure do you feel in terms of the possibility of winning the Calder Trophy?

Havlat: I’m not feeling any pressure about it. It’s different for everyone. Some rookies are playing on the first power play unit on their team, in all situations. Some players are not playing so much.

EuroReport: Are you thinking Stanley Cup?

Havlat: Well, I think we’ve got a really good team, from goalies to forwards. We’ve got a young team. We could win the Stanley Cup in the next four years. We’ve got a chance.

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