June 22nd, 2024

Import goalies return

By Ryan McCracken on June 29, 2018.


rmccracken@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNMcCracken

The Medicine Hat Tigers were the last Canadian Hockey League franchise to host an import goaltender when Marek Langhamer played out his final WHL season in 2014-15. Now they’ll be among the first to bring one back.

The CHL opted to remove import goaltenders from their leagues starting in 2015-16, but retracted the move in advance of Thursday’s CHL import draft, allowing the Tigers to select Danish 17-year-old Mads S¿gaard — a 6-foot-6, 181-pound netminder with plenty of upside — at 32nd overall.

“We just felt that if there was the right guy, it has worked for us in the past,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston, whose squad went on to select Russian right winger Vasily Podkolzin with their second pick in the draft at 92nd overall. “I wasn’t surprised to see a number of (goalies) go. It’s a very, very important position and it’s not a real easy position to fill.”

While he hails from Denmark, S¿gaard spent last season in Texas with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League — giving him a chance to familiarize himself with North America’s smaller playing surface while learning under Clouston’s former San Angelo Outlaws teammate, Al Rooney.

“It’s kind of a small hockey world,” said Clouston. “Al spoke very highly of Mads. He worked with him the entire season and believes he’s got tremendous upside. He’s a hard worker, an intelligent person and a skilled goaltender with a giant body.”

With starting goaltender and Ottawa Senators draft pick Jordan Hollett entering his 19-year-old season and chasing a professional contract, Clouston says S¿gaard will be a welcome addition to Medicine Hat’s crease for years to come. As such, the Tigers wasted no time in confirming that he will report to the team for pre-season.

“In a perfect world for Jordan, he signs a contract; then at 20 years old, like a lot of NHL drafted players, he may not be back,” said Clouston. “What this does is gives us lots of depth and competition and various options coming into camp.”

While S¿gaard’s presence with the team is a certainty, Clouston says there are a number of factors that could ultimately prevent Podkolzin — who record 13 goals and 17 assists in 21 games this season with Russian under-17 squad Vityaz Podolsk — from making the trip to Canada.

“We haven’t got to that point yet with Vasily, I think that’s going to be a little bit more work,” said Clouston. “We knew with that pick that we were willing to take a little bit higher risk, knowing that if we were in fact able to land this guy he would be as good as it gets.”

The Tigers have found success through similar methods in the past. Swedish blueliner and Florida Panthers prospect Linus Nassen was considered a risky pick after failing to report to the Brandon Wheat Kings for the 2016-17 season, but he ended up lacing them up with Medicine Hat this year — where he logged a goal and 25 assists in 44 games.

While Clouston says the plan is to return Nassen to the Tabbies next season —which would fill the team’s two import player limit alongside S¿gaard — Podkolzin will serve as a promising potential fallback if Nassen ends up signing a professional contract in the off-season.

“He’s a really highly-ranked player in the draft for next year,” Clouston said of Pokolzin. “We’re very excited to have Linus and all things point to him returning, but things could change because he is a drafted player with Florida. He’s going to be one of the top defencemen coming back into our league this year.”

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