Sogaard over the moon
by Lucas Aykroyd|16 AUG 2019
Sogaard last competed internationally for Denmark at the 2019 World Juniors. 
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first man on the moon. And when Mads Sogaard got drafted 37th overall by the Ottawa Senators in Vancouver in June, it was one small step in his pro career, but also a giant leap for Danish hockey.
Hey, when you’re talking about an 18-year-old goalie who already stands 200 cm and 89 kg, giant leaps are pretty much guaranteed.
Sogaard, who had a 2.64 GAA and 92.1 save percentage with the Medicine Hat Tigers as a WHL rookie in 2018-19, was over the moon about becoming the highest-drafted Danish netminder in NHL history.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Sogaard said. “It’s great to come into a great organization and just stand up there and give my family a hug.”
On draft day, the Senators traded the 44th and 83rd overall picks to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for the second-round pick they used on this Aalborg native.
Sogaard’s lone Danish predecessor, Frederik Andersen, was drafted twice. Andersen, 29, went 187th overall to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010 and 87th overall to the Anaheim Ducks in 2012. He’s been the starting goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the last three seasons.
Asked what it would feel like to potentially face Andersen in the rivalry between the Senators and Leafs, Sogaard said: “Oh, that’d be awesome. I haven’t really even thought of that yet, but now you’re saying it, it could be pretty awesome.”
What’s especially awesome about Sogaard’s story is not just how big he is, or what a small hockey nation he’s emerged from, but also how it reveals the family feeling in the Danish Ice Hockey Union. For instance, Andersen’s father Ernst, a longtime Herning netminder who played in three B Pool Worlds in the 1990’s, is Sogaard’s goalie coach with the national team.
Last year, Lars Eller made history with the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Washington Capitals, and Sogaard stayed up till 5 am in Denmark to witness the magical moment. Yet the veteran forward isn’t some remote, mysterious figure to this teen, who played for the NAHL’s Austin Bruins in 2017-18.
Regarding the 2019 NHL Draft, Sogaard said: “Lars Eller gave me some good advice, just to take it all in and enjoy the whole experience here. I think I did. I just sat down and had fun with it.”
Possibly the only person who had more fun was Sogaard’s brother Jonas, who’s a big Senators fan. At Rogers Arena, Jonas exploded like a rocket taking off when the 37th pick was announced.
“He’s been a Sens fan for a while,” Sogaard said with a smile. “He screamed, ‘Yes!’ when I got picked. It was awesome. It was a great moment, and I can’t wait to get started here.”
The Senators are no strangers to Danish talent. Mikkel Boedker, the highest-drafted Danish forward in NHL history (8th overall to the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008), scored 35 points in 71 games for them last season after being acquired from Colorado in June 2018. Peter Regin, the first Dane to suit up for Ottawa, struggled with injuries during his first five NHL seasons with the Senators before settling into the KHL as Jokerit’s captain.
Even before getting drafted, Sogaard was connected to this organization, as he’s previously worked with goalie coach Kory Cooper of the AHL’s Belleville Senators. He also works out in the off-season with Chris Munford of the San Diego-based Ego Performance Training, with special emphasis on his hips and core. The big kid is laying a solid foundation to build his own legacy in the Canadian capital.
“For me, it’s so important that I keep working on my athleticism to keep smooth and be able to move well,” Sogaard said. “That’s kind of where I think I separate myself from other goalies: I’m a big guy but I still move well. That’s hard for guys when they’re that big. I really try to stay smooth and just work as hard as I can and make sure I feel good.”
Conversely, he had a baptism of fire at the 2019 World Juniors in Vancouver, posting a 6.16 GAA and 80.2 save percentage as the Danes lost six straight games and were relegated. It ended Denmark’s five-year run in the top U20 division. Yet Sogaard remains confident that Denmark will bounce back by emerging victorious at the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Minsk, Belarus this December.
Sogaard also draws positive energy from his memories of being a fan when Denmark hosted the IIHF World Championship for the first time ever in 2018 in Copenhagen and Herning.
“I was in Herning and I watched Denmark beat Finland [3-2 on 9 May],” he recalled. “So that was pretty cool. It was great with the atmosphere there. I think it’s going to be great for Denmark for it to come back in 2025 [co-hosting with Sweden]. As a country, we’re really growing hockey-wise. It’s just going to be really good.”
Meanwhile, fans of both Denmark and the Senators hope Mads Sogaard’s career achieves lift-off in 2019-20.