Lukas Mensator was drafted in the third round, by the Canucks, after completing a successful draft year playing for Karlovy Vary of the Czech Extraliga Junior League. The 2001-02 season also saw Mensator win the best goaltender award at the Under 18 World Championships for the national team. He came to North America for the 2002-03 season to play in the OHL after being drafted fourth overall by the Ottawa 67s in the 2002 CHL Import Draft. Mensator believed that he would not receive ample playing time with his Czech senior team and felt he could find the starts in the Canadian juniors.
In his first season he enjoyed both individual and team success, as he posted very good numbers and lead the Ottawa 67s to the OHL finals, where the team lost to the eventual Memorial Cup Champions from Kitchener. Mensator’s second season wasn’t as successful as he struggled with inconsistencies and most of the talent from the year before had moved on leaving the 67s in a building phase.
2003-04: After two seasons with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL, Mensator made the decision to return to the Czech Republic. This past season he appeared in just 13 games with Karlovy Vary HC of the Czech Extra League, finishing with an unimpressive 3-4-3 record. He posted one shutout and a 2.97 GAA. He finished with a .919 save percentage. Considering he began the season as the team’s third-string goaltender, getting ten decisions in itself is somewhat of a moral victory. He was eventually demoted to Karlovy’s farm team, IHC Pisek of the First League, where he played 14 games with the last-place team. The organization then moved him to First League rival Mladá Boleslav, where he was able to play in some meaningful games. In 31 games at the First League level, between his two teams, Mensator finished with a 15-11-5 record, including five shutouts, a 2.50 GAA, and an impressive .928 save percentage.
Mensator’s dexterity makes him an excellent reflex goalie, allowing him to make the circus type save on a regular basis. He has good lateral movement and his strong skating allows him to play an aggressive style of goaltending. A strong glove hand also allows Mensator to snatch pucks, heading to the net, out of mid air.
Because of his undersized stature, Mensator is not able to cover the net like the larger goaltenders are able to. Along with most European goaltenders, Mensator struggles with handling the puck, a skill that may not be as important if the rules are changed in the NHL. His positioning in the net and his ability to control rebounds need to be improved if Mensator is to make it to the NHL.
With Mensator’s size there is concern that he will not be able to adapt to crease crashing of NHL games. His role with a team may be as a solid backup. There are major questions if returning to the Czech Republic was better for his development than remaining in North America.