As the curtain fell on the Victoria Royals first season in the WHL last week, it was also the last time Robin Soudek took off his skates as a Western Hockey League player. Players returned to the rink on Thursday (March 29) to meet with coach and general manager March Habscheid one more time, and to pack up their belongings.
Twenty-year-old Soudek was one of two graduating players who won’t return, with Hayden Rintoul being the other. In fours seasons Soudek, a Czech import, scored 70 goals and recorded 81 assists in 250 regular season WHL games with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Chilliwack Bruins and Victoria Royals. He scored 27 goals and 30 assists in 2011-12, with two goals in four playoff games.
Soudek recapped his final day in the moments after the Royals were eliminated from the playoffs
“It’s pretty emotional,” Soudek said. “I skated off the ice with tears in my eyes, it wasn’t fun, but that’s how life is.”
“(Wednesday) morning I felt pretty good. Then I had my pre-game meal and thought, this is kind of weird, I might be heading to the rink for the last time. I texted my parents and told them I wished they were here today. They were a huge part of (supporting) me in hockey and I thanked them for everything.”
Undrafted, Soudek has yet to decide if he’ll test the pro market this summer for a tryout or go the European route. In Soudek’s case – it’s hard not to look at the success of fellow countryman and former Chilliwack Bruins’ teammate Roman Horak. Originally drafted by the New York Rangers 127th overall in 2009, Horak played 61 games for the Calgary Flames this season, and is currently with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.
In addition to his point scoring, Soudek also doubled his career WHL fight total with eight this season.
Rintoul looks like a lock to play university hockey in the CIS next year. His four seasons played in the WHL equals four years worth of post-secondary tuition paid for by the league.
“Europe could be an option for Rintoul too – he’s got a skill set that they love over there,” Habschied said.
Assistant captain Brandon Magee confirmed the injury that forced him to miss the playoffs is a torn MCL, suffered against the Portland Winterhawks in the final game of the season. It won’t be ready for another month at least.
“It was bad luck, I caught in a rut, felt my knee pop and it was probably the worst time of the season for it to happen, the game right before the playoffs,” said the 18-year-old.
Defenceman Zach Habscheid’s recovery is nearer. He fractured ankle while pulling gear off the bus last month. Another week and he would’ve been ready to go said dad Marc.
Building depth in the organization was one of the topics Marc Habscheid spoke of at Thursday’s sendoff. In the mix to take up roster spots next year is highly-touted defenceman Joe Hicketts out of Kamloops, the Royals’ first overall pick in the 2011 Bantam Draft.
Less spoken of, however, is that the Royals’ have listed the rights to defenceman Jack Walker of Edina, Minn. Fifteen-year-old Jack, the little brother free agent signing Ben Walker, 18, is currently playing for the Edina Hornets high school team.
“This season would have been the first we ever played together,” Ben said, except that Ben joined the Royals back in November. Now his brother will likely be at training camp in August.
Habscheid likens Jack’s skill set to that of Hicketts: small with smooth skating and an offensive upside.
“There’s more players listed in Minnesota,” Habscheid said.
The organization’s top goalie prospect, Coleman Vollrath, is currently with the midget Calgary Buffaloes. He figures to be in the mix for a job next year, though Habscheid also said he’ll look at the CHL Import Draft.
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Tim Traber led the team with 17.