It was announced on Thursday that the San Jose Sharks have signed 2015 fifth-round pick Rudolfs Balcers to an entry-level deal with the club, coming off of his first season of major-junior hockey for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.
Assistant general manager Joe Will said, per the official release:
“Rudolfs is a natural goal-scorer who has proven that he can find the back of the net when his team needs it most. His first season in North America showed he could keep up with a more physical game, while still being one of the more dynamic snipers in the league. We’re excited to see him continue his development with our organization.”
A native of Liepaja, Latvia, Balcers took an unusual path to reach the pros.
Rather than skating for a KHL club or their junior affiliate, or heading to Sweden or even Finland, the 20-year-old left winger opted to play in Norway, where he spent his junior career playing in the Norwegian professional league and for their respective junior affiliates. First, he spent time with Lørenskog Ishockeyklubb, moving to the Stavanger Oilers for his final two seasons before heading for North America.
In that time, he also managed to win two gold medals for Latvia, skating for the U18 program en route to a D1A World Junior Gold in 2014 and for the U20 program en route to a D1A gold in 2016 .
He just wrapped up a year with the Blazers, where his impressive 40 goals and 77 points through 66 regular season games inspired confidence from the Sharks that he was ready to go pro.