Bartosak could be last Euro to strap on pads for Rebels

In the event that he has stopped his last puck as a member of the Red Deer Rebels, Patrik Bartosak will be remembered as the finest of a dying breed. Bartosak, the premier goaltender in all of Canadian major junior hockey last season, will almost certainly be selected in the NHL entry draft June 30. It’s unlikely that he’ll return to Red Deer as an overage player and will quite possibly be the last European stopper to wear Rebels colours.

In the event that he has stopped his last puck as a member of the Red Deer Rebels, Patrik Bartosak will be remembered as the finest of a dying breed.

Bartosak, the premier goaltender in all of Canadian major junior hockey last season, will almost certainly be selected in the NHL entry draft June 30. It’s unlikely that he’ll return to Red Deer as an overage player and will quite possibly be the last European stopper to wear Rebels colours.

Unless, of course, Rebels owner/president/GM/head coach Brent Sutter selects a netminder in the first round of the Canadian Hockey League import draft July 3. That goaltender, barring some sort of transaction, will then replace Bartosak as the last European to strap on the big pads for the Western Hockey League club.

The above scenarios, of course, are courtesy of the CHL’s decision — at the request of Hockey Canada — this week to ban goalies from the import draft starting in 2014. CHL clubs can draft a goalie in the first round of this year’s draft and the door will then be permanently closed.

This is a protectionist policy, one that Hockey Canada feels is necessary in order to give Canadian goaltenders the best chance to compete and develop at the major junior level. It’s no secret that the calibre of homegrown netminders has fallen off in recent years, but is this the proper way to reverse the trend?

Whatever, Hockey Canada calls the shots and informed a CHL executive committee working for the three Canadian major leagues that the ruling was necessary. End of story, although the debate among fans and media members will rage on.

“It was a recommendation by Hockey Canada through the partnership we have with them that this had to be done,” Sutter said Wednesday from Vancouver International Airport, where he was awaiting a flight to Calgary following the conclusion of the WHL’s annual general meetings.

This wasn’t a knee-jerk decision, as many naysayers would suggest.

“Hockey Canada wanted us to fulfill this request. There were lengthy discussions with the league offices and commissioners,” said Sutter. “That’s all part of being in a partnership with Hockey Canada. They are the powers that be and they said this had to be done.”

Sutter didn’t offer an opinion on the subject, but one can assume that he and other major junior proprietors are not thrilled with the Hockey Canada ordinance. If an import — as in European — netminder is better than a Canadian, then it stands to reason that he gives your team the best chance to win.

In other words, the ban will at least partially prevent paying customers from watching the best possible product, which goes against common business sense.

And how about the prevalent theory that competition at any position should make a player better?

Others will argue that Europeans form a small percentage of goaltenders in the CHL and therefore the outright block is unnecessary. Again, that’s a legitimate point.

Hockey Canada hopefully has a grassroots plan in place to develop goaltenders at the peewee and bantam levels, otherwise this ban will do nothing in regards to increasing the talent level and the capability of Canadian stoppers to perform at the highest calibre of junior hockey and beyond.

Clearly, Bartosak isn’t impressed with the ban, forwarding this comment to Swift Current Broncos Finnish goaltender Eetu Laurikainen via Twitter: “@eetu41 it’s interesting how they talk about being the best, but when it comes to battleing with Euros, they want to ban us. Interesting”

Laurikainen’s response: “@PBartosak35 Yeap I don’t how many people even want this rule to #CHL.. Well I don’t that’s for sure.”

Whether Bartosak is indeed the last of the European goaltenders in the Rebels organization remains to be seen. Sutter could, after all, draft one next month.

“We still might do that,” said Sutter, who has already committed to Czech forward Dominik Volek for next season, leaving room for one import if Bartosak does not return.

“We’ll take a European player because we don’t know what Patty’s situation will be,” the Rebels boss continued. “We’re definitely going to draft a player in the first round and our goal is to take the best player available. We might look at a goalie, a defenceman or a forward.

“If we draft someone and bring him over and Patty comes back, then we’ll have to make a trade.”

For the record, Sutter feels the Rebels have a “10 per cent” chance of getting Bartosak back for the 2013-14 WHL season.

To that end, there’s a 90 per cent chance that the superb Czech netminder is indeed one of the last of a vanishing breed, and that’s somewhat of a shame.

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