Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 8, 2011

Wings' Jurco labeled 'YouTube sensation'

Top pick eager to move past highlight clips

BY JAMES COOK
jcook@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — Tomas Jurco doesn't want to be known just as a YouTube phenomenon.

Thursday was a step in that direction.

The Detroit Red Wings top 2011 draft pick donned the red and white winged wheel for the first time as the team kicked off its Development Camp in Traverse City.

The clip has been up on YouTube for just over two years now and has over 200,000 views. In it, Jurco flicks and twirls the puck around with a stick, passes it to himself between his legs without it touching the ground and just generally does whatever he wants with the puck.

It's like Tiger Woods bouncing a golf ball on his putter, only with a more varied bag of tricks.

"When I made that video I was 14," the 18-year-old Slovakian said. "I just put it on a Slovakian website, and someone took it from there and put it on YouTube. I never thought it would become so famous. On one hand, I'm happy for it. But on another hand, I don't like to be called 'YouTube sensation.' I'm trying to be a good hockey player."

The right wing's tricks are reminiscent of the stick work of current Red Wing forward Pavel Datsyuk, a player he could team up with in future seasons.

"I never had one favorite player," Jurco said. "But he is the guy I am closest to. He's a great hockey player and I'm trying to do the same things on the ice. That's really a lot of work to just be close to him, but he's the guy I'm trying to copy."

Jurco put up 31 goals and 56 points in 60 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and helped the team to the Memorial Cup under former Red Wing player Gerard Gallant, who recommended Jurco to Detroit.

"He's obviously got good skills," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "Originally, we had the 24th pick. He was one of the guys we had (rated) in that range. As we got nearer to our pick, we traded back, hoping that someone would slide ... and fortunately for us, Jurco slid. He's got high-end skills."

Holland sees the great hands and speed of Jurco, but also a 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame that needs to fill out.

"The process starts now with getting physically stronger and learning to be a pro -- the consistency night after night after night," Holland said. "Junior and college players, there's some swings in their game and he's the same. He's got flashes, but he's a kid. We like his potential."

"I've got to work to get bigger, stronger," Jurco said. "I want to play hockey at the highest level, so it's the thing that young guys have to do. I'm trying not to be nervous and just have fun and get better," Jurco said. "I think it's going to work."

He has two years of North American playing experience, as he also registered 51 points in 64 games for the Sean Dogs in 2009-10.

"I'm trying to get used to the American style," Jurco said. "There is not that much stick handling. I'm trying to be more -- how do I say? -- go more to the net."

On the first day of development camp, Jurco impressed Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser.

"Jurco has obviously got great skills and is just flying out here," Fraser said. "This was a great first day for our camp. (We) wanted to improve it, make it a little quicker and get more skill out here and Detroit has really done that."

NEW COACHES ON THE WAY: Holland said the team will announce its new assistant coaches today.

Paul MacLean and Brad McCrimmon were Mike Babcock's assistants last season, but MacLean took the head coaching job with the Ottawa Senators and McCrimmon left to coach in Russia.

DRAFTY IN HERE: Seven of Detroit's nine 2011 draft picks were on hand. The only two missing were Swedish fifth-round pick Mattias Backstrom and Russian seventh-rounder Alexei Marchenko.