Czech goaltending prospects: Lukas Mensator

By Robert Neuhauser
Czech hockey was always known for producing quality goalies. Every year some promising goalie
takes center stage and these times everybody knows the names of Dominik Hasek, Roman Turek,
Roman Cechmanek or Tomas Vokoun, all of whom have made it to the NHL. Here they represent
the Czech hockey succesfully. Winning two consecutive Under-20 World Championship titles
in 2000 and 2001 also wouldn’t be possible without great goaltending provided by Zdenek Smid
and Tomas Duba, respectively. Smid got drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers and Duba is now a
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect. But the next highly promising netminder to burst onto the
scene carries another name – Lukas Mensator.

It is often said, that some player ‘has hockey in his blood’. In Lukas’ case it would better
sound ‘has goaltending in his blood’. His dad was a goalie for the Sokolov team, the city
where also Lukas was born. He has never made it to the Elite League, but was definitely
the first role model for Lukas. Since he could walk he followed him to the practices and games,
like most hockey player’s kids do. But he never watched the forwards or defenseman. He was
astonished by the goalies, watched every save of his father and immediately decided that
he wants to be ‘the masked man’. Lukas was looking forward to the time, when he’ll start his
own career and it really began when he was seven years old. At that time he was accepted to
play for the youngest kids of Sokolov. The coaches didn’t have a tough question what position
will Lukas fit best. When looking at the smallish kid the idea of a defenseman could be
forgotten, only the forward and goaltender remained. Lukas didn’t want to be a forward. He
wanted to face the forwards. From the very first practice he dressed into the goalie’s gear
and positioned himself in the net.

Pucks were flying all around him, but Lukas could stop the most of them. His father was
a factor in his career from the first time. He was the one who gave the little Lukas
all the needed tips and shared his experiences with him. The thing which differs normal
players from future stars is besides talent dedication to the sport. No problem for Lukas.
He was willing to listen to the advices given to him by his father and his goaltending coaches,
so since the very first time he could be described as very coachable. To this fact then
came various special workouts for goaltenders Lukas did often also in his free time. Lukas
was doing lots of gymnastic practices and he has a good figure for those workouts. Simply
an athletic goalie from the start.

But without exceptional talent and cat-like reflexes all of this would make almost no use.
Lukas had all those tools, so it was no wonder that the Sokolov kids were often relying on
his play. Lukas’ secure saves gave them confidence and he could win a lot of games for them.
From this time Lukas has a lot of trophies from various tournaments, which are on display
at his home.
Since he was playing for the first grades, Lukas admires the play of Toronto Maple Leafs
star goalie Curtis Joseph. Even if Lukas plays a different style than ‘Cujo’, he was his
childhood hero and after Joseph started to wear blue and white, also Lukas became a fan
of the Leafs.

Like Joseph’s move from St.Louis to Toronto, so was for Lukas Mensator the move from Sokolov
to Karlovy Vary. Extraleague teams always take the most talented kids from the region to their
own developmental programs to secure quality future for the senior team. The Karlovy Vary
franchise eyed the Sokolov standout and Karlovy Vary’s coach Jiri Pesout arranged the
transfer. That move came in time when Lukas was ready to start performing for the 7th grade,
also when he was 13. Another little change in his career came with the arrival to Karlovy
Vary. At first Lukas was playing with number 18 on his back, but now he had to change it to
48. In this case he was a bit influenced by Dominik Hasek. The Dominator was first playing
with number 19 and then 39, being inspired this fact, Lukas made the simillar change.

Lukas stood out also in Karlovy Vary and soon made a reputation of being the top 1984 born
Czech goaltender. Despite his diminutive 5’8”, 154 lbs. frame he covers the net well with his
very good movement in the crease and he plays very aggresively. Mensator is a strong-skating
netminder who relies on his outstanding agility and quickness to overcome the size deficiency
and is at his best when he challenges the shooter.
Lukas is a resilient goalie with a very good dexterity plus his instincts are simply terrific.
His glove hand is very fast and Lukas has
a great control of all first shots and can also control most of the rebounds. He is an
athletic goalie who plays a butterfly style and is quick to recover. The things to work on
for him are better stickhandling skills, which will be essential in NHL success, and then
handling huge traffic in front of the net. Lukas Mensator draws comparisons to Carolina
Hurricanes’ Arturs Irbe or Boston Bruins’ ‘Lord’ Byron Dafoe
with his smallish size and a simillar style of play.

Lukas posted whooping numbers already in his underage season in the midget Extraleague. As
a 14-year old he managed to win the starting position for the Karlovy Vary midgets. Lukas led
the team to a 25-11-12 record, appearing in all 48 games! He posted a 2.44 GAA
which was good for second overall in the whole midget Extraleague. Also in the minutes played
cathegory Mensator was among the top, with 2783 minutes played he ranked fourth overall.
The diminutive magician made his presence felt also at the selection tournament for the
Under-16 team of the 1983 borns in spring of 1998. Coaches Jiri Kalous and Zdenek Cech
couldn’t oversee the poise and confidence how the underaged kid stops the shots of one year
older opponents and Lukas Mensator got invited to the first international Under-16 tournament
in 1998-99, which was a three-game series against the Swiss players. Lukas played one game
there, but that was enough for the coaches to invite him also to the top event of the season,
the Four Nations Tournament of the Under-16 teams, played in Jamsa, Finland. Lukas shared the
goaltending duties with Lukas Stabl of Jihlava and played again one game for the third-placed
Czechs, posting a win in the 4:2 beating of Finland.

