Lincoln Stars goaltender Samuel Hlavaj's record is far from appealing, but something keeps grabbing the attention of NHL scouts.
Hlavaj's record dropped to 3-17-1-1 after the Stars suffered a 6-0 loss to the Fargo Force on Saturday at the Ice Box. He allowed four third-period goals before being pulled midway through the third period.
But something keeps bringing in NHL scouts to watch him.
“If you look at our league, notoriously young European goaltenders that come into our league struggle to find their way a bit in the first year,” Stars coach Cody Chupp said. “Then that second year is their big coming-out year.”
The Slovakian native was already in the eyes of NHL scouts before he even joined the Stars on Jan. 10 in his USHL debut, ranking second among North American goalies heading into the draft and fifth worldwide.
“A lot of where he is at on the draft board is a product of what he did before he got here,” Chupp said. “But at the same time, there is a lot of pieces to him and a lot of tools that make you think he is going to have success at the next level.”
The 6-foot-3 Hlavaj boasted a 24-save performance heading into Saturday's third period against Fargo. He finished with 25 as the Force scored four times on its next five shot attempts, forcing Hlavaj to the bench. Jacob Mucitelli entered in relief and slowed the bleeding before Fargo added two more goals.
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A goaltender struggling to find his place in a new league is not an uncommon sight to see for Chupp. He came across a similar situation as an assistant in Green Bay with European goaltender Adam Huska playing for the first time in North America.
It is just a different game, adjusting to smaller ice surfaces and more of a net-front presence, Chupp said.
“I look back to a few years ago when we had Adam Huska in Green Bay," Chupp said. “I think he was in seven to nine starts and probably got pulled in half of them.
“He came back the following year and was (USHL) goaltender of the year. After that first year, there were a lot of people saying, 'Was he an (NHL) draft pick?' and he was ranked not even as well as Samuel.”
Huska ended up being picked in the seventh round of the NHL Draft by the New York Rangers in 2015.
Hlavaj's time in Lincoln for the rest of the season is ending, however. He is expected to join Team Slovakia for the World Championships sometime next week.
The Stars will hit the road facing the Sioux Fall Stampede, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.