Visually speaking, it is impossible to miss goaltender Mads Søgaard. At a lean 6-foot-7.5 inches and just shy of 200 pounds, the Danish netminder is very much a gentle giant. And while his height and ability to cover a net are enough to make NHL teams salivate, it is his humble nature and calm demeanor that confirm him as a winning selection for any club.
Søgaard was one of 104 draft hopefuls to take part in the testing for the 2019 NHL Combine in Buffalo, New York. Speaking with THW and other media members inside of the friendly confines of the HarborCenter, Søgaard confirmed that 27 different teams had interviewed him while he partook in the week’s activities. He additionally confirmed that two of the 27 were the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings.
He was easily the tallest participant among all of the prospects, and he knows that gives him an advantage as a goaltender. Aside from his height though, Søgaard feels that he brings other assests to the table, and that his overall game is one that he continuously works to improve upon.
“I think I move well,” he told THW. “For a big guy I get across the crease pretty fast. Off-ice I think there’s still tons to work on. For me, I’m just super excited about the rest of the summer and getting to work on all things to improve.”
A Rough WJC but Success in WHL
Søgaard is a native of Aalborg, Denmark. He represented his country at both the World Junior Championships in 2018 at Buffalo, NY (USA) and 2019’s tournament held between Vancouver and Victoria, BC (Canada).
While Søgaard did not see any action in Buffalo, he and the Danes would have a rough go in British Columbia. Losing all six of their tournament games – including both games against Kazakhstan in relegation – Denmark was demoted to Division I A for 2020.
Søgaard was left with the abysmal stats of a 6.16 goals against average and a .802 save percentage in five games. Such a performance was far from resting solely on his shoulders alone, as the Danes were badly over-matched in general.
Put such numbers aside for now, as where Søgaard truly showed promise was in his first Western Hockey League (WHL) season with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2018-19. Splitting Medicine Hat’s netminding duties almost evenly with Jordan Hollett, Søgaard put up the better numbers by far. In 37 games, he came away with a 19-8-2 record to go with a 2.64 GAA and a .921 SV%.
All of this coming after a rather average previous season in 2017-18 when Søgaard played with the NAHL’s Austin Bruins. That campaign saw him go 11-6-0 with a 2.64 GAA and .909 SV%. Søgaard recognized in himself that success in Medicine Hat came down to finding consistent play.
“The year before wasn’t great for me,” he explained. “I wasn’t consistent over the course of the year. I’d be good a couple of games, and then have a bad one. For me, I just really try to think about what I do with my body, and what food and liquids I put in it. That way I think that helped me a lot, and it helped me to get more consistent. Something I’m going to keep working on.”
A Projected Third-Rounder?
When the 2019 NHL Draft is held in Vancouver Jun. 20 through 21, Søgaard will undoubtedly be selected, but when and by whom? The NHL’s Draft Prospect Rankings lists him second-highest among goaltenders playing in North America. THW anticipates him being selected near the middle of the third round, with five other goalies being chosen ahead of him.
However, what could ultimately see Søgaard be selected earlier in the draft than expected is how he presented himself to the teams who interviewed him in Buffalo. For many of the scouts and GMs in attendance, it was likely their first opportunity to meet the young man.
He comes across as very calm and very soft-spoken. There was a noticeable politeness and good-natured attitude that Søgaard exuded when he met with the media. Plain and simple – he is very likable. That is, of course, in addition to his great size and skill level. No team is simply going to select a player just because he is “likable” – the player needs to possess reliable talent too. Søgaard appears to have both. And he’s 6-foot-7 and a half.
Even as he described himself to the media, Søgaard spoke with humility and acknowledged the support that he has received from others.
“Obviously I take a lot of the net away,” Søgaard told those present after finishing up his circuit on the testing floor. “One of the things that I’ve really worked on is still being able to move well. I think I get across the crease pretty fast for a big guy, and my footwork is pretty good. If I want to make it to the NHL I need to improve on all areas of my game. I think I have great people around me, and I think that’s going to help me to be a better goalie.”
What Team Wins Søgaard Sweepstakes?
Both the Red Wings (66th) and Sabres (67th) have third-round selections that they could potentially use on Søgaard. 14 other teams have a lone selection in the tertiary stage of the draft.
What is far more interesting though, as far as Søgaard is concerned, relates only to have a half-dozen squads. The Vegas Golden Knights presently have three selections in the third-round alone, while the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils currently have two picks each in this particular round.
Barring trades, that means six teams have multiple stabs at grabbing Søgaard – at least at where he is slated to go – in addition to other prospects they are eyeing in this stage of the draft.
No matter where he ends up, he is committed to focusing on the details of his game so that he can continue to grow and ultimately make the NHL. Once selected, Søgaard would still need two to three seasons in the American Hockey League to become better seasoned to North American professional shooters and to put some weight on. While he weighed in at the 200-pound mark, he is incredibly lanky and slim. Toning needs to take place, and it will. After all, he is only 18 right now.
For Søgaard though, it is all part of the process of “growing” as a netminder, even if that is an odd word to associate with someone already standing at his great height.
“Improve on all areas of my game,” Søgaard said about his focus for the summer ahead of him. “I think that if I can get a little bit better at everything in my game, and get stronger and put some more weight on, I think that’ll help me to be a better goalie…”.
That is what potential suitors for him are hoping for. No matter who acquires his services though, they will be selecting a very committed, very professional, very sizable, young man.