Friday, June 22, 2007


NHL Draft: Previewing the Slovaks

by Jes

Many things have kept me busy this spring and early summer, so I’ve been way behind in keeping track of draftable prospects. Don’t ask me much about anyone about to be picked tonight, because I won’t be able to tell you too much unless they play for or against the Vancouver Giants.

While all of the others bloggers party it up in Columbus, I’m stuck here in rainy Vancouver with the Yaletown Yuppies and Whalley Winos.

On this little nook of the web, you can always count on a Slovakian slant to things. We cut through the Swedish BS to give you the goods, babe.

Thanks to my Slovak pal Daniel, who provides his thoughts on draftable Slovaks and other issues.

Predicted Slovak picks:
Round 1 - none
Round 2 - none
Round 3 – David Skokan (MTL)
Round 4 – Milan Kytnar (BUF)
Round 5 – Juraj Valach (ATL)
Round 6 - none
Round 7 – Adam Bezak (NYR), Juraj Mikus (xxx), Zdenko Kotvan (xxx)

I expect only 5 Slovaks to be picked. Though there are another adepts e.g. M.Daloga (25%), O.Rusnak (15%), M.Baca (10%), T.Hiadlovsky (20%) or P.Lusnak (30%), B.Rehus (10%). Of course dark horses e.g. O.Mikula (10%), M.Hascak (5%) or B.Konrad (5%) Don’t forget Krazy Karol Krizan (20%).

A trend to draft less Europeans will be kept. It's not a case of a weaker generation or worse prospects, but it's a result of new collective agreement. New prospects have to be signed within 2 years after drafting.

As you know most kids are long-shot prospects and drafting of 18-year old means to wait another 2-5 years to develop into NHL-caliber players. History shows that, too often, teams pick raw prospects who weren't able to develop into regular player of (European) senior leagues.
I'd recommend to draft only top 20-30 prospects, especially the players who proved themselves at different levels i.e. senior leagues, WJC U18 or U20 to be real prospects. I’d much rather pick 19 or 20-year old kids who found regular spots in senior leagues (SWE, CZE, FIN, SVK, SUI, GER or RUS).

Of course it's very difficult to draft Russians in the late rounds. As we know, solid 3-4 liners of the Russian Super league can earn 200-300,000$. Such players have no motivation to spend 1-2 seasons in AHL to fight for an NHL spot.

Juraj Valach is a very interesting prospect, and could easily go much higher than his crappy CSS ranking.

Valach is a 6’6” 210lbs defender who played this season with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. Unlike his other Slovak redwoods, Valach is not a mean, tough dude. Nope, Valach is very much an offensive-minded defenseman who will beat you with a point shot long before he beats you over the head with his stick. He has good reach, which he uses well to poke-check the puck away from attackers. Think of a tall Richard Lintner.

Given the total lack of great talent out of Slovakia this year, Valach will be the guy to watch for Slovakian hopefuls. He has a lot of upside, but also a lot of work to do on his skating. Teams have been burnt by ‘raw’ prospects all too often (Michael Rupp, Kristian Kudroc), but that doesn’t stop them from drafting them early in the draft.

More on Juraj Valach over at NHL DraftBuzz

More on the Top 10 Slovakians over at

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I was very surprised at how few Slovak's were drafted last year, as well as how few top end ones are around this year. Valach sounds interesting, and I'm surprised I've never heard of him before.
I stick with my opinion that Valach will never make it to the NHL due to his below average skating. His lack of physical presence will hurt him on the top level too.
Can't tell too much about his shots. From what I'v seen of him it looked more of wild shots which occasionaly might hit the net.

On the other end his North American league display (I can only tell from watching him in a Sovakian jersey), looked encouraging, so he might hvae found a fit on the smaller ice.

It's up to Juraj to prove me wrong. If so I'll be the first to admit 'defeat'.

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