Barracuda Left Winger Rudolfs Balcers – Profile

Photo: sjbarracuda.com

By Alexandra Evans

SAN JOSE—Would you believe that Rudolfs Balcers, who is remarkably slick and speedy on the ice, once hated hockey? This answer camer as a shocker.

A first-generation hockey player (on both sides of his family), the 20 year-old Liepaja, Latvia native commenced his career at age 3 ½. It was at this age that Balcers, whose then-teammates were older, dreaded lacing up his skates and stepping on the ice.

“If I didn’t see my mom or dad in the stands, I would cry,” Balcers shared. Thankfully, it was only a few days later that he acclimated to the hockey surroundings and began picking things up.

Balcers went on to play in Norway for the Stavanger Oilers, where he was the youngest player. In 38 career games with the team, he put up 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) and a plus-15 rating, and also helped lead them to a championship win two years in a row.

The 5 foot 11 inch, 175 pound left winger kicked things into overdrive when he joined the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL in 2016-17. In a single season, he appeared in 66 games and put up 77 points (37 goals and 40 assists) and a plus-26 rating.

The speedy and well-coordinated (in regards to hand-eye movement) Balcers was drafted 142nd overall in 2015 by San Jose, the fourth Latvian player in history to be selected by the franchise, one of whom, Karlis Custke, was selected 130th overall the same year. Balcers signed an entry-level deal with the Sharks in July.

Balcers wasn’t an avid supporter of any single hockey team growing up, though he followed the Sharks as, when he was growing up, the first two Latvian players to be drafted by San Jose’s franchise were active on the ice (Sandis Ozolinsh was drafted in 1991, Victor Ignatje in 1992).

“Being here [in San Jose] and representing Latvia is a big deal,” Balcers responded when I asked him what it means to be a member of San Jose’s franchise. He spent a majority of the preseason training with the Sharks players, which seemed to have benefitted him.

“That was a fun time, getting to see what they do. I learned some stuff, got sent down here [to the Barracuda]. My goal was to make the team here, just try to do my best to stay with the Barracuda, and show them that I can play,” Balcers remarked.

Off the ice, Balcers has enjoyed exploring the South Bay and San Francisco, while relishing the idyllic, snow-free California weather.

Barracuda Left Winger Adam Helewka – Profile

Photo credit: NHL.com

By Alexandra Evans

SAN JOSE—Adam Helewka was born and raised in Burnaby, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver. He spent his youth hockey years in both cities (mostly the former), up until grade 10 where he played for a boarding school in Saskatchewan called Notre Dame. When he reached grade 12, Helewka left home for the first time to play for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, with whom he would spend four years.

In his third season with Spokane, Helewka notched 40 goals and 43 assists for a total of 87 points. This has been his greatest accomplishment to date.

During Helewka’s final season in the WHL, he was drafted by San Jose in the 4th round (106th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

One of the most significant things Helewka has learned since joining the professional hockey leagues has been, he says, accountability. He discovered the importance of self care and maintaining good overall health.

Helewka, 22, devoted is summer to getting healthier. He focused on cardiovascular training while making substantial dietary changes, emphasizing real food and the consumption of carbohydrates only as needed (post-workout). At the beginning of the season, Helewka noted that these lifestyle shifts yielded great results; he felt far more energized and much stronger than before.

“I feel like I am a completely different player,” Helewka said in a post-game interview on October 18. “It helped me get in better shape and become a lot faster.”

So far this season, Helewka has demonstrated said speed both physically and mentally. The latter is mostly represented by his solid hand-eye coordination and quick decision making skills on the ice. Physically, he is great at making smooth passes which lead to goals (or, simply put, providing assists) and taking care of the defensive zone, exemplifying a two-way playing style.

“Right from when I got drafted, [it has been] a dream come true. [San Jose] is a great franchise, all the way from the general manager down to the equipment trainers. Great people, great staff, it’s been very fun so far.”

Helewka was a staunch follower of the Detroit Red Wings growing up and garnered much of his inspiration from center Pavel Datsyuk, a 14-year NHL veteran.

Another random fact: Helewka’s favorite movie is Stepbrothers. Back home, he and his friends enjoy quoting humorous movies.