DALLAS--After arriving at the NHL Scouting Combine and being told he couldn't participate when medical tests detected a heart condition, Martin Kaut was unsure of what the next step of his hockey career would be.
His future is now a lot more clear.
The Colorado Avalanche used the 16th overall pick on the forward from the Czech Republic on Friday night in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center.
"It's an unbelievable moment for me, I am really excited because I had some problem with my heart two weeks ago," Kaut told ColoradoAvalanche.com shortly after his name was called. "I had an operation and now I was drafted with Colorado and talking with you, it's amazing."
Once he was made aware of his health status, the Brno, Czech Republic, native returned home to undergo the necessary steps to correct it.
"At combine in Buffalo, I was scared because in hospital they said to me you must have two months relax," said Kaut. "I was scared, but I come to Czech and [had an] operation and I was drafted by Colorado, so I don't believe this moment.
"Now, I am ready for NHL, but step by step. I want to play [in the] NHL, but maybe next year I [should] play American Hockey League and we will see after the season."
Video: Avalanche draft F Martin Kaut No. 16
Kaut spent the 2017-18 campaign with HC Dynamo Pardubice in the Czech Republic's top professional league and recorded 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 38 games.
He finished the campaign rated the fourth-best International skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2018 draft, moving up from the 11th spot in the mid-term rankings.
"First half of season [was] bad because I played on fourth line. I had seven minute on the ice, so it was bad," he said. "But, after [the World Junior] Championship in Buffalo I [became a bigger] part of it. I had 20 minutes on the ice and second line, so it was great. After that season, I was on national team so it was a great experience for me."
Video: Martin Kaut on being drafted by the Avalanche
He has represented his country at multiple international events, including the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo last December and January.
Kaut ranked fourth on the team with seven points (two goals, five assists) in seven games en route to a fourth-place finish at the under-20 tournament. His five assists were tied for third on the team and second among the Czech forwards.
"He plays a complete, two-way game. We really like that he competes," said Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic. "He's strong on the puck. He has a great shot. He's a pure goal scorer, and we just like the upside on what he can bring to our club."
Kaut says before he can show what he brings though, there are things he must work on improving.
"I want to play NHL but I say I must be stronger and I want to play next year for sure NHL, but step by step so American Hockey League," he noted.
Video: Martin Kaut Scouting Report
The 18-year-old is the second-highest drafted Czech-born player in franchise history and the first since the Avalanche selected Vaclav Nedorost with the 14th overall pick in 2000.
He is also familiar with an Avalanche legend from the Czech Republic, Milan Hejduk, as both right wing's professional career's began with Pardubice in the Czech league.
"It's amazing because he played in Pardubice, like me, so it's an amazing story. I want to be like him," Kaut said of Hejduk.
With him being only a few weeks out from an operation, it is important that the young Czech doesn't rush his development and makes sure he is prepared for the next stage of his career.
Where Kaut plays next season has yet to be officially determined, but he now knows he is part of the Avalanche family.
Video: Martin Kaut chats with Avalanche TV