34 Petr Mrazek
Pluses: For a goaltender optimistically listed at 6’ and 170 lbs—Mrazek stands 5’10” and might weigh 150—the 18-year-old earned two very specific mentions from me over the course of prospect camp for a simple reason: his athleticism more than made up for his lack of size, and while he’s a raw goaltender who uses oversized equipment to block the puck, he blocks that puck with authority and confidence, and his athleticism allows him to charge out to the top of the crease and maximize his blocking surfaces while also buying him the time and space necessary to recover and attempt to cover up on rebound opportunities. His Hasek-like glove is just brilliant, nothing less than brilliant, because he not only snags pucks out of the air a-la McCollum, but also knows how to drop the puck out of his glove and keep the game moving by chipping it to his defensemen with his smart stick-work—he wasn’t kidding when he suggested that he works on it regularly, because his passes were both efficient and fast enough that he could recover and get back into his stance quickly and smoothly--his rebound control is fantastic in that the big rebounds that thudded off his pads all went into the corners, like Mountain’s rebounds, his blocker is solid, his butterfly is wide and confident, he possesses superb lateral movement and can cover up the “holes” in his technique relatively quickly, and he and McCollum possessed the best combinations of technical aplomb and the ability to intimidate shooters.
Minuses: Mrazek is both incredibly skinny—Daniel Larsson, skinny-as-a-rake thin—and, despite his athleticism, inefficient in terms of his skating and overenthusiastic to the point of taking himself out of position in terms of his movement across the crease. When Mountain and Mrazek did lateral movement drills or worked on their positioning with Jim Bedard, you’d think that Al Sobotka would be weeping because the gents cut up his ice with all the sound and fury of someone trying to ski on gravel, expending a tremendous amount of energy to just dig in and slide across—and when Mrazek lost his crease, he would wander out of the net and sometimes seem like he didn’t plan on recovering until he was halfway to Windsor.
The other issue with Mrazek’s style involved the fact that, when you’re a puck-blocking netminder (whether he wants to call himself a hybrid, butterfly, whatever) who relies on his athletic ability and a big, un-tucked-in chest protector, high-as-possible pads and big goalie pants to make up for your rope-thin physique, the combination of bulk and inefficient movement means that if you get spun around, all of a sudden there’s a skinny kid in the net who has a hard time blocking the puck or getting to rebounds. By the end of camp, most of the Wings’ players figured out that the best way to beat Mrazek was to get the puck in tight for a rebound chance, force him to commit to his butterfly, and just walk the puck around him laterally because he couldn’t spin around fast enough and didn’t have enough bulk , technical aplomb, or simple puck-fighting ability to do what McCollum can—when you twist McCollum around and his big bulk’s pointed away from the net, he becomes Hasek-like in his tenacity and will use his glove, blocker, stick, head, you name it to bat the puck away and pull the rebound back into him. Mrazek didn’t display that tenacity once the puck was behind him.
Potential “upside”: Mrazek has miles to go in terms of improving his skating, strength, and graduating from a puck-blocking goaltender to someone with a balanced game, but in terms of raw skill, solid technique and fantastic athleticism, he earns “boom or bust” status. The Wings will watch him closely and send Bedard to Ottawa on a regular basis to ensure that a fantastic and fantastically slim goaltender works on his skating and learns how to play a more efficient game so that he can channel that athleticism into mastering the nuances of goaltending. I loved what I saw from him, but he’s got a few dozen Manitoba miles to go before he rounds into legitimate pro prospect form.