“I was really excited because obviously Boston is a top organization, it’s an original team, and for me, as a defensive defenseman the organization doesn’t get any better than Boston. I think their style fits me pretty well… I couldn’t be happier.”
The 25-year-old, a first-round draft pick in the 2004 draft, is often compared to Boston’s Zdeno Chara, and it’s easy to see why.
Both defensemen were born in Czechoslovakia and are towering figures. Each weighs in at 255 pounds, though Valabik, who stands at 6’7″, comes in a couple of inches short of Chara. Although there’s a large disparity in their offensive production — Chara puts up about six times Valabik’s projected point total — both are large and take advantage of that with their physical style of play.
Valabik has looked up to Chara and hopes to match his talent in the future.
“He’s been always the kind of guy I’ve looked up to and the kind of guy that I modeled my game after. He’s been through pretty similar things that I have been, we’ve been both told to play basketball instead of hockey growing up back home in Slovakia… It’s kind of a good story for me to look up to — his time when he was younger wasn’t easy as well.”
In 80 games with the Atlanta Thrashers, the young defenseman only managed to record seven assists. He did, however, accrue 210 penalty minutes during his time.
He also knows what it will take to prove himself within the organization, especially after Boston GM Peter Chiarelli‘s statements on the subject.
“Valabik [has] been a little slow in developing,” Chiarelli said. “He’s still a project, but he’s a guy we’re willing to work with.”
Valabik is looking forward to showing that he is in fact worth the investment.
“I knew my time in Atlanta was done — things happened that I didn’t have control over, I got hurt, but now it’s gonna be a fresh start for me… I think I have a lot of people to prove wrong, and that’s what gets me going and what makes me work harder.”
Listen to the interview in its entirety below.