by Scott MacDonald | AHL On The Beat
Before landing in Loveland, Colorado Eagles rookie Martin Kaut endured quite a rocky journey to the Rocky Mountains.
Just weeks before realizing his dream of being drafted, the Brno, Czech Republic, native receiving some heart-breaking news. Kaut was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease, quickly putting a pause on his NHL dreams.
“That was tough,” said Kaut. “When I was in Buffalo at the combine they [told] me I’d need two months to relax. Then I [went] to the Czech and had the surgery.”
Each year, roughly a month before the NHL Draft, top prospects from around the world are invited to the NHL’s annual scouting combine in Buffalo, New York.
Kaut was at the combine, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to participate.
Before the prospective draft picks are put through a battery of rigorous physical testing at the combine, they must first pass a medical screening. This is when doctors had found Kaut’s heart impairment, one which would require surgery to fix.
Kaut’s operation went smoothly; however, the fear that the surgery would hurt his chances to be drafted into the NHL still loomed in his mind.
“I had a bad summer because I had two months to relax,” said Kaut of the surgery. “I was scared because it was the draft. I hoped I would be in the first round.”
Despite the heart hindrance, and the two months of no practice or training, the Colorado Avalanche took a chance on Kaut, selecting the forward with their first-round pick this past June.
“It was amazing,” said Kaut of hearing his name called by Avs general manager Joe Sakic on draft night. “I was really happy and surprised.”
After a successful training camp with the Avalanche this summer, Kaut is starting the season in Loveland for further development with the Eagles before he earns a full-time spot in the NHL.
“Right now I feel great and I’m here and I think this is a good step for me in the American Hockey League,” added Kaut. “It’s good for me.”
Kaut said he’s enjoying his time in Loveland and his teammates have made the adjustment to American living much easier for him, particularly his fellow countryman, goaltender Pavel Francouz.
“Now I’m here just enjoying it,” added Kaut of his time so far with the Eagles, “and I’m here with Frankie (Francouz) so it’s good for me to have [another] Czech guy.”
Before both Francouz and Kaut came to Colorado, the two had hardly known each other, despite growing up just a few hours apart from each other.
“I met him this spring for the first time,” said Francouz. “He was playing with the [Czech] national team during the championship period of time. He’s a nice guy, easy to go with. I was happy he’s here.”
Now teammates, the two consider themselves great friends. The Czech mates are almost always around each other. Even on off-days, the two enjoy heated tennis matches against each other.
“It’s always easier if you have someone to talk to in your own language and have the same kind of fun,” added Francouz. “It’s way easier.”
Not only have Kaut and Francouz found friendship in Loveland, they’ve found a passionate fan base that will cheer them on all season long.
“I love it,” said Francouz of the fans in Loveland. “The crowd here is really good. I like the arena, the facilities and everything. The people here [and] the organization, especially the coaches, are really good.”
Kaut shared a similar appreciation for the Eagles’ emphatic fans.
“It’s amazing,” added Kaut. “I had great fans in the Czech, but here it’s better,” he admitted with a sly smile.
Kaut has found a home in Loveland with the Eagles. His journey to the NHL is now well on its way, as the 19-year-old continues to develop with Colorado.
Health scare now well behind him, Kaut can focus on the road ahead. And in just a few years’ time, it may be Kaut who is the heart of the Colorado Avalanche organization.