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Kaut Showcasing Skill After Health Scare

Avalanche 2018 first-round draft choice had heart surgery before being picked

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Scouting Combine is draft-eligible prospects' last chance to make an impression on the 31 NHL teams prior to the summer draft. Martin Kaut didn't really get a chance to do that.

While the week-long combine in May features several days of interviews with NHL clubs, it ends with the players going through tough fitness tests with thousands of eyes on them from general managers, scouts and training staffs. The prospects have to first get cleared medically to participate, and that's where Kaut found out that he had an issue with his heart.

It was discovered that Kaut had a congenital heart condition, and while it wasn't serious, it would require surgery if he wanted to play in hockey's top league.

"At the combine in Buffalo, I was scared," Kaut said. "In the hospital, they told me that I had to have two months to relax. I was sort of scared."

The discovery is something that is unfortunately not that uncommon at the Scouting Combine.

New University of Denver head coach David Carle went through something similar when he was a prospective NHL player in 2008. It was uncovered that Carle had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, ending his playing career in an instant but opening his life into coaching.

Video: Martin Kaut chats with Avalanche TV

Kaut's diagnosis was a lot more positive. He'll be able to resume his playing career and could play professionally in North America next year.

The 6-foot-2, 176-pound forward's abilities as a two-way player was enough to convince the Colorado Avalanche to pick him 16th overall in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft on June 22.

The right wing fits the mold of what Avs executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic wants for his team: speed, skill and hockey sense.

"He plays a complete, two-way game. We really like the way he competes, he's strong on the puck," Sakic said. "He's got a great shot. He's a pure goal scorer, and we just like the upside and what he can bring to our club."

For Kaut, hearing his name called at the American Airlines Center was a moment that brought a flood of emotions. There had been some tense times for the 19-year-old, who was just weeks out of heart surgery that was performed in his native Czech Republic.

"It's an unbelievable moment for me," Kaut said after being selected. "I'm really excited because I had some problems with my heart two weeks ago, had an operation, and now I'm drafted to Colorado. It's amazing."

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The Avalanche did its research on Kaut before picking him, and the team was sure that the issue with his heart wouldn't hinder his career.

"We had (Colorado head athletic trainer) Matt Sokolowski involved, we had all the doctors involved in that. We've had tests. We've had medical reports from the Czech Republic where they didn't find anything," said Alan Hepple, the Avs' director of amateur scouting. "We were pretty confident. I relied pretty heavily on the doctors and Matt to give me the OK. I wasn't making the pick without them giving me the OK. They did. They said there was no problem. I'm not worried about the medical stuff."

Like most young players, Kaut's goal is to try and get to the NHL as soon as possible. But he also recognizes he may need some seasoning in order to get up to speed and match the physicality that he will face with the Avalanche.

The Brno, Czech Republic, native welcomes the chance to play in the American Hockey League with the Colorado Eagles next season if given the opportunity.

"I do want to play NHL next year, but step by step," Kaut said. "I think I will play American Hockey League. It doesn't matter."

Kaut has progressed from his surgery and has been cleared to skate at the Avalanche's development camp.

Nearly a week after the team made him its second-highest, Czech-born draft pick, Kaut is looking to make his mark with the organization.

"I want to [show] my best here," he said.

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