The following season, 1999-2000, Lukas Mensator was the clear cornerstone of the Karlovy Vary
midgets. The team finished one place shy of relegation, posting a 14-3-31 record, but Lukas
was again one of the top goalies of the midget Extraleague. Even if he often faced unopposed
raids of the opposition, he posted a 3.99 GAA and a .8975 save percentage
after playing 2406 minutes. The number of
minutes played was once again the fourth best overall record of the midget Extraleague. A
3.99 GAA may seem high, but Lukas playing behind a very porous defense.
That season he also played his debut in the junior Extraleague, even if only for one contest.
Lukas gave up three goals, but was the youngest goalie to dress up for a junior Extraleague
game in 1999-2000. His stats were the 3.00 GAA and a .9167 save percentage.
In the international competition Mensator continued his stint with the team of 1983 borns.
For the Under-17 team in 1999-2000 Lukas played at three-game series against the Finns,
played in Finland. There Mensator recorded two ties and a 2.50 GAA.
Lukas also participated at the famous World Hockey Challenge. There he created with
Jan Freylach the goaltending duo, but unfortunately the play of the Czech team wasn’t good
for a medal. He returned to the Under-16 team for another Four Nations tournament, which
took place in Angerholm, Sweden. Lukas’ international experience should be one of the main
weapons for the Czechs and they really won the whole tournament. Mensator’s stellar play
was one of the reasons for the success as he posted a shutout in the 3:0 win over Sweden
and went for a tie in the 2:2 game against Russia. Scouts could rave about his skill and
Lukas slowly became talked about as a serious NHL prospect.

He had to prove the scouts right in 2000-2001. The bigger portion of playing time he
already saw with the Karlovy Vary juniors, where he appeared in 19 games, playing 1085 miutes
while going for a 3.32 GAA and a .9052 save percentage. The Karlovy Vary juniors have had a sub-par
season last year, notching a 11-6-19 record after the regular season and finally
finishing just six points ahead of PZ Kladno, the team which was relegated
to the Div I junior league.
So Lukas had to hope on a better run with the midget team in his last year of midget eligibility.
Lukas helped the Karlovy Vary midgets to slip into the final group of the midget Extraleague,
even if he dressed up for only six games. He played the full 360 minutes and gave up 15
goals en route to a 2.50 GAA and a .9265 save percentage. Very solid numbers, but finally
the team didn’t qualify for the playoffs, where the top four teams from the two final groups
qualify. He couldn’t play more games also due to his first major injury in his career, Lukas
suffered a broken ankle, which prevented him from seeing more action in the season. Plus, the injury
didn’t come in a hockey game, he was just playing basketball at the physical education lesson
at school when he broke the ankle. That happened in December of 2000 and he had to sit
out a portion of the games.

On the international stage Lukas split the season between the Under-17 and Under-18 teams.
For the team of his birthyear, the Under-17 team, he performed at the Four Nations Tournament
in Finland and the European’s Youth Olympics. He stood between the pipes in 5 games, posting
average numbers with a .8808 save percentage and a 3.54 GAA. Lukas Musil was the starter for
the Under-17 team and Lukas Mensator tried to crack the roster for the Under-18 WJC. After
playing at the Five Nations Tournament in the USA, where he recorded two losses, 3:4 against
Russia and 1:5 against Sweden, Lukas got invited to the camp prior to the
Under-18 WJC. Unfortunately, he was scratched from the team as 1983 borns
Martin Laska and Miroslav Kopriva were selected to play at the WJC. So it came that for
the Under-18 team in 2001-2002 Mensator played just those two games, with a .8571 save percentage
and a 4.5 GAA.

This season Lukas was off to a very hot start. One of his favorite coaches, Under-18 team’s
goaltending coach Adamec was working with Lukas over the last three years and now he could
see the results of his good work
Lukas Mensator began to rule on the international scene
and after a stellar performance at the Six Nations Tournament, held in Czech Republic last
August, he was selected the top goalie of the tournament. He won the starting job in the
Czech Under-18 team over Lukas Musil and the same great play he could repeat at two more
Four Nations Tournaments in the season, played in Slovakia and Russia, respectively. Also at
those two events Lukas was the deserving winner of the Best goalie trophy. He backstopped
the Czech Under-18 team also at the Viking Cup, the only tournament where he wasn’t voted
the top netminder. He performed in games against the Augustana Vikings, the Swedish Under-18
team and the playoff game against the AJHL Selects, leaving a very good performance especially
against the Swedes when he almost alone won the game for the Czechs. In the overall standings
the Czechs finished fifth-placed.
Karlovy Vary juniors also in this season rely heavily on Lukas Mensator’s performance. Lukas
has his stats improved this year, even if the team isn’t way better than the from the previous
season. Thus far Lukas played in 36 games, which meant 2059 minutes and was good for a
2.86 GAA and a .9227 save percentage.

Nearly in all of his free time Lukas Mensator does some sport. In Karlovy Vary is a famous
spa and lots of golf places. Lukas visits them quite regularly and already at 17 is a skilled
golf player. He also likes to play tennis or soccer. But when he is playing a soccer game, he
never plays the goalie. He feels more comfortable at forward in soccer. He is one year away
from graduating at the Karlovy Vary’s secondary school for sports, a school which is visited
by many young athletes of the region. Besides Mensator the Czech Under-17 team star Vojtech
Polak also visits this school.
The CHL isn’t a chapter for Lukas Mensator. He definitely wants to stay in Europe and take
the European route to the NHL. The first goal on this way is making it to the senior
Extraleague, which could happen pretty soon. Lukas has the talent and determination to
reach the NHL. Now he is looking forward to the NHL Entry Draft, which will decide about
his future. Good luck!