February 19, 2014 4:59 pm

Who is Kristers Gudlevskis?

Latvia's goalkeeper Kristers Gudlevskis saves his net during the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinals Canada vs Latvia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014.


It wasn’t a bad day for Kristers Gudlevskis to have the best performance of his professional career.

The 21-year-old got the start for Latvia on Thursday against Canada, as Edgars Masalskis couldn’t play due to fatigue.

So Gudlevskis got the nod from Latvian coach Ted Nolan, who coaches the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

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It was no easy task going up against the most talented team in the tournament – the Canadians. To top it off, the man who drafted Gudlevskis in the 5th round of last year’s NHL Entry Draft was in attendance, cheering for the other team.

Gudlevskis was drafted 124th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013, meaning the man who picked him is none other than the general manager of Tampa Bay, Steve Yzerman. Yzerman also happens to be Canada’s GM. Awkward.

Canada dominated the game for the most part, which was expected. But Gudlevskis was equal to the task, even stopping the world’s best player, Sidney Crosby, on a breakaway in the first period.

Canada eventually won the game 2-1 on goals from Patrick Sharp and Shea Weber. Gudlevskis made 55 saves in the loss.

Gudlevskis, who hails from the small Latvian town of Aizkraukle, has yet to play an NHL game in his career. This season he has spent time with two of Tampa Bay’s minor league affiliates: the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League and the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League. He has posted solid numbers for both teams.

It was a good day for all Canadians involved, but especially for Steve Yzerman.

Yzerman’s Canadian team won and guaranteed their shot at the men’s hockey podium. He was also able to get a first-hand look at the young goaltending prospect for his NHL club.

Goalie is the hardest position to draft because their growth and ability to adapt to the highest level of hockey are so unpredictable. Some of the greatest goalies in the NHL today were drafted very late, unlike most star skaters who are usually drafted in the first round.

Arguably the NHL’s best goalie, Jonathan Quick was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft. Other current NHL star goalies drafted late include:

  • Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres – 1999 5th-round pick.
  • Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues – 2003 9th-round pick.
  • Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators – 2004 9th-round pick.
  • Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers – 2000 8th-round pick.

Patrick Roy, one of the greatest goalies of all time, wasn’t drafted until the 3rd round in 1984.

Yzerman is likely hoping Gudlevskis is the next name on this list of draft steals.

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