By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
With 2013 first-round pick Malcolm Subban and former Hobey Baker Award finalist Zane McIntyre gaining most of the attention on the Bruins’ goaltender depth chart, it’s easy to overlook Daniel Vladar.
That is, it’s easy to overlook him figuratively but the Czech netminder stands 6-foot-6, 192 pounds so he’s hard to miss.
Although the 2015 third-round pick (75th overall) has a year of pro hockey under his belt, he’s still several weeks from his 20th birthday in August. That’s why he doesn’t get as much lip service from the organization and why he was back in development camp last weekend for the third time since he was drafted.
But Vladar has had his development process sped up by his circumstances. Having played some pro hockey back home in the Czech Republic, Vladar couldn’t go the NCAA route after he flourished for one year with the Chicago Steel of the USHL (.920 save percentage, 2.31 goals-against average as an 18-year-old). After taking part in Bruins training camp last fall, Vladar got to stay stateside and shuffle between Providence in the AHL and Atlanta in the ECHL.
“I think just everything so much faster and just the structure and everything. … For me the D-men there were great, they helped me a lot, they were talking. Even with the puck play or the traffic, I saw every puck and I was just trying to be focused on the first shot and [limit] the rebounds,” Vladar explained when asked about his first year of pro as a teenager.
Vladar had a .887 save percentage and 3.89 GAA in the wild-and-wooly ECHL. In the AHL, where the teams are more structured and there’s less firing shots from all angles, he had a .921 save percentage and 2.62 GAA when the Bruins were hit by injuries and McIntyre and Subban had to fill in for Boston.
It’s a cliché that goaltenders take a long time to develop because it’s true and there’s no telling what Vladar will turn into once he’s fully grown and matured. But getting so much experience at the highest levels of the sport before he’s old enough to legally drink in the U.S. can only help, especially with his attitude. He’s a happy go-lucky kid with the type of confidence every goaltender needs.
That bullet-proof attitude will come in handy as he tries to round out his game while waiting his turn to become a No. 1 or at least a No. 1A somewhere. Regardless of where he’s playing, the Bruins intend to get Vladar a lot of game action in his second pro season.
“He did have success up there as well. Do I think he’s ready for it full-time? We just want to get Daniel the net as most as possible this coming season,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “So we’ll be really cognizant. It likely will be back in the East Coast, but again performance usually dictates that, if there are injuries and such. But he did do very well and we expect him to come in and challenge and push these guys.”
The Bruins can be patient because Tuukka Rask is signed for the foreseeable future, and Subban and McIntyre should be on deck to become the No. 2 after this season (if one doesn’t earn the job this season). Vladar can afford to be patient because … well, he’s so damn young.
Nonetheless, he intends to make the Bruins’ decisions difficult this fall.
“For sure, that’s my goal, to be in Providence,” he said. “If not I will just be patient and just wait for a chance again. That’s hockey, right, you never know where you’re going to end up. So I think I’m just wishing them all the best, to be healthy and just to be ready and then we’ll see what’s going to happen.”