ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling players who completed their rookie seasons with the organization in 2018-19. This installment takes a look at goaltender Pavel Francouz.
Throughout the 2018-19 season, Pavel Francouz spent most of his time providing the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles with all-star caliber goaltending while also getting his first taste of the NHL.
After spending the previous three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League with Chelyabinsk Traktor, the netminder finished his first professional season in North America with a 27-17-3 record, 2.68 goals-against average and .918 save percentage with the Eagles. His save percentage was tied for fifth in the league, and he also posted three shutouts. The goaltender also played in the second-most games of any goaltender in the AHL (49), helping the Eagles reach the Calder Cup Playoffs in their first season in the AHL. He went on to appear in all four postseason contests, posting a 1-3 record, 3.31 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.
"I just want to show them that I am able to play here," Francouz said of what he wanted to prove going into his first pro campaign in North America. "Everyone here is so good, especially goalies, so I am trying to look on them and what they are doing, get something from them too."
During his impressive campaign with the Eagles, he truly showed that he is more than able to play in North America. The Plzen, Czech Republic, native helped propel the squad to a season-long win streak of nine contests in a row from Feb. 26 to March 17. In the nearly three-week span, Francouz earned eight consecutive wins, including posting his three shutouts. With this consistent play in goal, the netminder, along with Eagles leading scorer Andrew Agozzino, was named to the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic, but he was unable to suit up for the mid-season showcase due to injury.
The 6-foot, 179-pound goaltender also received playing time in two games for the Avalanche. His NHL debut came on Dec. 22 against the Arizona Coyotes where he came in relief and made 19-of-20 saves in 29:15 of ice time.
"We were losing 4-1, so it was nothing to lose for me at the time," Francouz said of the experience. "I was just trying to stop every puck, every shot and try to enjoy myself."
His debut performance helped the Avs fight back from a three-goal deficit, but they eventually lost 6-4.
"I think as an organization, we saw what he could do in training camp, we saw what he did last year," head coach Jared Bednar said of Francouz during the 2018-19 campaign. "Then we get in a position when we have two great goaltenders, then we bring him in, and he gets an opportunity and you want to see what he can do in this league. We like what he's done in the American League, and now he has a little glimpse of what he is capable of. I think it was a great showing for him."
Video: COL@ARI: Francouz stops Panik's bid on breakaway
Only 11 days later on Jan. 2, Francouz was back in the lineup for the Avalanche and came into the game for the second time in relief, this time against the San Jose Sharks. He stopped 12-of-13 shots in 31:56. The netminder finished with a 1.97 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in his two NHL appearances for the club.
After strong performances in the AHL and a good showing in the NHL, Francouz inked another one-year deal with the Avalanche for the 2019-20 season and is expected to suit up as the club's backup goaltender behind Philipp Grubauer.
"We are excited to have Pavel back with the Avalanche organization for another year," said Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. "He had a very strong first season in North America last year, being named an All-Star and leading the Eagles to the Calder Cup Playoffs. He brings extensive international experience and got a taste of the NHL last year and performed well."
After signing his contract, the keeper played for his home country, Czech Republic, at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. He appeared in three games, posting a 0.77 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
With the 2019-20 season just around the corner, Francouz will come into the campaign with the intent to build off of his performance last season and provide the Avalanche with a strong goaltender pairing alongside Grubauer.