OHA Europe alum Baltram having memorable season

Feb 24, 2016

The 2015-16 season has a been a memorable one for Florian Baltram.

The Austrian forward made his Erste Bank Eishockey Liga debut and then scored his first professional goal against Linz. In December, he was named captain of the Austrian U20 National Team, helped them to a second place finish in front of his home crowd in Vienna, and was awarded Best Player of Austria and Best Overall Forward in the IIHF U20 tournament.

And where did Baltram spend his formative hockey years? With Okanagan Hockey Europe. Before joining the academy in St.Polten, Baltram spent five seasons with the EC Vienna Tigers (part of Okanagan Hockey Europe’s development ladder).

“My favourite moment with the Young Tigers?” Baltram pondered when asked last week. “I would say winning the U13 Austrian Championship in Linz.”

Baltram_SeattleThunderbirds_crop.jpgAfter graduating from the Vienna Tigers, Baltram joined Okanagan Hockey Academy Europe in St.Polten. While there, he played three seasons in the Erste Bank Junior League and Erste Bank Young Stars League. Once the 2013-14 season was completed, the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League drafted Baltram in the 2nd round of the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. 

The WHL is one of the three leagues that make up the major junior Canadian Hockey League. No other league in the world has developed more NHL players than the Canadian Hockey League.

“The WHL is probably one of the fastest junior leagues in the world.” Baltram shared, reflecting on the league’s impact on his development. “It helped me a lot to make my decisions on the ice quicker and how to compete against older players.”

Baltram finished 2014-15 season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes after Seattle traded him to make way for another import player being returned from a professional tryout.

This season, Baltram signed with EC Salzburg and joined their farm team, EC Salzburg II. The team has recorded a lot of kilometres this season making trips to Sweden, Switzerland, and playing exhibition games in North America against teams from the United States Hockey League, USPHL Premier, Eastern Hockey League, and British Columbia Hockey League.

“The season so far was good for me.” Baltram said. “We have a great coaching coaching staff and really good challenging trips overseas. The BCHL is pretty fast and a hard league. The arenas are all very nice, especially the Penticton Vees. It was really fun playing there and the fans were loud.” 

Penticton, where the Okanagan Hockey Group was founded, currently has two of the highest ranked prospects in this years NHL Draft; Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro. Despite the foreign trips, the highlight of the season was getting to represent Austria, in Vienna, at the IIHF U20 Division 1 tournament.

“I will always remember the great time we had there and playing in front of your family and friends was even an extra push for everybody.” Baltram said. “I was so happy that many of my old friends or even some guys of my old school made it to watch me playing for the first time, it was really exciting.”

Baltram-WJC-2015-crop.jpgThe Austrian team also featured another former Okanagan Hockey Academy Europe player and current Okanagan European Eagle, Sam Antonitsch. The tournament was a tight race for gold that ended with Latvia finishing on top and earning promotion to the World Junior Championship.

When asked what one of his best moments of the tournament was, Baltram responded, “Without a doubt, it was beating our neighbours Germany, 3:1.”

Baltram scored the winning goal and had two assists in that game.

With the season winding down in Salzburg, Baltram has also laid out his personal goal for next year: “My goal for next season is to be on the EBEL team roster for the start of the season and the end of the season.”

With everything he has experienced and learned in his young career, he is certainly on the right path to reaching his goal.

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In 2010 I was fortunate enough to play at the Okanagan Hockey Academy on the Midget Prep team. With coaches like Robert Dirk and Greg Holst it was an unbelievable year. I have to this day still never been on such a close-knit team. It was my first year of midget hockey and that meant a lot more travel. Playing in the CSSHL I got the opportunity to play in some pretty awesome spots. The league helped me learn to stay on top of school, which has helped me not only in college but also in junior. I was able to make an easy jump to junior and college academically with the help of Dave Nackoney, a guidance counselor at Penticton Secondary School who works with all the student athletes. To this day if I need anything he is always more than willing to help. It is the great staff that left such an impression on me, and made it possible for me to be where I am today.