EL SEGUNDO, CA — Around this time last year, Los Angeles Kings goaltender prospect Patrik Bartosak wowed spectators with a stellar performance during the second game of the 2013 rookie tournament against the Anaheim Ducks, making several difficult saves, bailing out his teammates time and time again.
Bartosak led the rookie Kings to a 3-2 shootout win over the rookie Ducks, allowing one goal on 26 shots in two periods of work. But even though Mathias Niederberger played in the third period (a planned move), Bartosak faced the most difficult of the Ducks’ scoring chances, most of which came during a very poor first period by the Kings rookies, who were badly out-skated, outworked and out-chanced.
“The goaltending was excellent,” now former Manchester Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said after the game on September 9, 2013, at the Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. “They saved our bacon more than once.”
“We had some breakdowns [in the first and second periods], no question about it,” Morris added. “Our positioning was poor, we got trapped, we were giving up some odd-man rushes, and he was dynamic for us. I thought both of our goalies competed, but him in particular.”
Bartosak, who was selected by the Kings in the fifth round (146th overall) of the 2013 National Hockey League Draft, returned to his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, for an over-age year last season (he was 20 years old at the start of the 2013-14 season).
Even though the Rebels were not a good team, the 6-1, 193-pound native of Koprivnice, Czech Republic posted a 33-26-5 record, with a 2.80 goals-against average (GAA), a .924 save percentage and eight shutouts.
“It was a great year,” Bartosak said after practice on opening day of the Kings’ 2014 Rookie Camp on September 12, 2014. “It was unfortunate that we didn’t make the playoffs. We didn’t do as well as we would’ve liked, but it was a good season, a good experience as a twenty-year-old in the league.”
Bartosak’s hard work earned him a call-up to the Monarchs, the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, at the end of the season.
In four games, Bartosak earned a 3-1-0 record, with a 1.75 GAA, a .941 save percentage and one shutout.
“After we got eliminated, I got called up to Manchester, which was a great experience for me,” he said. “It was almost two months that I spent there. It was good to get to know how the pros work, [and] how life [is] out there. It was definitely a good experience and a great year for me.”
When his outstanding statistics in the four games with the Monarchs were mentioned, Bartosak quickly credited his teammates.
“The team played unreal in front of me,” he emphasized. “They’re a great group of guys, a great group of players, a great team. It wasn’t that hard to play behind them. They helped me out a lot. It was definitely a good time.”
Bartosak also credited his teammates with helping him make the adjustment from major junior hockey in Canada to the AHL.
“The guys are a lot smarter than in junior,” he said. “They know how to shoot, they know how to play the puck in front of you and they’re stronger, faster. It was a little tougher than in junior, but the guys in front of me helped me a lot.”
Those four games over about two months in the AHL gave the 21-year-old some valuable experience.
“Hopefully, I got a little better at rebound control and reading the plays,” said Bartosak. “I’ve got more experience now, but I think it’s more about the physical side of my game. My conditioning got a lot better from last year to this year. That’s probably the biggest improvement.”
Kim Dillabaugh, who handles goaltender development for the Kings, indicated that Bartosak has made solid progress in his development over the last year.
“We were happy with his season, overall,” said Dillabaugh. “He was on a younger team in Red Deer, and he played a big part in the success that they did have. We felt good about the gains he made in his game, and it was nice to get him down to Manchester at the end of the season and see how he made the transition to the American Hockey League level. He did a good job there for us and got a taste of what to expect at that level.”
Dillabaugh indicated that the technical side of Bartosak’s game needs work.
“There’s been a lot of little gains and improvements in his game,” Dillabaugh noted. “We’re trying to establish kind of a core foundation for him. It’s about simplifying some situations in his game.”
“I think, at times, based on his athletic background, sometimes he takes situations that can be simplified and he makes them more complicated than they need to be,” Dillabaugh added. “So it’s about understanding those situations, how to manage those situations a little bit better, how to read and anticipate the game a little bit better, and really, just to tidy up some detail in his operating habits.”
“He’s a guy who has a reactive background. He’s not a guy who [had] a lot of technical structure early on his career. He’s a guy who was kind of self-taught and a guy who relied heavily on those athletic capabilities, which are a very important part of a goaltender’s make-up. So it’s making sure you don’t lose those key skills and attributes, but at the same time, trying to round out his game and bring a little more structure in that he can become a little more consistent for us on a nightly basis.”
Bartosak pointed to conditioning, along with his puck handling and rebound control, as his priorities going forward.
“[I worked with Kim Dillabaugh on] pretty much everything, but especially tracking the puck and rebound control, because I was struggling with that last year, and it’s still not where it needs to be,” Bartosak noted. “That’s probably the area where I need to improve the most.”
“My conditioning—I’ve got to keep working on that,” Bartosak added. “I’ve got to get smarter, be faster, be quicker. Those guys have quick releases and strong shots, so I have to be faster, stronger and quicker.”
Dillabaugh indicated that Bartosak’s development is moving forward at the expected pace.
“He’s made good improvements, there’s no question,” said Dillabaugh. “We’re happy with where he’s at. The areas we’ve asked him to focus on—he’s taken another step forward.”
“That’s what you want to see,” added Dillabaugh. “You want to see that improvement—him making those changes, adjustments and enhancements to his game.”
Although the Kings are set in goal for the foreseeable future, Bartosak is not concerned about his future with the Kings. Rather, he seems to be focused on the fact that the Kings have become one of the premier franchises for developing goaltenders.
“I’m really proud to be in this organization because they obviously know how to work with their goalies,” he said. “If you look at the last couple of goalies they had, all of them were unreal goaltenders, so they definitely know how to work with them and how to develop them.”
“[Competition between the goalies in the Kings’ system is] definitely good for us,” he added. “We get to compete, get better and we have to work. We have to deserve everything we get, so it’s definitely a good thing. It’s going to help us moving ahead.”
Speaking of moving ahead, the most pressing question for Bartosak now is: where will he play this season? Should he be the backup goalie behind Jean-Francois Berube in Manchester, or should he play for the Kings’ ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, where he would get more ice time?
“A lot of it will probably depend on how he performs through camp,” said Dillabaugh. “Those are decisions that are made above me. [But] his job, regardless of where he’s at, is to adapt to the pro level, whether that’s at Ontario or Manchester.”
“Obviously, coming to Manchester last season will benefit him in that transition,” added Dillabaugh. “But again, it’s about him continuing to work on the areas we’ve asked him to and learn to adapt and [make the] transition to a higher level.”
Video Interview With Patrik Bartosak via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
Audio Interview With Kim Dillabaugh
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Frozen Royalty’s Patrik Bartosak Coverage
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