Friday, May 28, 2004


THN 2004 Draft Preview - Return of the Slovaks

So, I finally got my hands on the THN Draft Preview edition. It's one of my 'must-buys' every year, and it's the perfect read for the expert or casual fan.

I'll wait until the Cup Finals are over to really comb through it, but I'm happy to see some Slovaks getting recognition in the Top 100 rankings, as it really is a strong year for the Slovaks. After a drought of sorts, the Slovaks have produced a pretty solid crop of prospects this year, with a little bit of everything.

I'll have a more extensive preview on in June, but for now I'll offer my thoughts on the Slovak prospects THN has ranked.

#12 - Andrej Meszaros, D - Trencin
He's got mad skillz, baby, and not since Marian Gaborik ripped up Slovak League defenses apart has a junior player had such an impact in the Extraliga.
Basically, he's a super-skilled defenseman who plays well in every facet of the Europe.
Some seem to really like him (like THN), while others fear he's a bit too raw and that his skills won't translate well at the NHL level. McKeen's has him ranked all the way down in 30th. Not many 18 year olds play a regular shift for their country at the World Championships, but Meszaros did just that. Should make a great #2 NHL defenseman, but not a superstar.

#20 - Boris Valabik, D - Kitchener
I wrote a more complete profile for here.
He's big (6'6"+), he's nasty, he's competitive, he loves to fight, and he doesn't play at all like the stereotypical European player.
As you'd expect, he's getting all sorts of comparisons to Zdeno Chara, although I don't think he'll ever produce the kind of offensive numbers Chara has been putting up the past couple of seasons.
I really like how he improved over the course of the season, as he adapted to the smaller playing surface and worked on skating less like an ogre. Before this season, he wasn't considered a top prospects by anyone outside of his own family.

That said, I really think he's being overrated by some simply due to the fact that he is so big and nasty. He's basically the opposite of Meszaros; He has 1/10th of the skill, but he's proven that he excels in the North American game. He seems like a sure-fire 1st rounder, anyway, so that gives the Slovaks 2 potential first-rounders in this draft.

#45 - Juraj Gracik, RW - Topolcany (1st Div. and Junior)
Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing the Slovakian Eric Daze! (Try too hard not to get excited)

He's big (6'3") and scores goals. Unlike other tall Slovaks that were drafted simply for being blessed with high levels of growth hormones (Vladimir Kutny, Vladislav Balaz, Tomas Troliga), Gracik is actually a productive and skilled forward who will produce offensive numbers. Like Daze, his defense is somewhat weak and his passing skills are Richard Zednik-like.

He played most of the early season with the Junior squad, but was promoted to the 1st division team and scores 17 goals in 29 games, including a hat-trick in 1 game.
I'd like to see him come to the CHL next season as his game is suited for the style and the 1st division isn't really the best place for him to develop his NHL aspirations.

#63 - Michal Sersen, D - Rimouski
A balanced defenseman with a solid build, I think a lot of people were expecting/wanting more from the kid. He was the 1st overall pick in the 2003 CHL Import Draft, and just didn't blow anyone away.
He could be the kind of pick that slips, but will make a team very happy later on. He could make a serviceable defenseman, much like a Radoslav Suchy.

#93 - Jaroslav Markovic, C/RW - Martin
To quote internet geeks all around the world: 'MEH!'
For some reason, I've never been all that keen on Markovic.
I don't see Markovic on the CSS rankings, and he may have opted out of this draft. This might be a good strategy if he plans to go to the CHL.
To his credit, Markovic may actually do himself better in the CHL, as his strengths seem to be his work ethic and ability to generate offense from cycling the puck.

I know THN has their own methods and opinions, but I am stunned that either Michal Valent (G - Martin), or Roman Tomanek (W - P. Bystrica) weren't in that #93 spot instead, as they are well ahead of Tomanek in terms of potential and current draft stock.

5 Slovaks ranked in the THN Top 100, with 2 others that deserved strong consideration, and 2 overagers that could get drafted leaves at least 9 good prospects that Slovakia can expect to get drafted this summer (or 8 if Tomanek opted out).

Awesome article highlighting the wealth of talent of Slovak players to the NHL. I am of Slovak decent and enjoy all the information I can get on this subject.
Please check out my blog, Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic at
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