Montreal Canadiens prospect Jakub Dobeš’ impressive freshman season has garnered him significant attention at the college level, and Habs fans are starting to get excited about his potential. The former 5th round pick in 2020 has had quite the journey since being drafted, and it’s helped mould him into a better player.
Dobeš has had to overcome significant adversity as a young man to reach the level of play he’s shown this season, a commitment to perseverance that he’s shown since he was young. While he was still a teenager, Dobeš and his brother made the difficult decision of moving to the United States to pursue his dream of playing hockey at a higher level.
“I always wanted to play in the United States as a kid, “ said Dobeš on the decision he and his brother took in coming to the United States five years ago. “I started in AAA in the U-18s in St. Louis. Over time I decided it would be good to go to college and have a full experience, and I feel I made the right decision.”
As Dobeš rose through the amateur ranks and made his way to the Omaha Lancers of the USHL during the 2019-2020 season, he initially had difficulty adapting to the quality of competition at first.
“My first season in the USHL wasn’t the best,” said Dobeš on his move to the USHL from AAA hockey. “I struggled for a little bit; I think I was just immature. I couldn’t figure out the players and the league.”
— x – Omaha Lancers (@OmahaLancers) February 6, 2021
A Turning Point
That didn’t stop the Montreal Canadiens from seeing the potential in his game and drafting the 6’5, 180lbs netminder at 136th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. With the added boost from being show confidence by the Canadiens, along with the unusually long amount of time off due to Covid-19 postponements, Dobeš used that opportunity to reflect.
“The next year, when Covid hit, I had a lot of time to think and prepare to figure out my game,” said Dobeš on his rapid improvement after returning for the 2020-2021 season. “I became more technical; I used more viewings. It started working, and I felt really good in those seasons. Looking back, I’m glad I struggled in my first year in the USHL because it opened my eyes to what I need to improve.”
That adversity served him well, as his numbers increased across the board, posting a 26-16-3 record, a 2.48 GAA and a 0.908 save percentage. With some good momentum under him, Dobeš prepared to make the jump to the NCAA for the Ohio State Buckeyes, and he felt the transition was seamless for him.
“We practice more in the NCAA, so that could be a factor,” said Dobeš on taking the next step in his development at Ohio State. “I don’t really notice the difference; to be honest, I just go out and play. I worked out way more, which also helped me get quicker and faster. But I feel I’ve always had the skill to put up those numbers.”
Dobeš credited his improved physical form and the immediate confidence shown by his coaching staff for being the reasons why he was able to hit the ground running in a much tougher league. The more action he saw, the more confident in his abilities he became.
“I like playing a lot of games. When you’re the #1 guy, you just feel confident,” said Dobeš on relishing the opportunity to be a #1 goalie in his freshman year in the NCAA. “I was happy for the opportunity from my coaching staff, and I was thankful to get this many minutes, and it really helped me improve.”
Dobeš’ play at Ohio State was clutch, helping to keep his teammates in the game whenever they were slumping, and that extra adversity helped him go above and beyond to win some very heated games. Dobeš finished his freshman year in the NCAA with a 21-12-2 record, an impressive 0.934 save percentage and a 2.26 GAA en route to winning the Big-10’s Goaltender of the Year award.
“We had an interesting season; we played well as a team,” said Dobeš on Ohio State’s rollercoaster season in the NCAA. “We went on a little slump to end the season, playing a little disorganized defensively, and that happens in hockey. I hoped we’d get a chance to play in the NCAA Championships, but I hope next year we’ll get our revenge.”
✖️ Freshman Jakub Dobeš had a career-high 5⃣1⃣ saves tonight at PSU for his third shutout of the season.
— Ohio State Men's Hockey (@OhioStateMHKY) January 30, 2022
Growing Relationship With Montreal Canadiens
When asked about what the future had in store for him, Dobeš put his faith in the Montreal Canadiens. When it comes to his development, he doesn’t feel like anyone, including the Canadiens, are in a rush, and he feels very comfortable returning to the NCAA next year for his sophomore year.
“I trust Montreal and whatever they want to do, “said Dobeš on whether or not to return to the NCAA next season. “I have a feeling that I will stay for one more year in Ohio, but you never know.”
Dobeš was able to be around the Montreal Canadiens for the first time since being drafted last week, as the Canadiens made their first trip to Columbus since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Montreal Hockey Now’s interview with the Canadiens prospect took place a day before Montreal and Columbus were set to lock horns, and you could tell how excited Dobes was to finally meet members of the team, face to face.
“Oh, it’s great. Tomorrow, they’re in town, and I’m going to watch them play,” said Dobeš on his relationship with the Canadiens. “I’ll go watch the pre-game skate. It’ll be exciting, it will be my first experience with the team since being drafted. Then I hope I can to come to Montreal this summer.”
Dobeš’ journey so far has been unconventional, filled with bumps and lots of lessons learned. All of these obstacles have helped him grow stronger as a person and as a goalie, a form of growing mental toughness that’s needed to excel at the position at the next level. He joins fellow Canadiens goaltending prospects Joe Vrbetic and Frederik Dichow as the future in net for the Canadiens along with Cayden Primeau, and has been arguably the more impressive of the bunch.
Where his journey to the NHL ends is up to Jakub, but it has looked very promising so far, and the best is likely yet to come.
Jakub Dobes (MTL) connait un début de saison étincelant comme recrue en NCAA. J'aime comment il challenge les lancers. L'an dernier, je le trouvais souvent profond dans son filet, point qu'il semble avoir corrigé jusqu'ici. Rapport sur ses 4 matchs à venir ! #TSLHEspoirs pic.twitter.com/l1AbhSgAjc
— Mathieu Paradis (@mat_paradis) October 19, 2021