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Vancouver Giants’ Samuel Honzek hopes to lose air cast, ramp up rehab

Star Slovakian winger, felled by a calf injury at the world juniors, wants to get his career back on track in this, his NHL draft season

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The next step in Samuel Honzek’s season reboot is to get rid of the boot.

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The Vancouver Giants winger says the air cast he’s been wearing as a result of a gash to the calf area he suffered while playing for Slovakia at the world juniors is slated to come off next Wednesday. That so happens to be the day of the Top Prospects Game at the Langley Events Centre, which Honzek, who’s getting some buzz as a possible first-round pick in next summer’s NHL Draft, had to pull out of because of his leg injury.

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Once he’s free of the air cast, Honzek can resume skating and the Giants say he’ll need some practice time to get his fitness back. They’re hoping that he’s ready for game action by the middle of February.

Honzek, 18, hasn’t played for Vancouver since a Dec. 14 visit to the Victoria Royals. He left for world juniors after that game and he had the back of his leg stepped on inadvertently by an American player during a Dec. 28 game in Moncton. The Giants said at the time that Honzek would be out of action for four to six weeks, so he’s close to that original timeline. 

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Going into Friday’s visit to the LEC by the Kelowna Rockets (13-23-3-0), Honzek has missed 10 games with Vancouver (16-19-4-2) but he’s still second in team scoring with 43 points, including 17 goals, in 31 games.



Vancouver Giants vs. Kelowna Rockets

7:30 p.m., Langley Events Centre.

“It’s been tough to see some of the scores and not be able to do something about it,” said Honzek, whose team heads into the weekend losers of three straight. “I should be back soon and ready to help.”

Honzek should have somewhere in the vicinity of seven weeks of the regular season remaining when he returns to action.

The 6-foot-3, 186-pound left shot is Vancouver’s most gifted offensive performer. He’s maybe their lone rue one-shot scorer.

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His return will help the Giants’ playoff positioning and aid his own draft status. Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino had him at No. 15 in his draft rankings that he put out on Wednesday. TSN’s Craig Button has him at No. 22, the same spot where Elite Prospects puts him at.

NHL Central Scouting had him as its No. 9 North American skater in the midterm rankings.

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Honzek admits that this injury shutdown has been difficult on him emotionally. This is a crucial season for him. He had been named to Top Prospects, it’s in his own home rink and now he has to take a pass on it.

“I’m trying to focus on my recovery. I’m trying to get my strength back. Once I can get back on the ice, I can go at it 100 per cent,” Honzek said. “It was really, really hard to give up on world juniors and to not go to Top Prospects.”

Considering it was the back of his leg that was stepped on, there was concern early on that Honzek had ruptured his Achilles tendon. That would have been a season-ending injury.

“I didn’t know how bad it was at first. I didn’t notice the pain when I was down on the ice, but when I got up to skate and tried to push off it was really, really painful. When I got to the bench, I noticed my socks were covered in blood,” Honzek recalled. “The doctors (at the rink) told me that they didn’t think it was an Achilles injury. They didn’t know for sure and they wanted to check, but they thought that I should be OK (in regards to the Achilles).”

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Vancouver centre Ty Thorpe believes that Honzek returning to the lineup will “bring a lot of confidence back to the group.” Vancouver had two players go to world juniors in Honzek and first-line forward Zack Ostapchuk, who played for Team Canada.

Ostapchuk never returned to the Giants, getting traded on Jan. 8 to the Winnipeg Ice for winger Skyler Bruce, 19, and forward Connor Dale, 17, along with two unsigned prospects and four draft picks, including three first rounders.

Giants general manager Barclay Parneta had said he wasn’t shopping Ostapchuk and that the Winnipeg offer was too good to ignore.

“It’s always hard around trade deadlines and especially when you trade a guy like a Zack. It changes the dynamics of your dressing room and the structure of your team,” said Thorpe, who took over the team captaincy from Ostapchuk with the deal. “There’s a transition period.

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“We need to come together as a team and stick to our identity so that when we do get Honzek back we just keep moving forward.”

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