With the 94th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft the Buffalo Sabres selected forward Matej Pekar from the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL.
A year later the Czech born forward made the jump to the OHL playing with the Barrie Colts. The 6’0 170lbs forward has enjoyed a solid OHL career, and now finds himself trying to help the Sudbury Wolves qualify for the OHL playoffs.
Pekar played just over a season and a half with the Colts, the pesky forward produced over a point per game with the Colts.
In his rookie season Pekar recorded 14 goals and 22 assists (36 points) in 33 games before having his season cut short by a broken collarbone.
“There’s pluses and minuses (to the injury) I’d say,” said Pekar about his season ending collar bone injury in 2018-19.
Pekar spent some of his rehab skating with the Rochester Americans after the 2018-19 season ended and the Sabres prospect says the injury allowed him to improve his training off the ice.
“With the injury, obviously it sucked last year, we didn’t make the playoffs but it allowed me to get better off the ice, more time in the gym.”
The #Sabres have assigned Matej Pekar to Rochester. Hasn’t played for Barrie since January because of an injury. Had 14 goals, 22 assists in 33 games. Played in the WJC.
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) March 19, 2019
After his recovery, Pekar came back ready to play a big role for the Colts in his 2nd OHL season.
The forward believed that it was vital to continue to play the same style he’s always played but said there were some things he wanted to improve on.
“I think I’ve grown, I’m a little more poised with the puck and I think my puck management is a little better than last year, I’m not trying to change much, I still play the same style of game and just try to improve on the little details,” said Pekar.
In 26 games with Barrie he scored a career-high 16 goals and added 13 assists for 29 points.
After representing the Czech Republic in the WJC Pekar was traded at the OHL trade deadline to the Sudbury Wolves.
🚨 TRADE ALERT: 🚨 #WelcomeToThePack @mpekar10 !!
The Wolves have acquired 19-year-old forward Matej Pekar from the @OHLBarrieColts in exchange for draft picks.
Read More: https://t.co/6uOq68zcbF pic.twitter.com/0Xk1E6KeVW
— Sudbury Wolves (@Sudbury_Wolves) January 8, 2020
Pekar has transitioned nicely since joining the Wolves, he has been a vital member of the Wolves and his production has gotten to another level.
In 16 games since the trade Pekar has nine goals, 15-assists and 24 total points.
“I feel that I’ve settled in completely, obviously at the beginning I had to get used to a new system, a new playing style, but everything feels settled and I’m really happy here (Sudbury).”
Pekar is definitely used to Sudbury’s playing style and system, the Czech forward recorded a hat-trick against the IceDogs on Sunday in a 7-1 victory. It was Pekar’s 2nd hat trick in his last four OHL games.
Sudbury has been enjoying a very successful season, and Pekar was brought in to help them finish strong heading into the playoffs.
The Wolves currently sit atop the OHL’s Central Division and 2nd in the Eastern Conference.
While they are firmly in a playoff spot, Pekar and the Wolves want to lock up that 2nd seed for the playoffs.
“We have to keep the 2nd seed, that’s the first very important step of our season, that would give us a huge advantage in the playoffs,” said Pekar.
“That’s the main goal for us, and for me it’s just trying to play my game, help the team achieve that goal.”
While Pekar had excellent teammates around him in Barrie, none of the had the hype that top-NHL draft eligible prospect Quinton Byfield has.
“That guy is an exceptional player, I see him playing in the NHL with no problems,” said Pekar.
“It makes it so much easier to play with him, he can do everything. He plays hard in all three zones, he sees the ice well, shoots the puck well, is super strong in the corners, it’s really good playing with him.”
Sudbury is in the final stretch of their season, with 14 games left on the schedule every point matters in their quest for the 2nd seed.
A deep playoff run could also help Pekar’s development a lot heading into his pro career.
However if Sudbury’s season is cut short, Sabres’ Assistant GM has said that he will get to join Rochester once his OHL season is over.
Sexton said that Matej Pekar and Dylan Cozens will be in Rochester for the playoffs/end of season. Part of the learning to be around the pro team.
Arttu Ruotsalainen would not be eligible to come to ROC without waivers and will not be here at the end of the season.
— Let’s Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) February 8, 2020
Experience with the Sabres and fan base
While Pekar remains focused on the current task at hand in Sudbury, the Sabres’ prospect was able to talk about his experience at development camp and with the Sabres & what he has planned for himself in the future.
Pekar endeared himself to Sabres fans in his first development camp. His style of play and his personality made him an instant fan favourite.
In that 2018 development camp Pekar put his offensive and his “rat-like” tendencies on display with highlights like this.
⚔️#Sabres 4th round pick Metaj Pekar admits he likes to be the “annoying guy” on the ice that gets under everybody’s skin.
It helped fuel Casey Mittelstadt at the French Connection Tournament: “It kind of woke me up. It was perfect.”⚔️ @news4buffalohttps://t.co/amF0Jzvu08 pic.twitter.com/4RCVvIaMX3
— Nick Filipowski (@NickFilipowski) June 30, 2018
It was that altercation with Casey Mittelstadt that brought the fans attention to Pekar, and he really loves the fans in Buffalo.
“It’s great there (Buffalo) I love it, it’s unbelievable there because so many people care about hockey,” said Pekar about the fans in Buffalo.
“The fanbase is huge, I can’t really say much else other than I love it and the support there is huge.”
The Sabres are bare in terms of forward prospects, and their depth at the NHL level is killing them but Pekar does bring some elements that the Sabres are desperately lacking.
He has the ability to create offence (86 points in 74 career OHL games/54 points in 56 career USHL games), he’s a tough physical forward who loves to agitate his opponents and fire up his teammates.
Pekar won’t be the answer to the Sabres problems but having a player that projects to be potential solid middle/bottom-6 forward is something the organization can look forward to.
“It would be great to be there (with the Sabres) one day.”
Just for fun, here are some more Pekar videos to end the article:
Pekar with the win #Sabres #Devils @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/NvtSb3fHWE
— Nick Filipowski (@NickFilipowski) September 7, 2019
Wow! Sabres prospect Matej Pekar doing the Forsberg move. #OHL #Sabres pic.twitter.com/BjsgUUzf0K
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) October 7, 2018