World Junior Watch: Mrazek Leaves Lasting Impression

Photo Courtesy: Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal/Postmedia News

Petr Mrazek has become the star of the 2012 World Junior Championship. The 6-foot, 162 pound netminder has been the backbone of the Czech Republic team which eventually fell to the Russians eliminating them from medal contention. Mrazek’s most impressive outing was the 52 stop 5-2 victory over team USA sending them to the relegation bracket.

The 19 year-old goalie has become known for his exuberant on-ice celebrations following big saves or key goals for his team. But Mrazek has every reason to be excited with his team’s performance and his chance to represent his country. The Red Wings 5th round selection in the 2010 NHL entry draft wasn’t expecting to backstop the Czech’s after being barred from participating in the 2011 tournament due to a contract dispute with his former team, Vitkovice.

So while some have called his celebrations flamboyant, cocky, or even over the top, they have to remember the unfortunate political struggle that has kept Mrazek off the 2011 team. The contraversy centers around his decision to leave his homeland to play North American hockey in the OHL. Never one to mince words, Mrazek hasn’t been shy about expressing his frustration over his unfair exclusion last season.

“I was a little upset to not get to play (at the WJC),” Mrazek said in March of 2010. “But it is their rules and their problem,” he said.

Mrazek, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Red Wings earlier this season, will return to Ottawa of the OHL after the completion of the tournament and will have a chance to take the 67’s deep into the Memorial Cup playoffs. He’s expected to turn pro next season and will have a chance to earn a spot with Grand Rapids of the AHL. After his rapid progression the past two seasons, the Red Wings are hopeful that his competitiveness and natural athletic ability will eventually translate into an NHL career.

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