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.
For a game played on Friday the 13th, Patrik Bartosak sure had a lot of luck on his side.
The 6-foot-1 Red Deer Rebels goaltender, drafted by Los Angeles at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, was in net to face the Kootenay Ice – the team he earned his only shutout of the season against when the two teams met back in early November.
Going into the game this past weekend, Bartosak shouldered a lot of the middling Rebels’ burden. He has played in 27 of Red Deer’s 32 games, posting a 12-12-2 record, with a 3.06 goals against average and .914 save percentage. The Rebels are still looking to improve their chances of making the playoffs, currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Eastern Conference.
Perhaps an appropriate nickname for Bartosak would be ‘The Grinch,’ as he didn’t cooperate with the 2,124 people who showed up on ‘Teddy Bear Toss Night.’
Clutching their stuffed toys, waiting for the Ice to score a goal so they could hurl a fluffy ursus in fanatical glee, fans watched on as Bartosak made one save after another on their hometown team. In total, he recorded 35 saves for his second shutout of the season. So, the Kootenay faithful waited until the Rebels scored an empty net, shorthanded goal with just over 12 seconds left in the game before tossing their bears onto the ice. At that point, the officials decided to call the game.
There were a degree of challenges for the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year, as Kootenay had a wide variety of scoring chances on him. He defended well when down low, and supplemented his lateral movements with a keen eye for tracking the puck. There were multiple partial breakaways where he had to fend off the puck to the outside to prevent a second opportunity.
Shutouts don’t offer much opportunity to criticize a goaltender’s play, but Bartosak nearly doubled his workload with his inability to smother the shot on the first chance. Every puck bounced off him and out until he finally gloved a riser midway through the third period. He had one other instance of getting the whistle afterwards, when an attempt was swallowed in his abdomen. He was fortunate every time to have a Red Deer player nearby to gain control.
One of the biggest drawbacks observed last time was his endurance. He still lingered once he went down low; he didn’t even attempt to get up at times until the puck was nearly out of the zone. As he tries to develop his game into a more professional mold, he must learn to make himself ‘big’ as quickly as he can.
On the positive side, his many rebounds were well controlled and directed to safe areas. He was able to distinguish the times to dive out to cover a loose puck. While the Ice had a good number of quality shots on goal, they were not a byproduct of secondary chances he allowed.
Bartosak played fairly deep in his crease. He never left the paint unless he wanted to cover the puck or skate behind the net to control it. Although he didn’t challenge often, he competed. He never gave up on a play when facing a rare goal mouth scramble.
Further, he continued to play with a mix of all three goaltending styles – stand up, butterfly and sprawling. He had awkward moments with all three though. Standing up, for example, a hard shot rode up his stick, over him, and landed on the top of the net. Seemingly soft shots hitting his pads in the butterfly weren’t immediately smothered. As for sprawling, when does it not cause the crowd to gasp for air?
While the technique wasn’t perfect, his performance was. He earned the first star of the game and the Red Deer Rebels won 4-0, with Bartosak in goal for 59 minutes and 47 seconds of hockey.
The season is still early for the young netminder – although he is the oldest on the team. Goaltenders typically take the longest to mature of all prospects and are the hardest to predict, since a lot of development is between the ears and can’t be seen. However, he is getting the responsibilities of an NHL starter whilst playing a minor-pro schedule of back-to-back games.
There are a lot of good signs for Bartosak, who does show the raw skills and competitiveness to bring his team success. He definitely needs to improve his fitness so he can be quicker at the higher levels. Helping himself minimize his workload with less free pucks bouncing around is of great import; as competition gets tougher, there will be times he will have to dictate the pace and slow the play down.
To see where other Kings prospects fall on the team’s overall depth chart, click here to see the latest version of the team’s 2013 Top 10 prospect rankings.
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