|Tomas Soustal - Shoot the Breeze Photography|
It is the right move. I will explain later.
When Soustal was first selected in the CHL import draft in 2014, the team was in desperate need of an impact player from across the pond. For years the team struggled getting players that could play in their top six. Sure, there was Lauris Darzins. Tomas Slovak, Stepan Novotny, Mikael Backlund and Alex Edler. All five were solid selections. Edler wasn't a dominating force in his one season here, but the dude played in the NHL, so that has to be considered an astute pick. The team also took home run swings at Teemu Pulkkinen (2009) and Zemgus Girgensons (2011), but unfortunately those two never wore Kelowna Rockets colours.
The list of marginally skilled imports is a lengthy one. Do you remember Filip Vasko (2011), Henrik Nyberg (2012), Kris Schmidli (2013), Gal Koren (2010) and Andreas Stene (2010)? How about Lukas Matejka (2008) Kaspars Saulietis (2006), Michal Blanar (2003) and Joni Lindlof (2002)? With that track record, to pick Soustal in 2014 and a season later to snag eventual 2016 MVP Calvin Thurkauf must have felt like winning the lottery.
Of all the players I mentioned, Soustal was the most outgoing of the bunch. Up until Soustal's arrival, most European players subscribed to the theory of 'speak only when spoken too'. Soustal seemed to be the new wave of European players that had a certain swagger and a love for life. He was often seen smiling, wearing colorful suits and beating to his own drum with roommate Micheal Herringer. 'Sous' would always call me by my first name and was a pleasure to be around. While he spoke English with a distinct Czech accent, Soustal acted somewhat North American.
Soustal leaves the organization with 113 career points, the most of any European born player even to dress for the Kelowna Rockets organization. That is pretty amazing. Another Tomas...Tomas Slovak had 97 career points when he was selected in the 2001 CHL Import Draft.
Soustal was a member of the 2015 WHL championship team and his game winning overtime goal in the 2016 opening round playoff series against Kamloops will always be remembered.
How about his lacrosse style goal against the Edmonton Oil Kings in November, 2015? It was in that game, at Prospera Place, that he would score the WHL goal of the year by picking the puck up behind the Oil Kings net with his stick, and in one fluid motion in mid-air, tucked the puck past the startled goaltender.
Take a look: https://vine.co/v/iz6iKiuhAXi
Soustal, at 6'3 and almost 200 pounds, was always considered a power forward, but for whatever reason, he never quite played that way. Soft hands for a big man, 'Sous' often played under the radar when he should have been one of the best players on the ice. Sometimes he was. Often times he wasn't.
Can he be dominant? I think so, but it will have to happen this season if he wants to continue playing hockey at the pro level here in North America. Soustal had 13 multiple point games last season, yet seemed content to be a backseat driver. He has to drive the offense, starting right now.
In three games with the Rockets this season, he attempted to make it difficult for management to trade him. He wasn't bad, but not good enough when you consider he is a 'two spotter'. (20 year-old/ Import player). At the end of the day, his age and the fact that two younger imports were selected in June made the choice easy. When fellow 20 year-old Carsen Twarynski returned to the team Sunday, it was lights out on his time in K-Town.
If Soustal can find consistency in his game, play with more determination, dominate now that he is one of the oldest players on the ice, the Unicov, Czech Republic resident can earn that pro deal.
Unfortunately, 'Sous' will have to do it as a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Thanks for the memories 'Sous'. I look forward to talking to you in November when the Oil Kings come to town.
I can almost guarantee 'Sous will let loose' on his former team.