EL SEGUNDO, CA — On June 30, 2013, when the National Hockey League held its annual amateur draft, the Los Angeles Kings picked up what looked like a huge windfall in the fifth round when they selected goaltender Patrik Bartosak (146th overall selection).
In 2011-12, the 20-year-old native of Novy Jicin, Czech Republic recorded a 2.75 goals-against average (GAA), a .915 save percentage, and one shutout in 25 games. Bartosak went on to top those numbers last season, earning a 2.26 GAA, a .935 save percentage, and five shutouts.
Bartosak’s 2012-13 regular season performance earned him honors as the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Goaltender of the Year.
“When you look at what he did in Red Deer this year, and the type of season he had—when you’re the CHL Goalie of the Year, you’re doing something right on a consistent basis,” said Kim Dillabaugh, who handles goaltender development for the Kings. “The consistency side of his game, from the beginning of the year, was extremely high.”
In case you weren’t aware, the CHL is the umbrella organization for each of Canada’s major junior hockey leagues, the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Indeed, Bartosak was the top goalie in all of Canadian major junior hockey last season.
On top of all that, Bartosak went on to post a 1.97 GAA, and a .941 save percentage in nine playoff game with Red Deer last season—absolutely stellar numbers.
A shoulder injury sidelined Bartosak for much of 2011-12 season, his first in North America, a likely reason he was passed over by NHL teams during the 2012 NHL Draft. But why wasn’t he snatched up in the first or second round during this summer’s draft? Was there something that scared other teams away?
Dillabaugh indicated that it may be something as simple as the fact that Bartosak was not the typical 17 or 18-year-old prospect.
“If he was 17, and this was the first time he was entering the draft, I don’t think he [still] would’ve been available,” Dillabaugh noted. “Maybe his age, being a 20-year-old, had something to do with it.”
Dillabaugh cautioned against reading too much into Bartosak being passed over in the NHL Draft until this summer, especially given what he accomplished last season.
“With some situations, age can be a factor, but regardless of age, if you’re putting together a season like that, you’re doing something right,” Dillabaugh emphasized. “To have that consistency, from start to finish, like he did, on a team like Red Deer that wasn’t a highly-ranked team throughout the year—he played a huge part in their success over the course of the year, and in the playoffs.”
So what tipped the Kings’ scales on Bartosak?
“There’s a lot of attributes we liked about him,” Dillabaugh explained. “I watched him live a couple of times, and did some viewings on video. I think he’s got a tremendous athletic component to his game. From what we viewed, he was a very competitive individual, and that competitiveness is something that we witnessed in practice, and in games.”
“You need to be efficient and elite in a lot of categories, in order to be a top goaltender,” Dillabaugh elaborated. “His athleticism, his compete [level], his mental makeup, are all things that are very high components in his game. There’s not one specific thing where we said, ‘we like this one specific thing, so we’re going to draft this guy.’ It was a combination of things that we look for when we evaluate goaltenders, and we liked what we saw among a bunch of those different components.”
“He’s a guy who has a lot of upside. He carries himself with a tremendous presence, he reads the game extremely well. He’s very poised in the net.”
Although he is 20 years old, and is eligible to play in the American Hockey League or the ECHL next season, the Red Deer Advocate reported that the Kings have already decided to have Bartosak return to Red Deer to play an over-age season with the Rebels, where he will be the starting goaltender, rather than a backup with either the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, or the Ontario Reign of the ECHL, both Kings affiliates.
“They’re going to return him,” Rebels General Manager Brent Sutter, brother of Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, told the Red Deer Advocate. “They have a lot of goalies under contract right now and they think it would be best for him to come back to Red Deer and play a lot.”
Dillabaugh would not comment on the Red Deer Advocate report, but admitted that returning Bartosak to Red Deer is something they are considering.
“[Sending him back to Red Deer] is one option, and I think that’s an option we’re considering, given the situation here,” Dillabaugh indicated. “We’re looking for him to grow his game, and develop his game. He’s going to be no different from anyone else who’s come through our organization, from the goaltending side of things.”
