GLENS FALLS — Stepan Falkovsky has a rocket of a shot; he made that clear when he hit 99 miles per hour in the hardest shot competition at the all-star game. So it’s unsurprising when he fires off a rocket to score.
He scored one of those on Saturday, but the 6-foot-7, 224-pound defenseman also landed a more finessed wrist shot. Falkovskey showed off a little stick work as he skated in on Elmira goalie Andy Iles and wristed a shot into the upper corner, over Iles’s glove.
It’s something he hasn’t done this year. But that’s not to say it surprised anyone on the Adirondack Thunder.
“He has NHL ability,” forward Pete MacArthur said after the Thunder’s 8-2 win. “At that age, he’s just learning how to play the game of hockey, as opposed to just using your skill. You play within a system and then you let your skill shine through and that was a good example of that.”
Falkovsky was a draft pick (seventh round last year), but he’s also a 20-year-old rookie. When he started the season, he was a little too quick with the puck. His skill was always there, but it’s the decision-making that has improved. There are still moments when coach Cail MacLean would like to see the defenseman be more conservative offensively.
But when it works, when he makes a great play at the blue line to beat someone and create a chance for himself, there’s not a lot you can say. In Falkovsky’s first multi-point game Saturday, he had four (two goals, two assists).
“He has what you’d call good edges, so he can open his speed up and work around people,” MacLean said. “The other thing he has is good reach with the puck, he doesn’t lose it very often.”
On one hand, it’s easy to have good reach when you’re the longest player on the ice with a stick taller than some of your teammates at 6 feet, 1/2 inch. But you still see long players lose the puck more than Falkovsky does. He has better control of his long stick than many.
Falkovsky is from a country many Americans couldn’t point to on a map (Belarus is between Poland and Russia) and he is not very confident speaking English. He understands more than he speaks and he knows more than he shows. But Falkovsky comes off as shy, maybe just because he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing.
Fortunately, he has a couple of teammates who speak Russian, including another Belarusian in Roman Dyukov. The language barrier and culture differences only make it harder for a young player far from home.
“I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I went over to Belarus and barely understood more than 15 words,” said Patch Alber, who has been Falkovsky’s defensive partner recently. “For a guy like that, it has to be hard to be here. I think we all try to take that into account when things aren’t going right. I think to have a game like this is huge. It’s good for his confidence.”
At the beginning of the season, Falkovsky was surprised when young fans wanted his autograph — Ty Loney had to explain and point him in their direction. Saturday night, he looked at ease with fans after the game. He couldn’t say much, but they all figured it out.
On and off the ice, Falkovsky is a different player and person than three months ago when the season started. MacLean and MacArthur both stressed they expect to see a lot more.
“His ceiling is very high,” MacLean said. “We have high expectations for how he manages to develop throughout the season. He has a long way he can go.”
|Adirondack||6:36||Loney 16 (MacArthur, Alber), PP|
|Adirondack||9:08||Falkovsky 6 (Aagaard, Wolfe), PP|
|Elmira||11:25||Betzold 6 (Sylvestre, Bennett)|
|Adirondack||3:12||Ward 13 (Wall, Alber)|
|Elmira||8:45||Sylvestre 12 (Betzold, Bennett)|
|Adirondack||10:14||Wolfe 10 (Pollock, Falkovsky)|
|Adirondack||3:07||Falkovsky 7 (Riley, Ward)|
|Adirondack||6:35||Alber 1 (Wall, Pollock)|
|Adirondack||7:50||Ward 14 (Falkovsky, Loney)|
|Adirondack||12:10||Pollock 10 (Wall, Alber)|