Mads Sogaard took a leap of faith, leaving his family in Denmark to pursue his hockey dream, and it’s certainly paid off.
The Ottawa Senators drafted the 6’7 Danish goaltender in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft. Sogaard grew up in Aalborg, Denmark playing hockey with his friends and younger brother. When it came to finding out if he could play at the pro level, Mads packed up and moved to the United States when he was 16 years old.
Mads had always had the support of his parents when it came to his hockey career, and no one was more excited than his brother when the Sens drafted him. After going undefeated in his first few games with Belleville, Sogaard continues to develop in the AHL, waiting patiently to make his debut in the NHL.
We caught up with the Sens prospect to talk about growing up in Denmark, his hockey journey and how his brother became a die-hard Sens fan.
You were born in Denmark. What was it like growing up there?
It was awesome. I grew up in Aalborg, which is a very nice city in Denmark. I grew up playing hockey and had a lot of fun with the game and my friends. It was an awesome place to grow up.
How did you get into hockey? Did you play any other sports growing up?
My dad was a huge hockey fan. He would go to the pro team games all the time, and I think in that sense, I became a hockey fan ever since I stepped on the ice. I never thought about anything else. I think I maybe went to one soccer practice, and that’s about it. Other than that, it’s been hockey my entire life.
Why did you want to become a goalie?
That’s a pretty good question. Well, I found out that the goalies get to play the whole game at an early age, and I like to be on the ice for as much time as possible. So that was a big reason for it. I also just like the gear, so at an early age, I just kind of got really excited about goaltending and just stuck with it. I still feel the same way today.
You moved to North America in 2017. Was that difficult for you? How much of an adjustment was it, both in lifestyle and in how you play?
It’s an adjustment; I tried to prepare myself the best I could. The year before I moved away from my hometown, I went to play for Esbjerg for a year to see how it is to be away from your family. Instead of being on the other side of the world, you’re a three-hour drive away from your parents. It was a good early test for me. It turned out that I liked it a lot and was comfortable with being away from my family.
After that, I decided to go to the States to play hockey. It was still a significant change on and off the ice and something I had to get used to, but I thought I got more comfortable as the season progressed. I started playing better hockey, so at the end, I was happy with that year, and I thought it was a perfect learning lesson for me.
Take us back to draft day. You get taken in the second round by the Ottawa Senators. What was that like for you? What do you remember from that day?
It’s really hard to describe. I went to the draft with my family, and my parents got divorced when I was pretty young, but they’ve done an amazing job of maintaining really good friends, and there’s never been a problem there at all. It’s been unbelievable how my parents have been able to parent me and make sure that I have no worries but just playing hockey; it’s awesome. So, to have both of my parents there in Canada at the same time was a really cool moment.
It was super exciting getting drafted by the Senators in the second round. My older brother’s been a Sens fan for many years now. I think he was probably the most excited one. The look on his face, I’ll never forget. Honestly, just hearing your name get called, you see all the hard work and hours you put in flash before your eyes, and just it’s an indescribable moment. It’s so hard to put into words, but I’m thankful that I got the opportunity and that I’m in the Senators organization now.
How did your brother become a big Sens fan?
It’s a really funny story. There’s no big meaning to it or anything, honestly. We were playing shootout mode in an NHL game, and he was just kind of getting into hockey and didn’t have a favourite team. He said, ‘I’m going to hit the randomizer, and the next one I land on will be my team,’ and it was Ottawa. I thought it was kind of a joke, but he’s been a diehard Sens fan ever since. His younger brother getting picked by that team; It’s obviously something that’s not just special for me but him as well. Seeing the excitement in his eyes is something I’ll never forget.
When you debuted playing pro hockey with Belleville last year, you went 7-0. How did it feel to have that kind of success at the pro level right away?
It was awesome. It was a bit of a weird situation last year; I don’t think I played games until November. Honestly, I was just practicing and didn’t really know what was going on. I got to play some hockey in Esbjerg and put together a solid season. After that, I signed my NHL contract and was told to get on a plane and go to Belleville to finish the season with them. I didn’t expect much when I got here. It’s just about learning as much as possible. It’s a pretty big step from the Danish Hockey League, so I was just coming with a learning mindset.
Then with the taxi squad and everything going on, it gave me an opportunity to play. I put together some games that put the team in a position to have a chance to win. I gained some confidence from my play and the guys and the coaches. Next thing you know, you haven’t lost any games in your first little taste of action in the AHL, so that was a really cool moment. It was a great way to finish the season, and it really motivated me to work even harder and get ready for this season.
How much has Troy Mann and the coaching staff in Belleville helped you with your development?
Oh, it’s fantastic. We have an unbelievable staff in Belleville, and it’s a great environment. I just turned 21, and they’ve given me many opportunities to play. As a goalie, it’s a vulnerable spot. If you’re not on it, everyone will notice, so it takes a lot to put a 20-year-old guy in the net. I’m really thankful for the confidence and trust Troy has in me.
Justin Peters has helped me out on the technical part of the game and become a better pro. Learning what it’s like to be a professional hockey player, finding ways to stay consistent, and doing what I can to still enjoy the ups and downs of a season because it will not be perfect every night.
What’s your gameday routine like? Do you have any superstitions?
I don’t like to call it a superstition; it’s more of a routine just going through the stuff that I usually do that prepares me to play a game. I listen to the same playlist every game, and after our team meeting, I always go to the bench to tape my stick and visualize what I have to do to be successful that night. I’ll get all my thinking done at that time, so I don’t have to overthink for the rest of the night. I just play and go with my instincts. That’s been my routine for a couple of years now; it’s something that makes me feel comfortable and ready to go.
You’re roommates with Egor Sokolov. What’s that like? Do you have any funny stories?
We have a great time, all the time. We’re always on each other and are pretty easy-going guys that can take some heat, so we’re constantly chirping and what-not. The days he scores fewer goals on me in practice is better than when he scores more than I save; It’s always a battle, but it’s great. He’s such a good guy and a hard worker. It’s good to learn from a guy like him because he’s a super professional guy. He takes care of his body, goes to bed early and all that stuff; it’s just amazing.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing hockey or have an off day?
For me, the perfect day looks like a trip to the golf course with a couple of my buddies and hopefully a couple of birdies.
How much are you looking forward to making your first start with the Ottawa Senators one day?
It’s obviously in the back of my head, and it’s something that I’m excited about whenever that time comes. All I can do is just focus on the everyday in Belleville and make sure that I’m ready to go here because ultimately, that’s what needs to happen. I have to be the best goalie here to get the chance to play for the Ottawa Senators one day. I do believe that it’s going to happen.
For me, the biggest battle is staying patient because you always want to move further ahead and get as far as you can. I’m staying patient and working my butt off because I believe in the coaches and the game plan we have so that the rest will take care of itself. So for me, it’s just about working hard and mentally, just staying patient.