CEDAR RAPIDS — It was the one of the prime moments he’s had as a hockey player.
Jiri Patera participated in development camp this summer, then regular training camp this fall with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. He was a sixth-round draft pick of the club in 2017.
But that’s not the best part of the whole deal.
“I was on the ice two practices with Marc-Andre Fleury,” the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goaltender said, with noticeable excitement. “I think he’s one of the best goalies in the NHL. He has a lot of experience, and he’s a really good guy. He was nice to me.”
Patera answers no when you ask him if he got any advice from Fleury, who came to Vegas in the NHL expansion draft after a successful 13-year career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But he quickly tells you an interaction he had with him.
“I remember we had a scrimmage game, and I made one big save,” Patera said. “At the end of the game, (Fleury) told me ‘Oh, man, what a save.’ I was like ‘Oh, man, he’s got three Stanley Cup rings, and he just complimented me!’”
Patera is hoping to make many big saves this season for the RoughRiders, who have their home opener Saturday night against Omaha at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The 18-year-old from the Czech Republic is C.R.’s main guy in net and promises to get all of the minutes he can handle.
The Riders split two games on the road last week to open their season: losing at Green Bay and winning at Madison.
“When I got drafted by Vegas, they told me they wanted me to play in the USHL, so they could see my game,” Patera said. “See me more often than if I was in Czech.”
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Considered to have a hybrid butterfly style, Patera was one of two goalies selected by Vegas in its first amateur draft. The other is Maxim Zhukov, a Russian who went in the fourth round. Zhukov is in his second season with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers and edged Patera last weekend in the season opener, 2-1.
“He played good,” Patera said.
It was pointed out to him that he did as well.
“Yeah, but he won,” Patera said.
That’s a good attitude to have.
Patera played professional hockey in the Czech Republic last season, so he is not eligible to play college hockey in the States. He said he could wind up playing two seasons in the USHL, depending on how things go, before he hopefully signs a contract with Vegas.
He already has one big thing going for him in his ability to speak English very well.
“My mom always told me I need to learn English because it’s the most used language in the world,” he said. “So I just tried to learn in school, tried to pay more attention in English class. And I also play video games in English, so that helps.”
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