Mrazek caps rookie campaign with Calder Cup title
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Petr Mrazek experienced an entire career's worth of accomplishments in just one season.
The 21-year-old first-year pro became only the second goaltender to win his first ECHL, AHL and NHL starts in the same year, and the first since Alex Auld, who accomplished the feat during the 2001-02 season.
Mrazek began his season with the Toledo Walleye, but he didn't last there long. The highly-touted netminder, who played in the World Junior Championships with the Czech Republic just one year earlier, appeared in just three games in the ECHL before earning a call-up to AHL Grand Rapids.
But Mrazek did manage to make some headlines during his stay, extracting a small measure of revenge on Scott Wedgewood -- who backstopped Team Canada to a win over the Mrazek's Czech Republic squad during the WJC -- by defeating his Trenton Titans squad in the first pro meeting between the two netminders.
Mrazek joined the Griffins several weeks into their season, and quickly earned the number one spot in front of a musical chairs backup rotation of fellow ECHL alums Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum. The winning goaltender in the AHL's All-Star Game, Mrazek posted an impressive 2.33 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 42 regular season appearances for the Griffins.
"I've come a long way, but I can say that it was a great opportunity to me," he said. "I got a chance to play here in October. (Everyone with Detroit) has helped me so much, and our coach, Jeff Blashill, helped me so much. Without them, I wouldn't be here right now."
He also became the youngest goaltender to start for the Red Wings since Chris Osgood did in 1993-94, going 1-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in two appearances in Detroit, leaving many fans clamoring for him to join the team full-time for the 2013-14 season.
After a career that will likely earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame, Osgood now serves as the goaltending development coach, and was recently asked about Mrazek by ECHL.com.
"He thrives on big game situations," Osgood said. "Just his demeanor, he's confident in what he can do. He's a winner, that's the biggest thing for me. Every level he's been at, he's been a winner. When the game is on the line, more times than not, he's going to come through for you."
Mrazek proved just that once the playoffs rolled around for Grand Rapids, and he played every minute in the postseason to backstop the Griffins to their first Calder Cup Championship by defeating the Syracuse Crunch in six games.
"This is the best moment I've had in hockey for now," Mrazek said. "This is my first year pro, this means a lot to me. We won something special. It's the first time Grand Rapids won the Calder Cup in their history, it's a big moment."
While his style could still use some refinement, concedes Osgood, there certainly seems like a chance that one day down the road, there could be a repeat performance in the NHL as well.
"He's different than other guys," Osgood said. "He's not totally a scrambly goalie, but he relies on his reflexes and he's getting better at being a blocker and being positionally sound. You can't take his athleticism away from him, that's what makes him so good. The bottom line is, he just battles so hard and he knows how to win."