By Jace Frederick – Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Adam Vay received a confidence lift at the world championships in Russia in May.
Vay and the Hungarian national team fell 5-1 to the United States in the group stage, but the margin of defeat would have been worse if not for Vay’s 32 saves.
After the game, as the two teams went through the handshake line, Vay piled up the compliments.
“A couple guys when we shook hands they said ‘Good job, you did a good job,’ ” said Vay, who made his development camp debut on Monday at Xcel Energy Center. “It was a good boost for me and my ego.”And his professional stock.
While Hungary won just one game at the world championship, Vay stopped 91 of the 100 shots he saw in the tournament — including a 45-save performance against Finland, who went on to win the silver.
That caught the attention of several NHL teams, including the Wild. The only problem for Minnesota, assistant general manager Brent Flahr said, was Vay didn’t even have an agent for the Wild to contact.
But by that point, agents were fighting over the chance to represent Vay. One of Minnesota’s goalie consultants knew the Hungarian coach, so the Wild were finally able to reach Vay, and he was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to potentially see NHL playing time.
“Minnesota was the best opportunity for everything,” Vay said. “So I said the first time ‘OK, yes.’ ”Vay signed with the Wild on May 18.
Vay touched on the disparity of play between Hungary and the rest of the teams at the world championships. Hungary isn’t a hockey hot bed. A few Hungarians have been drafted, but no players from Hungary have ever skated for an NHL team.
Vay could be the first.
“I always loved the NHL, and that was my dream,” he said, “to play in the NHL.”
Vay, who moved to Slovakia for six years when he was 10, said people in Hungary laughed at him when he’d state his mission. Now he has believers, for good reason.
Flahr said the 22-year-old goaltender has “terrific” athleticism, is in great shape and is highly competitive.
Oh, and he’s big, too. The roster lists him at 6 feet 5, 228 pounds. Vay looks like an NHL goaltender.“You can’t teach the athleticism that he has and the size that he has,” Flahr said.
Still, there will likely be an adjustment period for Vay. Flahr said it’ll be important for Vay to see plenty of ice time early on, mentioning the difference in the North American rink size and playing with traffic in front of the net as potential challenges. That might mean playing for Iowa in the American Hockey League would be a better fit initially.
“I think there’s things that our goaltending group is going to help him with and quiet down his play a little bit and be more efficient,” Flahr said. “Our scouts that were (in Russia) felt that he was worth the investment, and a guy that we could work with and hopefully help out and be able to get here one day.”
If Vay does that, it’ll be a historic Hungarian achievement.
“I’ll do my best,” Vay said. “If I’m that good and I play in the NHL, then I’ll just be happy.”