Nick Praska isn't the most vocal member of the Brainerd Warriors adapted floor hockey team. But his performance on the floor speaks volumes.
Last season Praska set a school record by scoring 30 goals and 47 points in 14 games. He bettered those totals this season in just 10 regular-season games by firing in 38 goals and 52 points.
Nick Praska profile
Sport -- Adapted floor hockey
Position -- Center
Year -- Senior
Age -- 18
Height -- 5-foot-8
Weight -- 144 pounds
Memorable sports achievement -- Winning floor hockey state championship in 1998
Favorite subject -- Physical education
Favorite food -- Anything edible
Favorite movie -- "The Waterboy"
Hobbies -- Ice hockey, football
Future plans -- Undecided
Athlete he admires -- Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche
Parents -- Merlin and Ramona Praska
"I like those scoring numbers," Praska said. "I was not shooting for those. I'm just out there to get the puck past the goalie or get it to teammates so they can get it past the goalie. That's my job out there."
Praska had seven goals in an 8-2 win over White Bear Lake and has averaged 5.2 points a game. He has helped Brainerd to a 9-1 record and the No. 2 seed in the state tournament Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School.
"That's pretty good," Warriors coach Bruce Thompson said of Praska's numbers. "Nick has taken over a few games. We were down 4-1 against Maple Grove and he brought us back with five goals in a row. We came up with a 7-5 win against a strong Maple Grove team."
Thompson ranks Praska and David Baldwin of White Bear Lake as the state's top players.
"Maybe I'm biased because he's one of our players," Thompson said of Praska, "but I don't know of anyone who can score and control the floor like Nick can. We haven't seen Baldwin so Nick is one of the top two.
"As far as I'm concerned I have not seen anyone equal to Nick's talent on the floor."
Praska's linemates Adam Thiel (16 points) and David Peterson (10) set each other up on the court.
"Sometimes I have a tendency to be a puck hog," Praska said. "If I don't have a shot I give it to one of those guys or I see if I can find a shot."
Scoring is not Praska's only role. Sometimes Thompson has Praska strictly be a playmaker for teammates and occasionally even puts him in goal.
"It depends on the nature of the game, who we are playing," Thompson said. "If we're playing one of the top teams in the state Nick is our scorer. He creates a lot of opportunities for himself and he also dishes off to his linemates. He has good passing skills. He sees the floor well."
In addition to his scoring prowess Praska is one of the Warriors' leaders.
"Nick does a nice job with leadership," Thompson said. "He has a kind heart with our kids. He does a good job directing, guiding and giving leadership, which is what we want."
Praska has inverted tibias and fibias, which causes him to be extremely pigeon-toed. Judging by his point totals one would never know Praska has a handicap.
"Sometimes I trip over my feet," he said. "I end up kicking the back of my own leg and fall over."
(Athlete of the week is honored by the Brainerd Sports Boosters Club.)
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