The Nashville Predators may have struck gold again with another late round draft pick. Marek Mazanec, selected in the 6th round (179th overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft, has made tremendous strides at a rapid pace. Mazanec is developing into rising star because of former goaltending coach Mitch Korn.
Mazanec made the transition to North America just last season after playing in the Czech Extraliga. With not even two months of AHL-experience in Milwaukee, the Pisek, Czech Republic native was given the call to the NHL. Things were moving quickly for the 22-year old, but that did not slow him down. In his first career NHL start, Mazanec turned away 30 of 33 shots in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders. Not too bad.
When Devan Dubnyk was acquired to back-up Carter Hutton on January 15, Mazanec returned to Milwaukee two days later to continue his development. In 25 games with the Predators, he earned an 8-10-4 record, 2.80 goals against average, .902 save percentage and 2 shutouts.
After a hard day at development camp, The Hockey Writers caught up with Mazanec for a Q-and-A to discuss his time in Nashville last season and looking at the future:
The Hockey Writers: How did it feel to finally get that first NHL re-call?
Marek Mazanec: It was great. I didn’t expect it. They called me up and I was like ‘What’s going on?’. I was surprised when it happened. It was a great opportunity for me.
THW: Who told you?
Mazanec: I think it was Mitch Korn.
THW: You were given your debut on November 8 at Winnipeg, earned your first victory on November 16 vs Chicago, and recorded your first shutout on November 19 at Detroit. Take me over that month when you won Rookie of the Month.
Mazanec: I was really lucky. Our team was playing well at this point, they helped me a lot. We played really good defensively. So it’s more of team success, not me. It’s not about me.
THW: You dominated in the AHL winning the last 4 starts and earned a .965 save percentage. Did the NHL experience really help you out that much?
Mazanec: Yeah, it’s different hockey. It helped me well. I know what I can expect now. It’s a higher hockey style. [NHLers] shoot from every position and go hard to the net for rebounds. I liked that, so it helped me a lot.
THW: How different is goaltender coach Ben Vanderklok to Mitch Korn?
Mazanec: They work beside each other a lot. It’s pretty similar. They’re both hard on us, which is good for us. And I think Ben will bring in new ideas for us this year, so I’m pretty excited.
THW: Do you have a pregame routine? Superstitions?
Mazanec: No, no. I don’t have any. I just try to be focused on myself.