Former Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak didn’t have to pull out a map to realize Red Deer is a lot closer to Los Angeles than his hometown of Koprivnice in the Czech Republic.
The notion of spending 10 days in his former second home was both practical and appealing to the 21-year-old, who arrived in Red Deer Saturday and will head back to Los Angeles Sept. 10 to attend the Kings’ NHL rookie camp.
“I just attended a camp in L.A. and it didn’t make sense for me to go back home until next week, so I just decided to come up and train here for a bit . . . hang out with friends, billets and old teammates,” Bartosak said Tuesday, prior to participating in a Rebels practice session at the Enmax Centrium.
Bartosak, of course, was a major player during his three seasons with the Rebels, winning the Western Hockey League and Canadian League goaltender of the year awards in the spring of 2013.
He was then selected by the Kings in the fifth round of the NHL entry draft and reassigned to the Rebels last fall for his overage season. Bartosak stopped his final puck as a Rebel in March and then joined the Manchester Monarchs — the Kings’ No. 1 affiliate — of the American Hockey League.
After posting solid numbers — a 2.80 goals-against average and .924 save percentage — with a mediocre Rebels squad, he recorded a 3-1-0 win-loss slate, a 1.75 GAA and a sizzling .941 save percentage with the Monarchs.
While he was more than impressive in Manchester, Bartosak insisted the sample was too small to guarantee he’ll thrive as a full-time, first-year pro during the upcoming season.
“It was only four games so you can’t really tell what it is going to be like for me this year,” he said. “But I am going into the new season with a lot of confidence.”
He’s also heading into the 2014-15 season in tip-top physical condition, a factor that could weigh in his favour as he realistically sets his sights on earning the top job with the Monarchs. Bartosak will likely be moved into the Kings main camp following the rookie gathering, but knows that Jonathan Quick is pencilled in as the Kings’ starter and that he’ll be in tough to unseat back-up Martin Jones.
“They (Kings) have some really good goalies, but I think I’m in the best shape ever and I’m ready for camp,” said the six-foot-one, 195-pound Bartosak. “I did a lot of training during the summer, getting ready for the new season. I did everything I could to prepare . . . lots of dryland training, lots of time on the ice and lots of workouts, for sure.
“My goal for this season is to be No. 1 guy for the American League team and then we’ll go from there.”
Bartosak’s graduation left a gaping hole in the Rebels net, but he is confident the combination of returnee Taz Burman and newcomer Rylan Toth will successfully fill the void.
“For how young they are, they’re both very good goalies,” said Bartosak. “The Rebels should be happy with the situation with their goaltending.”
The Rebels, coming off 6-4 and 3-2 losses to Prince George and Swift Current at St. Albert during the weekend, are preparing for their next two preseason games — Friday and Saturday versus the Tri-City Americans and Portland Winterhawks in Kennewick, Wash.
Red Deer’s final exhibition games are set for Sept. 12-13 against the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Centrium and the Medicine Hat Tigers in Stettler. The Rebels open their regular-season schedule Sept. 19 against the visiting Kootenay Ice.
Just notes: The Rebels have seven prospects short-listed for their respective province’s U16 teams that will compete in the 2015 Canada Winter Games Feb. 13 to March 1 in Prince George B.C. The list includes forward Chase Stevenson of West Kelowna, B.C., Alberta prospects goaltender Dawson Weatherill of Red Deer and defenceman Ethan Sakowich of Athabasca, and Saskatchewan players Alex Geddes of Yorkton, a goaltender, rearguard Carson Sass of Melville and forwards Jake Leschyshyn of Grasswood and Chance Adrian of Dalmeny . . . The players will be scouted during the first two months of the upcoming season before final provincial rosters are decided.