Former Raider –Mike Kostka earns a spot with Toronto Maple Leaf, News, Minor Atom, 2012-2013 (Ajax Pickering AAA Hockey Inc.)

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Former Raider –Mike Kostka earns a spot with Toronto Maple Leaf
Submitted By Paul Burnett on Saturday, January 19, 2013
This is a good motivational story on continuing to work hard.  Kostka was cut by Steve Horner in Minor Bantam, but continued to work and made Steve’s Bantam team. Then he went undrafted in the OHL Draft which saw 7 players drafted from that Raider team into the OHL. He also was never drafted into the NHL.

Shows that you can get cut or not get drafted don’t mean the end of a hockey career.
 As a side note, that Raider team ended up losing to the Corey Perry led Peterborough team which won the All-Ontario that year.
Norm Rogers and Steve Horner – current coaches with the Raiders

Past per Toronto Star:

Not until Mike Kostka hears Terre de nos aieux during Saturday night’s national anthem at the Bell Centre will he truly believe he’s made the NHL.

The 27-year-old’s long trail, with near-misses and dead ends, brings him to a fairytale ending, scheduled to start for his hometown Leafs in the season opener in Montreal.

The undrafted defenceman has been tantalizingly close before, with the Florida Panthers at the end of their 2011 training camp.

“I was right there,” Kostka recalled Friday as he headed to the airport. “I was walking out of the trainers’ room with all my new (Panthers) gear. We’d already had the team meeting where they’d said this was (the starting roster). Then I ended up the last cut the next day. So I’ll believe this when I’m wearing the jersey and I’m on the ice.”

Kostka’s spot on the Leafs — for now — came Friday morning when it was decided to send junior Morgan Rielly back to the Moose Jaw Warriors. With Jake Gardiner still hurt, the Leafs needed another puck-moving defenceman. Kostka and Gardiner were the attacking unit on the Marlies this season and a potent power-play duo. After Gardiner’s head was scrambled by a hit on Dec. 8, Kostka didn’t miss a beat. His first-pass smarts and hockey IQ were evident and he enjoyed a point a game pace among the AHL’s top-scoring defencemen.

That edge helped him in Leafs camp.

“It has been a good couple of years to build my confidence. There was a good one in Rochester a couple of years ago to get a ton of ice time and power play. Then last year was a great camp in Florida and then another opportunity in Norfolk (winning the Calder Cup). There have been a lot of stepping stones to this point.”

It was the Calder playoffs where Kostka came to the Marlies’ attention. He played a big role as the Admirals smothered teams en route to the final and against the Marlies, Kostka’s controversial long-range 1-0 overtime goal on netminder Ben Scrivens broke Toronto’s heart. On Friday, he and Scrivens shared the flight to Montreal and Scrivens might end up starting with him against the Habs.

“I think that just goes to show you how small the hockey world is,” Kostka said. “Last year, we weren’t exactly on friendly terms. Now we’ve gone from enemies to friends.”

Kostka, born in Etobicoke and raised in Ajax, knew the Leafs were hurting for depth on the blueline when he started looking for a new team last summer.

“Obviously making decisions at this point in my career was going to be where I’d get the best (NHL) opportunity,” he said. “I felt I would get an honest look here.”

General manager Davis Nonis could not backtrack on a promise to give the three Marlies defenceman at Leafs camp, Kostka, Mark Fraser and Korbinian Holzer, a shot if they did well on the farm.

“His trajectory has been upward since he started playing pro hockey,” Nonis said. “He is not a guy who has levelled out and looked like he is going to be an American League player (for life). He does not look nervous, he is incredibly smart. Does that translate to an NHL defenceman? We are probably going to find out. He does not look out of place right now.

“He took the bull by the horns with the Marlies. He played a lot of minutes, he was not getting beat. You have to be good in your own end, and I think that part of his game has really improved. He has earned the respect of the coaches and that is one thing you have to do if you want to get the chance.”

Kostka’s family and friends are sharing his excitement about Saturday and his Hockey Night In Canada debut.

“My phone started to blow up Thursday night,” Kostka said. “But I told everyone to calm down until something was a little more official.

“I’m not a Habs fan. I’ve been a Leafs fan my whole life, so this is gravy.”

Kostka knows the work has just begun. Gardiner is skating and Holzer and Fraser will get their chances, too.

“I’ve gone through a lot the past four years as well as four years at university at Massachusetts-Amherst. I’m ready to start my next chapter.”

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