The Red Deer Rebels are looking to the Czech Republic as they try and replace the Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the year.
Darcy Kuemper, 21, who tended the twine for three seasons for Red Deer and had a career year this past season, is off to the American Hockey League, and in an effort to fill the void he’ll leave, Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin used his pick in the recent CHL Import Draft to take a net minder.
Picking 59th, the Rebels selected Patrik Bartosak, who has played for HC Vitkovice of the Czech Junior league since 2007-2008.
“We’re excited to get him,” said Wallin of the 18-year-old goalie.
“He’s a guy we had targeted all along. There’s always the element of the unknown with the import draft, you feel like you’re flying blind a little bit because you don’t get to see these guys yourself, but I talked to a lot of people and this guy was right up there on a lot of guys’ lists, not only for the NHL draft but as being a guy who has the potential to come over and be a good goaltender at the junior level.
“So we’re excited to get him and we’ll see how he does at training camp but we’re cautiously optimistic that he can come in and be a good goaltender for us.”
Bartosak, who won the under-18 division championship with HC Vitkovice in 2008-2009 and won the award for the best save percentage in the league in 2009-2010, will be in Red Deer when training camp opens in late August, but Wallin says he’ll have to compete for a spot on the roster just like everyone else.
“Certainly with Darcy leaving, we felt it was a hole that needed to be filled,” said Wallin.
“Just who will fill that hole remains to be seen. This guy is certainly a guy who we think can come in and push but yet we’ve got Dawson Guhle coming back and we expect him to push for it as well. Young Bolton Pouliot is coming in as well and we expect him to be a guy that stays on our roster here this year.”
Guhle, who was picked up in a mid-season trade with Regina in exchange for forward Lane Scheidl, really turned some heads in the second round of the playoffs when he replaced an injured Kuemper in Medicine Hat and helped the Rebels grab their only win of the series against the Tigers, while Pouliot started the 2010-2011 season with the Rebels and got into a couple of games before being sent back to the Calgary Royals of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
“We want to have that competition on our roster,” said Wallin.
“You look back over the course of Darcy’s career and I think a big part of his development was bringing Kraymer Barnstable in here when they were 19 years old. I think that really created that competition and pushed Kuemps to another level. I don’t want anybody coming in here feeling comfortable or feeling that they’ve got a spot that’s their own.
“Goaltending, with Kuemps leaving, is obviously an area that needs to be filled in and somebody’s got to take the ball there so with the pick, we’re adding another guy to the mix.”
Each CHL team gets two picks in the Import Draft, but the Rebels did not use their second pick as Wallin says he fully expects John Persson, who was selected in the fifth round by the New York Islanders in June’s NHL Entry Draft, to return to Red Deer for the 2011-2012 season.