The scouts sometimes say that an NHL power-forward is born AND made, and this is frequently true. A big, strong, physical forward who has excellent offensive skills is a desire of many NHL teams. The Maple Leafs drafted a young man, Frantisek (Frank) Mrazek in the fifth round, 111th selection overall from Ceske-Budjovice in the Czech. Republic. Frank is currently 19 yrs. old and finishing his second year with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL at the juniors level. He is 6-4, 220 lbs. with excellent strength. He scored 30 goals, 24 assists for 54 pts. in 65 games for Red Deer as a rookie in 1997-98. Great production was expected of him in Red Deer this season, particularly after he raised some eyebrows with a good showing in the Leafs’ training camp.
“Our expectations for Frank were very high coming into this season”, stated Rebels assistant coach, Peter Anholt. When Frank got off to a sizzling start with 6 goals and 12 pts. in a 4 game stretch early in the season, he seemed to be on his way. He was named WHL player of the week and player of the month in October. Leafs director of player development, Anders Hedberg called him “a young man with goals. He knows where he comes from and where he is going.” in a Toronto Star article by Ken Campbell.
No one expected Frank to keep up that torrid pace, but his production tailed off dramatically as the season wore on. Through 55 games he has scored 27 goals, 37 assists for 64 pts. Not bad, but not what was expected. “His consistency has unfortunately been a problem this season”, said Anholt. “He works hard and has a good attitude on and off the ice, but he is a big-man who too often plays a small-man’s game and that hurts his production.”
In all fairness to Frank, he did have to deal with a couple of distractions this season. Early in the season, he was caught in a dispute with his home-country team from Ceske Budejovice and Red Deer as to his rights. He remained with Red Deer. Frank also missed about a month of action while he performed for his Czech. national team in the World Junior Championships. “He has similar skills to Pavel Brendl, the WHL’s leading scorer as a rookie this season, but he has just not had the offensive production or consistency we have expected. If he’s at the top of his game, he is the type of player who can carry us in the upcoming playoffs.” stated Anholt.
Frank not only brings great size and strength to the table, but he has a nice array of skills as well. He has a nice wrist shot and has worked hard on quickening his release. He has good hand skills for his work in tight in front of the net as well. He sees the ice well, and even though he has spent most of this season at left wing for the Rebels, he has seen action as a center as well. For a big man he is a good skater, but does need some improvement in this area to excel at the pro level. He has the work ethic to be able to improve these skills. He is improving in his defensive responsibilities as well, but still gets caught following the puck instead of always picking up his man.
In one form or another, this will be Frank’s last year with Red Deer. “He is ready to take the next step out of here”, says Anholt. “Whether that step is to the NHL, AHL, a European league or back in the entry draft if he is not signed to a contract is entirely up to Frank.”
He must play a consistently physical game and work hard along the boards and in front of the net. His eleven powerplay goals this season attest to the fact that he doesn know what he’s doing, at least some of the time.
The Leafs have not yet signed the young man to a contract and it is possible his play in the upcoming WHL playoffs may go a long way in determining whether a future with the Leafs is “in the cards”. Does Frank have the potential of a Fredrik Modin, an NHL-caliber, emerging power forward? Or will he be more like a Scott Pearson, a good minor-league player, but a power-forward who was never able to make it big at the NHL level? Will the bubble that is Frank Mrazek’s game rise to the top or will it burst before ever coming to fruition? Playoff time, 1999, just might help us to tell.
Source: “The Toronto Star” article: Budding Leafs by Ken Campbell October, 18th, 1998