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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2012

20-year-old rookies earn spots for Walleye when season starts Saturday

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Walleye will have two 20-year-old rookie goaltenders in net to start the 2012-13 season.

Petr Mrazek and Kent Simpson are among the latest additions to Toledo's roster as the team prepares for its season opener Saturday.

Mrazek, a 20-year-old from the Czech Republic, is in the Detroit Red Wings' minor league system.

Simpson, a 20-year-old from Edmonton, is with the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

Mrazek started in goal for the Walleye in last Saturday's preseason game against Kalamazoo and made 19 saves on 22 shots.

Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said Mrazek has been one of the best goalies in the Ontario Hockey League, a major junior league, the last three seasons.

“I really didn't think he was going to start here so we're really excited about it,” Vitucci said. “He's a top, high-end goalie coming out of juniors. He's the real deal.”

Mrazek was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft by Detroit. He posted a 30-13-6 record and a 2.84 goals-against average for Ottawa of the OHL last season. He also had a 2.84 GAA for Ottawa in 2010-11.

“This is something new for me after playing junior for a few years,” Mrazek said. “I hope to get better every day.”

Mrazek, who practiced for the first time with the team on Wednesday, said he is excited about the defensemen. He also said he has been impressed with the Huntington Center.

“The arena is beautiful,” he said. “It seems like they're good people here. I think the guys in the dressing room are great, too.”

Mrazek spent the preseason in camp with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, while Simpson was with Rockford.

Simpson, was selected by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft. He played five seasons in the Western Hockey League. He had a 20-31-7 record with a 3.33 goals against average for Everett of the WHL last season.

Simpson joined the team on Monday.

“It's still pretty fresh, but it's exciting and it's a new challenge,” Simpson said. “The town seems like it has a nice feel to it. The building here is spectacular. I heard the fans here are unreal so I'm really looking forward to playing here.”

Simpson said the goal is to have a good season to get the team in the playoffs. He said he is not “a flashy goalie.”

“I am a pretty simple technical goalie. I just try to get in front of the puck and stop it,” Simpson said. “I just try to rely on my technique.”

Toledo opens the season at 7:05 p.m. Saturday against the Kalamazoo Wings.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.



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