Andrej Sustr took a look.
And what he saw in himself was a developing defenseman who could use more time playing college hockey instead of turning professional.
“I looked in the mirror and looked at myself as a player,” he said, “and I just felt that I wasn't ready to turn pro yet.”
UNO's 6-foot-8, 218-pound defenseman had four goals and 13 assists in 33 games last season as a sophomore and had attracted the interest of up to 20 NHL teams as an unrestricted free agent.
Actually, Sustr said that even though speculation about his destination picked up after the season ended in March, he'd decided before his sophomore season was over to return to UNO for his junior season.
“I made a huge step from my freshman to sophomore year,” Sustr said. “I improved a lot, my skating and my strength, and I want to keep working on that. There's a bunch of other stuff on the ice I need to work on. There are a lot of areas where I have to improve to be a more complete player.”
The 21-year-old Sustr is continuing his offseason training for the next month back home in the Czech Republic after finishing finals early. He'll return to Omaha in June.
Sustr's early athletic idols included the gold medal-winning Czech Olympic hockey team. he also played tennis and was a swimmer. But sports were on the backburner for him behind school.
“Seeing those guys with gold medals on their necks, that was a dream for me,” Sustr said. “But I knew I'd have to take care of my schoolwork first, and hockey was on the side.
“Once I got to about the age of 14, I started thinking hockey was something I'd like to possibly have a career in.”
that philosophy helped guide Sustr's decision to stay in school and continue his studies in business administration and management
rather than turn pro and spend time in the minors. teams indicated that he'd likely spend at least a year, and maybe two, in the American Hockey League before getting a shot at the NHL.
“Teams have said that they agree that this was the right choice for me,” Sustr said. “As far as development goes, I'm better off staying in college. There's no rush for me to get out of here — I'm real happy with where I'm at.”
|MAVERICKS TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Click the image above to join the conversation on the Mavericks Today Facebook page.|
Sustr conceivably could dance the professional dance again as next season draws to a close.
“If you want to leave early, I think you should be leaving for the NHL,” he said. “Otherwise I think you should be making sure you're getting your degree and getting the time to develop.
“I would have no problem to be here for two more years as part of this program.”
Sustr, with two seasons of eligibility left, was in a different position than former captain Terry Broadhurst, who passed up his senior year to join the Chicago Blackhawks organization in late March.
Broadhurst was second on the team in goals (16), assists (20) and points (36).
“Obviously it's a big loss for us,” Sustr said. “He's a great player, and he'll handle himself well. We're going to miss him, but we wish him nothing but the best of luck and we hope he makes us proud.”
Sustr said he and the Mavs will also miss former associate coach Mike Hastings, who left last month to become head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato. But Sustr is confident that coach Dean Blais will hire a solid replacement. Hastings oversaw UNO's defensemen.
“I had a good relationship with him and we'll miss him, but I'm not worried about our group,” Sustr said. “I'm sure Coach Blais will be able to find someone every bit as good as Coach Hastings.”
While back in his hometown of Plzen — he goes home for a month each year — Sustr plans to skate two to three times per week while also following a conditioning program designed for him by UNO's staff.
He and the Mavs are looking to wash away the memories of a late-season swoon. They finished with a six-game losing streak, squandered home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs and then were swept at St. Cloud State in the best-of-three series.
“It was disappointing for us to go out in the first round, especially when we'd been so close to having home ice,” Sustr said. “We just have to remember the feeling after the loss in St. Cloud, because it wasn't a good one. Hopefully we'll learn from that.”
UNO played the second half of the season without senior center Alex Hudson, dismissed for a violation of team rules, and lost two senior defensemen in Kyle Ensign and Matt Smith. And the loss of Broadhurst changes the dynamic of the team a bit more than expected.
“We weren't clicking towards the end of the season,” Sustr said. “We can't make the excuse that we're a young team, but the fact that we had just a few seniors and just a few juniors is going to be good for us going into this year. We've got a lot of upperclassmen in our group now, and as far as leadership goes, it should definitely be better.”
Contact the writer: