Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Wiz Biz: Czech Out These Red Wing Prospects (Part One)

Right off the bat I feel less credible as a blogger for making the most simplistic pun imaginable. Either way you're already here reading so I might as well move on the to main attraction. As you guessed, this post is about Red Wings' prospects who are Czech Republic born. I'll spare you the geographically finicky argument of "well, they were born in Czechoslovakia, that's not the same thing". The point is that these prospects are in my opinion the two hottest prospects who will absolutely not see a single second of time as a Red Wing for at least the coming season.

Sorry Richard Nedomlel (2010, 6th round, 175th overall), but I am referring to goaltender Petr Mrázek (2011, 5th round, 144th overall) and forward Martin Frk (2012, 2nd round, 49th overall). It isn't often I get excited about prospects who won't see a lick of Red Wings time for a couple seasons, but these two have had a plethora of positive media attention in the past eight months or so, and given that this is the offseason, I may as well indulge my need to share my excitement over these Czech kids. This is a two parter, with Part Two: Frk You coming on Thursday.

Petr Mrázek

The Goods

Petr Mrázek is a 20 year old goaltender who previously belonged to the OHL's Ottawa 67s. During his tenure in Ottawa, Mrázek put up strong numbers, including two consecutive 30 win seasons that also included save percentages above .917. That's pretty good for a league filled with crazy talented kids putting up point per game or better seasons. As the highlight reel suggests, Mrázek THRIVES on competition, emotion, and excitement. If you want an excellent glimpse into Mrázek's personality, The Goalie Guild is all over this one. The Guild gives a pretty outstanding endorsement and please do not hesitate to click on their link and check out the interviews. One thing I found interesting about Justin Goldman's article is the lack of references to a previously dominant Czech goalie who was both explosive and unorthodox in his style.What was his name? Dominik Hašek?

Far be it for me to suggest Mrázek is the next 389 win, six time Vezina and two time Hart winning double Stanley Cup and Olympic gold champion. Reality is that there will never be another Hašek . The comparison is not your average over-the-top-Wings-fandom cheerleading so much as an outlandish attempt at comparing the styles of the goalies. One could argue that the art of tending goal is so varied that it's like comparing Picasso's Guernica to Peter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death. There is a grain of truth in the comparisons, but ultimately it if futile to say one shares much in common with the other. In the case of the paintings, both are pieces of art. Both deal with the tragedy of death in some manner. Both are European painters. I'm sure there's a more postmodern comparison to be dug up but I digress. Mrázek and Hašek can be compared much in the same manner. They're both goalies. They both come from Europe and the same country. They both play a unique style that bucks the trend of their generation.

Most of all, it's that intangible, explosive personality that makes them both entertaining that draws my interest. During Hašek 's years in Detroit, he was still playing at an elite level (for the most part), but his best years were behind him. Despite Father Time beginning his slow but steady shin-whacking of the Dominator,   Hašek  was ever the peppy netminder who bamboozled the NHL's best even on off nights.

For those without sound, that's 40 goal machine, the Slovakian Marián Gáborík getting dumped on his face. Not much else to say there.

Mrázek's big welcome to the spotlight came at the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, where he won the honour of Best Goaltender of the tournament despite the Czechs finishing 5th and getting dumped in the quarter finals by Russia. When all was said and done, the kid nearly finished off the best team in the tournament in the first round of knockouts by himself. The whole world started asking "who is this guy and why is he dominating" and "how do you say his name" all over the internet. Red Wings fans, atop their ivory towers, snickered at the thought of getting another Hašek from the eleventy-billionth round of a thin draft. Okay, that's the over-the-top-Wing cheerleader in me. I'll dial it back. He's not exactly a reserved kind of guy like Chris Osgood. He might even be the anti-Osgood. Cue the Ryan Lambert material here, if you please. No, Mrázek is not subtle:

Now that I would pay to see every night for 15 years. Eccentric goalies are often very up-and-down in terms of quality (see Bryzgalov, Ilya) and can often put forth some stinky performances (Dominator anyone?) but Mrázek sports something we haven't seen in Detroit in a few seasons. Mrázek plays with a passion for the game on his sleeve and lets that passion erupt in the form of crazy celebrations on the ice. I'm not only cool with that, I cannot wait to see this kid play (and win) in Detroit.