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Kaut overcomes heart issue to pursue NHL dream with Avalanche

Forward prospect determined to make impression in North America

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

Martin Kaut's dream of playing in the NHL could have been derailed by a heart issue.

Kaut, chosen by the Colorado Avalanche with the No. 16 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, admitted to being scared when it was detected and prevented him from doing any physical testing during the NHL Scouting Combine.

Fortunately, it wasn't a major problem. Kaut had surgery in his native Czech Republic and was given full medical clearance. He arrived in Dallas before the draft to let NHL teams know that he was fine.

"Everything checked out," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. "No issues at all, no worries."

Alan Hepple, Colorado's director of amateur scouting, said he recommended selecting Kaut after being assured by Avalanche medical personnel that the issue was solved.

"There were a lot of phone calls with the doctors to make sure everything was OK before we made the pick," Hepple said.

Kaut, 18, had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 38 games last season with Pardubice in the Czech Republic's top pro league. He said he doesn't want to return there or play for Brandon of the Western Hockey League, who selected him with the No. 24 pick of the 2017 Canadian Hockey League import draft.

Video: Martin Kaut on being drafted by the Avalanche

"I played two years against men, so I think it's better for me where I will play next season, against men," Kaut said during the Avalanche's development camp. "The American Hockey League I think is better for me."

Kaut, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract Thursday, could be playing 45 miles north of Denver with the Loveland-based Colorado Eagles, who are stepping up from the ECHL to the AHL this season.

"We're really excited about this player," Sakic said. "He's a powerful skater, he's got a great shot. He's a goal scorer and he knows where to go to the right areas. He plays hard all over the ice and like every young player he'll keep getting stronger and quicker. We're excited about his potential to be a top-six winger who can score goals."

Kaut, (6-foot-2, 176 pounds), said his plan this summer is to get stronger and improve his 1-on-1 play in the defensive zone.

"I like his 200-foot game," Hepple said. "He played with the men, he won battles, he's fearless, he went in the corners and won puck battles. He had a nose for the net. I saw him score some great goals, skill goals you don't see from a lot of kids that age playing against the men. He's got a lot of upside."

Kaut had a breakout performance at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he had seven points (two goals, five assists) in seven games. He had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 games after returning to Pardubice and five points (three goals, two assists) in seven postseason games.

"I don't think he's far away (from the NHL)," Hepple said. "I think it's going to be up to him, see how he adapts to the North American game."

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