Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Slovaks Gearing up for the World Junior Championships

On the heels of Team Canada announcing its training camp roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships (no Gilbert Brule???), Team Slovakia announced their nominations for my favourite yearly tournament.

Goalies: Jaroslav Halák (Lewiston MAINEiacs), Marek Novotný (Dukla Trencín), Michal Valent (HC Sparta Praha).

Players: Branislav Fábry (HC Slovan Bratislava), Vladimír Dravecký, Tomás Bulík, Richard Jencík, Slavomír Bodnár (HC Kosice), Juraj Grácik (Tri - City Americans), Ladislav Scurko (Seattle Thunderbirds), Boris Valábik (Kitchener Rangers), Andrej Meszáros (Vancouver Giants), Vladimír Kutny (Val-d´Or Foreurs), Martin Segla (PHK Prešov), Michal Sersen (Rimouski Océanic), Marek Zagrapan, Stanislav Lascek (obaja Chicouitimi Les Saguenées), Ivan Baranka (Everett Silvertips), Peter Mikus, Juraj Líska, Peter Ölvecký, Marek Hascák (všetci Dukla Trencín), Andrej Sekera, Stefan Ruzicka (Owen Sound Attack), Milan Hruska (HC Kimex VTJ Topolčany).

Reserves: Vladimír Kovác (Trenčín), Peter Ordzovenský (Spisská Nová Ves), Igor Bacek (Slovan Bratislava), Miroslav Pupák (Nitra), Jaroslav Markovic (Tri-City Storm), Tomás Petruska (Waterloo Black Hawks).

While Slovakia is known for it’s high-flying offensive forwards, this roster is really built on the strength of goaltending and defence.

Goalies: Jaroslav Halak is the incumbent #1 and will probably get the nod in nets. He’s a fine prospect, but he’s had a bit of a down year. I’d really like to see Michal Valent get the shot as the #1 goalie. Valent has been ripping a hole in the Czech Junior Extraliga and earned an emergency promotion to the big club (Though he did not play). He’s on the fast track to success.

Defence: I love the top 4! Meszaros is an elite defenseman who is making a lot of GM’s look foolish for passing him over at the draft. If Valabik has cleared his concussion cobwebs, these 2 can form an effective 1-2 punch. Andrej Sekera, Meszaros’ former Trencin teammate, and Ivan Baranka are a great 3-4 pairing and the whole defensive unit is well balanced and packed with skill.

Forwards: The name to watch is MAREK ZAGRAPAN. Zagrapan is a potential top-10 draft pick in 2005 and he’s currently 9th in the QMJHL with 40 points in 29 games. Another interesting name is Stanislav Lascek, the offensive whiz that was passed over entirely in the 2004 draft. I’ve already ranted about Lascek before, and he’s currently 5th in the QMJHL with 45 points in 27 games. Stefan Ruzicka and Ladislav Scurko are the other stars on a fairly impressive forward group. Wild fans will get their first real look at surprise draftee Peter Olvecky, a player who has been somewhat impressive with the senior club.

Overall, this has to be the strongest overall WJC team I’ve seen for Slovakia in quite a few years. Apart from some unproductive wingers (Fabry, Kutny, Gracik), the Slovaks should really be taken as a credible medal threat in this year’s tournament.

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