You can tell in his voice that he’s tired of talking about the World Junior Championship.
Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender Mads Sogaard won’t soon forget Denmark’s terrible U-20 tournament, an event that started with him allowing 11 goals in an eventual 14-0 loss to Canada and ended with a ugly stat line of 6.16 goals-against average and .802 save percentage over five games. For someone who had high hopes ahead of the NHL draft, it could have been a soul-crushing experience.
“It was a month with mixed emotions, honestly,” Sogaard said. “On one side, it’s tough not being able to play good and win hockey games. But at the same time, I think I handled it pretty good mentally, and I didn’t change as a person.”
That’s Sogaard for you: calm, cool and collected. Ranked second among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting and 61st on Ryan Kennedy’s final draft rankings, Sogaard will become just the second Danish goaltender to be drafted to the NHL: the first, Toronto Maple Leafs puck stopper Frederik Andersen, was actually selected twice, with Carolina (2010) and Anaheim (2012) using a pick on the now-star goaltender.
Like Andersen, Sogaard has the opportunity to blaze trails as one of his country’s most successful goalies. And he isn’t letting a tough result on the world stage stop him from getting to that point. Sogaard was heavily criticized for a highlight reel of disastrous goals that helped Denmark get relegated to Div. IA. That’s fair, but his team scored just three goals, all coming in a relegation game against Kazakhstan. It’s another a great example of why scouting at tournaments like the World Junior Championship, especially with players on non-contending teams, needs to be done with a grain of salt.
“After the tournament, I decided to look through some stuff and try and tell myself, ‘it’s all over now and there’s nothing you can do about it’,” and go back and try and help my team,” Sogaard said. “I think I came back with a good mindset. I played a couple of good first games back and that helped me get my confidence back.”
Upon returning to Medicine Hat, Sogaard won five of his next six starts, finished 9-4-1 to finish the regular season and was named WHL goalie of the week twice. In the playoffs, he made at least 31 stops in every game, including a wild 49-save effort in a 2-1 victory to kick off the post-season against Edmonton, a series the Tigers eventually lost.
Standing at 6-foot-7, Sogaard is the tallest goalie in the draft and has really adapted his game to deal with it. While he overcommits to plays at times, one scout at the draft combine said they were pleased with how he progressed after the WJC, saying he has worked hard on refining his game. Sogaard agrees.
“One of the things that I’ve really worked on is still being able to move well,” Sogaard said. “I think I get across the crease pretty fast for a big guy, and my footwork is pretty good.
But now it’s up to NHL teams to decide his fate. He spoke with 27 teams at the combine, so there’s significant interest in the goalie many tab to be a future No. 1. His size makes it hard to ignore the similarities in his game to that of Ben Bishop at the same age. If Sogaard can refine the smaller elements of his game and make good on his potential, he’ll never have to hear another question about the 2019 World Junior Championship.
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