Kraken sign goalie Ales Stezka to entry-level contract

Ales Stezka playing goalie
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The Seattle Kraken have signed goalie prospect Ales Stezka to a contract. Per the team:

SEATTLE, Wash. — May 2, 2023 — Today, the Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) announced that they have signed goaltender Ales Stezka on a one-year, two-way contract ($950,000 AAV).

Ales has good size and is trending in the right direction,” said Kraken General Manager Ron Francis. “We gladly welcome him to the Kraken organization.”

Stezka, 26, posted a 25-14-0 record with HC Vítkovice, which plays in Czech Extraliga, the top men’s professional league in Czechia, finishing the year with a .925 save percentage, 2.14 goals-against average and five shutouts. He played in 39 of HC Vítkovice’s games, helping them finish the year with 102 points, which was good for second in their division. The 2022-23 campaign saw Stezka rank in the top five in the league in save percentage (fourth), goals-against average (fifth) and shutouts (tied for fourth) among goaltenders that played in at least 20 games. He also appeared in 12 games during the postseason, finishing HC Vítkovice’s playoff run with a 6-6 record, .960 save percentage and a 1.24 goals-against average. His .960 save percentage was the best mark of any goaltender during the postseason that appeared in at least 10 games.

The six-foot-four, 201-pound netminder has spent the last six seasons playing in Czechia’s top and second-tier professional leagues. He had a 49-42-0 record with a .913 save percentage, 2.45 goals-against average and six shutouts in 92 regular-season games with the Czech Exrtaliga, finishing the 2021-22 season leading all goaltenders with 24 wins. In 125 regular-season games with the second-tier league, he posted a 49-70-0 record with an .897 save percentage and a 3.28 goals-against average.

Prior to making his professional debut, Stezka played two seasons (2015-16 to 2016-17) in the United States Hockey League (USHL) for the Sioux Falls Stampede (2015-16) and the Chicago Steel (2016-17), backstopping the Steel to a Clark Cup Championship in 2017. A native of Plzen, Stezka has represented his native Czechia in international competition at the IIHF U-20 World Junior Championship in 2016. He was originally drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2015 NHL Draft (fourth round, 111th overall).

Goalie prospects take a notoriously long time to develop, and teams don’t really get any hands-on time with their goalies to develop them until they are under contract. Goalies tend to come into the league older than skaters, so the fact that he was a 2015 draft pick doesn’t mean he’s not a meaningful prospect.

Seattle has a lot of good players in the pipeline, but no great goalie prospects yet. It’ll probably be a couple of years before we know either way if this worked out, but the fact that they’ve signed him to a contract indicates there’s enough that they like what they see.

Seattle’s been crushing it in the amateur scouting department so far. Hitting on a premium goalie prospect would huge for the franchise trying to build a consistent Cup contender.