“He’s got a lot of things in his game that we really like, and the make up we like to see in goaltenders we’ve had come through our organization,” Dillabaugh added. “But there’s areas of his game that need to get better in order for him to continue to move this game forward, and make the transition from successful junior goaltender to a prospect, and [then], someone who’s going to have success at the pro level.”
As Dillabaugh noted, Bartosak’s greatest strength is his athleticism, not unlike Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. It is his technical game where he needs to improve the most, outside of his strength and conditioning.
“From the on-ice perspective, the technical part of his game, I would say is that area of his game that probably needs the most work, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all,” said Dillabaugh. “He carries a lot of other strengths to his game, but there are ways he can allow himself to play more efficiently.”
“Examples of that are cleaning up his rebound control, and improving his play in traffic,” added Dillabaugh. “[Those] are two areas we spent some time with him [on], and just building good habits into his game—making sure he continues to focus on doing the little things the right way, like operate with detail in practice so he’s building those good habits that he can carry into game situations.”
Intense strength and conditioning work is also on the menu for Bartosak, and like many just-drafted prospects say after their first workout with their NHL team, the amount and intensity of the physical training, not to mention the level of play, came as a surprise.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “I’m not used to this level. [But] this is the NHL. This is the next level. This is way harder than junior hockey, so I have to get used to it.”
Bartosak did see some Kings players working out during the Development Camp, and immediately took note of the intensity.
“I saw a couple of NHL players working out back there,” he noted. “I never imagined how hard they actually work. It’s definitely an eye-opening experience. It shows me how hard I need to work. I just watched how hard they work, and [I’ll] try to learn as much as I can.”
The fact that Bartosak was surprised about the intensity of the physical training is not a concern for the Kings.
“Most prospects coming out of junior really don’t know where they need to be, physically, in order to be an NHL player, and Patrik’s no different,” said Dillabaugh. “There’s areas of his physical make up that are good, and there’s areas that need a lot of work in order for him to compete at a very high level.”
“That’s part of the process [during the summer], as well as the on-ice—it’s for him to understand where he needs to get better from a physical standpoint, and for us to isolate those areas and help make improvement,” added Dillabaugh. “That’s something that he needs to work on, but that said, he’s no different from anyone else, at this point.”
Regarding the level of play, Bartosak also got to see first-hand what every young prospect before him has had to learn rather quickly.
“The players are stronger, faster, and definitely a lot smarter than in junior, so it’s tougher for the goaltender to stop the puck and read the plays,” he noted. “But it’s been a great time so far. I’m enjoying it a lot.”
Bartosak’s time at the Development Camp magnified for him what he has to improve upon.
“Definitely covering the net much better than I have,” said Bartosak. “I need to be smarter, I need to be quicker, because these players are smart, these players are strong. They shoot the puck really hard, so I need to get faster, quicker and smarter. I have to get better in every single aspect of my game.”
Dillabaugh stressed that the Kings do not want to put too much on Bartosak’s plate just yet.
“[Kings goaltending coach] Bill [Ranford] and I have the approach, especially with guys coming in for their first year, to not overwhelm them,” said Dillabaugh. “We look at the fundamentals of what we see LA Kings goaltenders being built on, and that’s where we’ve started with Patrik, and the other goaltenders [who have worked their way through the Kings’ system].”
“[We want to make] sure that the foundation is in place, so that when we start to branch off into more advanced areas, that foundation is going to help them become more successful, and able to tackle and improve those more advanced areas of their game,” added Dillabaugh.
Bartosak added that he chatted up Kings goaltender prospect Jean-Francois Berube, a 2009 draft pick, who was also at the Development Camp.
“He’s an experienced goalie, and he’s older than us,” said Bartosak. “He’s got the experience and the skills to play at the pro level, so I’ve asked him lots of questions. He’s a good mentor for us.”
Prior to the start of the Development Camp, Bartosak took some time to tour the Los Angeles area.
“I came here on Friday, two days before the camp started,” he explained. “My agent took me out a couple of times, and showed me the city.”
“It’s a really awesome place to live, for sure.”
Video Interview With Patrik Bartosak via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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