The following article is part of a continuing series this season, where MayorsManor correspondent David Hofreiter provides commentary on prospects playing in the Canadian-based major junior leagues and US-based college hockey programs. He’ll spend time tracking a player, then offer some opinions and observations based on a single game or multiple games, depending on the points being presented.
While both the Kings and Monarchs have established starters in goal, there’s a Rebel in the mist trying to overthrow the balance of power.
Over the weekend, goaltender Patrik Bartosak put yet another stamp in his passport to future stardom, as he helped the Red Deer Rebels take down the Brandon Wheat Kings. Originally selected in the fifth round last June, 146th overall by Los Angeles, the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year (which encompasses the three Canadian major junior leagues - the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL) is old enough to play in the AHL or ECHL, but he was recently returned to Red Deer for further development and growth following a brief stint at training camp with the Kings.
Although he earned a victory over the Wheat Kings, it was evident Bartosak still has some kinks to work through – paired with a great set of raw skills.
Style wise, he doesn’t seem to gravitate towards a particular discipline, alternating between a butterfly style, sprawling and staying on his feet. Further, Bartosak doesn’t play deep in his net; he likes to come out to challenge the shooter. He tracks the puck differently in situations: when the puck is far back at the point, he tries to look over the players’ shoulders; when the puck is sitting in the slot and there are too many skates and sticks nearby, he drops low. Overall, the 20-year old Czech Republic native has an active stick that he uses to poke at the puck, and he isn’t shy about shoving opponents who violate his crease.
Against Brandon, he allowed two goals in what ultimately was a 4-2 win for the Rebels, and he stopped 33 shots. The first goal allowed was on the penalty kill. A Brandon player entered the zone, and a shot from the right of Bartosak deflected to the side of the net behind the goal line. Bartosak dropped down low and kept his leg against the post; however, the Wheat Kings left wing was able to chip the puck between Bartosak’s back and the goal post to the front of the net. Bartosak kept hugging the post as best he could, even though the puck was now to his left. The Brandon forward then had a wide open net and a couple of whacks before hammering it home. From my perspective, the goal was squarely on Bartosak for failing to track the puck.
The second goal was just a perfect play; the Brandon defenseman skated a stride up from the point and fired a wrist shot. Before the puck got to Bartosak, a Brandon forward and Red Deer defenseman were battling for position in front, and the Brandon forward was able to tip the shot in mid-air, so the puck dropped down and squeezed by Bartosak via the 5-hole. There was nothing that could be reasonably expected out of Bartosak that time, and from then on, he shut the door. Both Brandon goals came in the second period, where Bartosak also made 17 saves.
Continuing on the positive side, Bartosak displayed traits of being a very competitive goaltender who uses a multitude of skills and style to make the necessary saves. Moreover, he’s efficient when controlling most rebounds. The shots that hit him in the chest stay in his chest, and shots towards his limbs are often get steered to the boards. He also has good mobility when down low, giving him an advantage with scrambles in front of the net. As a whole, he displayed some of the same on-ice habits in this game that he showed during camp in LA.
Despite these qualities though, Bartosak still needs to work on his conditioning. While he can move well down low, his recovery time to get back to his feet is below average. As noted above, he also needs to continue improving his ability to track the puck, which can only come with more experience and playing time.
His long-term future is still very unclear, as you would expect from a recent draftee. However, all the good pieces are there for a young goaltender. Bartosak played a solid game, making 33 saves on 35 shots and was the first star of the game. Perhaps someday he will have a shot at overthrowing a netminder playing for the Kings or Monarchs.
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