Petr Mrazek caught a glimpse of the NHL when the Detroit Red Wings invited him to Scotiabank Place to watch them play the Ottawa Senators in early February.
Mrazek, who was drafted in the fifth round (141st overall) by the Red Wings, met with general manager Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill and goaltending coach Jim Bedard before Detroit’s 7-5 victory. After the game he also visited Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard in the locker room.
“I met Jimmy at training camp,” Mrazek said. “He helped show me how to work hard at practice and in the gym. He also showed me how to prepare in the room before the game. I have been using everything he showed me so I wanted to tell him how much he helped me.”
The 6-foot, 162-pound goalie has put Howard’s techniques to good use this season, emerging as one of the top goalies in the Ontario Hockey League.
In 50 games with the Ottawa 67’s Mrazek tops the circuit with a .921 save percentage and has the fourth best goals-against average at 2.83. His play has been instrumental to Ottawa’s success and he was recently named the hardest working player and the top fan favorite at the team’s awards banquet.
“The coach (Chris Byrne) gave me a lot of chances this season,” he said. “I got a chance to play 50 games in a season so that is good experience. When you are playing more games, it is so much easier and better for you.”
The 19-year-old’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider he entered the season with questions about his ability to carry an increased workload. He hasn’t flinched since the 67’s — confident in Mrazek’s potential — traded veteran Chris Perugini at the beginning of the season.
“I was surprised when they traded Gini,” Mrazek said. “But I think it’s better for me to play and see a lot of shots.”
But not everything has gone right this season for the native of Ostrava, Czech Republic. His biggest disappointment was being left off his country’s roster for the IIHF world junior championship because of a contractual disagreement with his former Czech team, HC Vitkovice. While the decision was surprising to some, he had known about it for some time.
“That situation happened last year before I came to Ottawa,” he explained. “I had a choice. If I signed a contract with my team then I needed to stay in the Czech Republic. If I didn’t sign, then I would miss out on the national team but I would (get a chance to play) North America hockey. It was an unfair choice, but it was my choice and I am happy I could play here.”
So instead of heading to Buffalo to represent his country at the tournament, Mrazek used his time off over the holidays to return home and visit family and friends. When he rejoined the 67’s, he had a renewed focus.
“I was a little upset to not get to play (at the WJC), but it is their rules and their problem,” he said. “After Christmas I had two shutouts so if I was at the world junior then I wouldn’t have had those.”
Mrazek is hoping he will have more shutouts when the OHL playoffs start at the end of March. If he can quickly recover from a mild groin pull, he’s anticipating backstopping Ottawa during a long playoff run.
“I think we have a very good chance to go to the OHL finals,” he said. “We have a very good team this year and we will play at home the first two rounds. We will see after that but I like our chance.”
Mrazek knows that another strong playoff performance will go a long way toward helping him earn an NHL contract with the Red Wings.
“It is my dream to have a contract with an NHL team, but the work isn’t finished,” he said. “If you want to play in the NHL, it’s a long trip probably in the AHL. You need to work hard to get a chance in the NHL and that is all I am trying to do.”
NOTES: Goaltender Daniel Larsson (HV-71, Swedish Elite League) saw his season end in bizarre fashion. After appearing in 45 of 52 regular season games, he was benched to start the playoffs. Backup Andreas Andersson faltered in the first two games, so HV-71 went back to Larsson, but was ultimately swept in four straight … Forward Teemu Pulkkinen (Jokerit Helsinki) finished fifth in Finnish SM-Liiga scoring and was by far the youngest in the group. He piled up 54 points in 55 games in a breakthrough year … Ilari Filppula (Grand Rapids) is not considered a prospect by RWC, but is ninth in AHL scoring with 57 points. Tomas Tatar is 24th with 50 points and Francis Pare is 27th with 49 points.
Following is this week’s statistical update.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Stolyarov, Gennady||Dynamo Msk||KHL||20||2||4||6||23||-8||32|
|Samuelsson, Jesper||Vita Hasten||SWE-3||31||10||23||33||41||+25||99|
|Smith, Brendan||Grand Rapids||AHL||55||12||20||32||111||+8||99|
|Mursak, Jan||Grand Rapids||AHL||47||12||22||34||33||+19||117|
|Tatar, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||57||18||32||50||39||+19||126|
|Pare, Francis||Grand Rapids||AHL||67||21||28||49||47||-9||204|
|Ehrhardt, Travis||Grand Rapids||AHL||42||4||11||15||32||+5||50|
|Pyett, Logan||Grand Rapids||AHL||61||9||11||20||36||-1||119|
|Andersson, Joakim||Grand Rapids||AHL||66||4||14||18||22||-2||87|
|Emmerton, Cory||Grand Rapids||AHL||52||10||25||35||20||+8||95|
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||AHL||25||0||5||5||8||-7||42|
|Kolosov, Sergei||Grand Rapids||AHL||47||0||1||1||37||-10||41|
|Lashoff, Brian||Grand Rapids||AHL||30||0||3||3||19||-3||23|
|Owens, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||60||6||14||20||101||-12||95|
|Filppula, Ilari||Grand Rapids||AHL||64||20||37||57||20||+6||107|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||AHL||56||7||4||11||17||+2||64|
|Piche, Sebastien||Grand Rapids||AHL||11||0||2||2||13||-4||15|
|Nicastro, Max||Boston U.||NCAA||38||5||4||9||59||-9||44|
|Oslund, Nick||St. Cloud St.||NCAA||30||3||1||4||10||-2||50|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud St.||NCAA||38||5||18||23||18||-5||58|
|Sheahan, Riley||Notre Dame||NCAA||35||4||14||18||18||-6||87|
SKATERS: PLAYOFF REPORT
GOALIES: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||20||6||11||2||1||3.18||.881|
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||31||16||7||5||1||2.79||.910|
GOALIES: PLAYOFF REPORT