Ex-Sharks forward claims AHL coach pressured him into fighting 'each game'

Martin Kaut says how he was treated with the Sharks' AHL affiliate was a factor in his decision to return home to play in Czechia.

Martin Kaut spent part of the past season with the San Jose Sharks organization and explained why he decided to return to HC Dynamo Pardubice of Czech Extraliga this summer.

Kaut said he was repeatedly asked to fight while playing for the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, alleging one of the team's coaches would pick an opponent for him to fight "before each game." Kaut received instruction that if he fought more often, he would be in the NHL.

“He said that’s why I don’t play in the NHL,” Kaut said in an interview with Robert Rampa of iDnes, a Czech-language news organization, as translated by San Jose Hockey Now.

“I’ve had three concussions and injured my shoulder twice. If I fought the guys they picked for me, I’d go down and still get hurt. He made me fight anyway, it really bothered me. I would have fought for any good reason, no question. When the game’s sold out, it escalates, or when you’re defending a teammate. But to fight someone just for the sake of it? I’m supposed to be on the ice to score goals.”

Martin Kaut played nine games for the Sharks last season but spent most of the year in the AHL. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Martin Kaut played nine games for the Sharks last season but spent most of the year in the AHL. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sharks denied Kaut’s claims in a statement Monday.

“We have been made aware of comments attributed to Martin Kaut stating that he was pressured to deliberately instigate a physical engagement with opposing players on the ice. Let us be unequivocally clear that no such direction was ever given or insinuated by the members of the Sharks or Barracuda coaching or hockey staffs.”

Kaut recorded three goals and five points in nine games with the Sharks this season, while posting three goals and 14 points with the Barracuda. The 23-year-old was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 25.

The 6-foot-2, 176-pound winger never profiled to be a power forward or enforcer at the professional level. Kaut was selected 16th overall by the Avalanche in the 2018 NHL Draft and was lauded for his playmaking skills as a prospect.

It’s certainly a curious situation for the Sharks, as Kaut likely would’ve battled for meaningful playing time on a rebuilding roster for the upcoming season.