OGDEN -- After just one season in the U.S. and a successful campaign with the expansion Ogden Mustangs, Lukas Moudry will have a chance to move on to the big time this coming season, playing professionally in Denmark.
Moudry, a speedy winger from the Czech Republic, became a crowd favorite in Ogden for his gritty play and his often-animated reactions and goal celebrations.
"I'm very excited to play in Copenhagen," Moudry said. "It is a big chance for me to play in a pro league. Still it will be hard work, but I like when I have to work hard. It is my style."
The Mustangs will miss Moudry's presence and production, but understand that moving players onward and upward is the organization's No. 1 priority.
"At this level of hockey, player development and progression is the key to everything," said Mustangs assistant coach David Imonti. "Kids play junior hockey in hopes of increasing their chances at landing a college scholarship or professional contract. We're here to help them achieve that."
Imonti, along with his coaching duties for the Mustangs, runs his own player agency, 37 Hockey Services. He started the agency in 2004, while he was still a student at Weber State University, and has represented more than 300 professional hockey players worldwide.
Imonti's connections played a big role in Moudry signing with Copenhagen.
"David helped a lot and I appreciate it," Moudry said. "He is a hockey agent and he is a good guy, and I think that no one helped me more than him except my parents."
When Moudry first came to Utah he barely spoke English and the only thing he knew about the area was that it was home to the 2002 Olympics. His goal was to improve his skills in an intensive junior hockey program so that he could one day return to Europe and play professionally. After a year of personal growth away from his family and growth as a hockey player with the Mustangs, he said he'll miss Ogden, his teammates and his billet family, the Folks; but is excited to move forward.
Moudry is the first Western States Hockey League player to advance directly to AL-Bank Ligaen, the league Copenhagen plays in. Last season, the league had three players ranked on the National Hockey League's Central Scouting watch list in preparation for the 2012 entry draft.
"I annually place about 10 of my pro clients from the ECHL or AHL in that league," Imonti said. "Last season I had four players in Copenhagen and knew this year their budget was much smaller and needed some young, hungry players looking for an opportunity to prove themselves. So I suggested Lukas, and they offered him a contract."
Moudry is the first Ogden Mustang to sign a professional contract, and Imonti said there are a few more players who are close to signing with pro and college teams.
The Mustangs gain more than they lose in having Moudry, and others, move up.
"Lukas signing in Copenhagen is not only huge for him, but huge for the Mustangs as an organization," Imonti said. "This transaction puts the Mustangs on the international hockey map, and hopefully after a few more of our kids graduate to higher levels this summer, some people will begin to take notice. I feel very strongly that Ogden is one of the best kept secrets in Junior A hockey, and I believe that once the hockey world begins to see that we can constantly progress our players to higher leagues, we will be able to lure top recruits to play for the Mustangs, and that will help make us very competitive with the best the WSHL has to offer."
Imonti, along with new Mustangs head coach Jake Laime, are busy recruiting for the coming season. They'll hold two camps this summer, one in Wichita, Kansas at the end of May and one at the Ice Sheet in July.
The Mustangs' 2012-2013 season will start in September with a fresh crop of players. Even though the team will look different and the roster will continue to be a revolving door, Imonti said Mustang fans should be excited and expect better and better hockey players making their way through Ogden on their way to the professional ranks.
"Obviously the more talent we can get into our dressing room," Imonti said, "the better chance we have at bringing home a championship to Ogden in the near future."