Hungarian coach hoping week with Rebels will help with developing younger players in his home country
Marton Vas is on a fact-finding mission thousands of kilometres from his home in Hungary.
The 37-year-old is winding down his week as a guest coach with the Red Deer Rebels and the experience has been a legitimate eye-opener, he said Thursday.
“Just the speed and everything, the facility and all-around things. It’s amazing and it’s really good to see how a junior team can run like this,” he said.
Vas is in Red Deer courtesy of the Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation. He is a national developmental coach in his home country for players in the under-13 to under-18 age classes.
Hockey is a sport that’s on the rise in Hungary, Vas noted, not yet at the top international level but gaining in popularity.
“It’s been a good process lately, we’re getting better and better,” he said. “We’re growing and we’re developing more and better players.”
The Hungarian national men’s team has competed in Pool A of the World Championship twice — in 2009 and 2016.
“Since we got promoted to Pool A for the first time hockey has started to grow faster than before (in Hungary),” said Vas.
The country has yet to participate in the World Junior Championship.
“It’s harder (to qualify) before there are just 12 teams in the world juniors and 16 in the men’s,” he said.
“It’s a tough crowd up there, but we’re working on it,” he stated, adding that the goal of the Hungarian Federation is to eventually ice a team at the world junior event.
“That’s our plan. We’re trying to develop all our players to go to higher levels and then we’ll see how far we can go.”
Vas is no stranger to North America, having played at the junior B hockey level in the United States and then junior A in Ontario — with the Hawkesbury Hawks — in the late ‘90s. He the returned to Hungary and went on to play pro hockey in his home country as well as Italy, France, Austria, Sweden and Germany.
Vas said the Hungarian Hockey Federation hopes to learn more about developing players via the Canadian major junior system, thus his visit to Red Deer.
“This is like a different level, like pro hockey with kids,” he said. “It’s good to see how they are treating these kids on a pro level.
“Our philosophy is we’re trying to mature our kids a bit faster than they would in normal life. We educate them, we teach them and we have fun, but on the other side we try to make them more mature by the age of 18.
“So we’re trying to get them pushed the way pro level players are pushed, but not that hard, yet, but still so they can feel that they’re treated like a pro player.”
Vas will take in the Rebels game Friday versus the visiting Spokane Chiefs, then drive to Calgary and fly home Saturday.
Rebels vs. Spokane Chiefs, Friday, 7 p.m., Centrium
The Chiefs are coming off a 7-4 loss Wednesday at Medicine Hat. Spokane opened its four-game trip into the Central Division with 6-0 and 6-4 wins at Edmonton and Calgary Sunday and Tuesday . . . The Chiefs own an 8-6-0-1 record and sit third in the U.S. Division and fourth in the Western Conference . . . C Hudson Elynuik is Spokane’s scoring leader — and tied for 14th in the league — with eight goals and 20 points. LW Riley Woods has contributed 17 points (8g,9a), C Jared Anderson-Dolan (4-10) and D Ty Smith (2-12) have each recorded 14 points and D Nolan Reid is also in double figures with 10, including six goals . . . Starter Dawson Weatherill, a Red Deer native and former Rebels prospect, is 20th among all WHL netminders with a 3.31 goals-against average and 28th in save percentage at .887. He has a 7-4-0 win-loss record and has posted one shutout . . . Anderson-Dolan was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in this year’s NHL entry draft, while RW Zach Fischer was taken by Calgary in the fifth round. Elynuik was picked by Carolina in the third round in 2016 . . . Spokane acquired Fischer from Medicine Hat last week in return for C Hayden Ostir, prospect Eric Van Impe and a second-round pick in the 2019 WHL bantam draft, and the Lloydminster native has contributed two goals and two assists in four games with his new team.
Injuries: Spokane — None to report. Red Deer — LW Dawson Martin (upper body, day-to-day), D Alexander Alexeyev (upper body, day-to-day), G Riley Lamb (upper body, week-to-week).
Special teams: Spokane — Power play 19.2 per cent, 13th overall; penalty kill 74.6 per cent, 18th. Red Deer — Power play 24 per cent, 11th overall; penalty kill 78 per cent, eighth.