2008 WJC: Slovakia preview

By Andrej Cicman

Last year’s was the most disappointing WJC in the history of the Slovak national team. The Slovaks avoided relegation thanks to Team Switzerland‘s 5-3 win against Germany and their win in the last match against Ukraine.

The Slovakian Hockey Association took the decisive step and admitted the national U20 team in the Slovak Extraleague. The main reason for that was the preparation for the 2008 U20 WJC. Slovak coach Mikes readily admits that the main goal is to comfortably avoid the relegation and not to fight to last minute. Everything above it will be a nice surprise.

Compared to last year’s roster, many changes have been made in this team. The core of Slovak national team is produced from the Slovak 20 National Team (playing in the Extraleague). Only five players are from Canadian junior leagues and only four players were in the 2007 U20 World Championship – defenseman Adam Bena and forwards Tomas Marcinko, Julius Sinkovic and David Skokan.

Surprisingly you can’t find on the roster Jaroslav Janus (the No. 1 goalie for the OHL Erie Otters), forward Mario Bliznak (VAN) or the best defenseman from Regina Pats Juraj Valach (2008).

In the preliminary round, Slovakia will be playing in the same preliminary round pool as Canada, Sweden, the Czech Republic and recently promoted Denmark. Two relegation round teams will remain in the elite tournament for 2009, the other two will be demoted to Division I.

Goalies


Tomas Hiadlovsky
– 15. 12. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 5’11’’ 168 lbs.
Hiadlovsky may be the No. 1 goalie for this tournament. He is coming from Dukla Trencin. His numbers aren’t so good, but none of these goalies is a star (12 games, 5.05 GAA and 87.41%). He represented Slovakia in last year’s U18 WC (4 games, 2.54 GAA a 91,9 %).
Julius Hudacek – 9.8. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o, 6’0” 174 lbs.
Hudacek was the best goalie in last season in the Slovak junior league and he won the championship. In this season, he played in 12 games and like Hiadlovsky, his numbers are pretty bad (4.2 GAA and 89,09%). This is his first junior tournament.
Zdenko Kotvan – 12.08.89, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’0”   198 lbs.
Many remember him from last year’s playoff match between HC Kosice and HK 36 Skalica. He stopped 51 shots and in the shootouts he was undefeated  This season he played in three Slovak senior games (4,49 GAA a 89,36) and also in Slovak top junior league (2,84 a 91,43 % in 16 games). He represented Slovakia in last year’s WJC U18 (4 games, 2.46 GAA a 91,8%). He is the backup goalie for this tournament, he will be promoted to the roster only if one of the above goalies is injured.

Defense

Juraj Mikus – 30.11.1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o. 6’4’’ 187 lbs
Toronto Maple Leafs, 2007, 5th round, 134th overall.
He is the only drafted blueliner on the roster. He should be the No. 1 defenseman for power plays, because of his nice hard shot and good positioning. Last year was he on the Dukla Trencin senior team, but only as a 7th or 8th man. On the HK VSR SR 20 team, he has a many more opportunities to play against the best forwards from Slovak top league. In 20 games, he collected 1 goal, 4 assists, 30 PIM and is -17. He represented Slovakia in the U18 tourney in year 2006 (2 assists in 6 games).
Marek Daloga -10.03.89, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o. 6’4’’ 176 lbs.
Daloga is a strong defensive-minded blueliner. But like many other players from HK VSR SR 20, his plus/minus is very bad (-25). He represented Slovakia in the U18 WC in 2007 (2 points in 6 games, +2).
Adam Bena – 14.3.1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o. 5’9’’ 168 lbs.
He is a little bit small, so he should move very fast to balance this handicap. He played also in the Czech junior league, but to play against the seniors is more difficult. But he is the most productive defenseman on the HK VSR SR 20 team (6 poitns in 20 games, 14 PM and -15). This is his second WJC U20 in a row.
Marek Biro – 8.2.1988, Windsor Spitfires (OHL), 6’5” 216 lbs.
Biro is the only one blueliner playing in North America. For the Windsor Spitfires, he is one of the top four defensemen. This season so far in 32 games he has 1 goal, 8 assists, 30 PIM and a nice +19. He already represented Slovakia for two times – on the U18 in 2005 and 2006.
Marek Zukal – 23. 8. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o. 6’4” 212 lbs. 
He should be the 8th blueliner, but maybe he can surprise. He has also some experience from the Czech junior league, but on the HK VSR SR 20 he’s the top 8 defenseman. In this season’s games Zukal hasn’t collected any points, only 16 PM and -19 in 20 games.
Kristian Krajcik – 21. 3. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 5’11’’ 176 lbs.
Krajcik is another player with Czech junior experience. And another player without points (-13). But he is playing a very clean game, only 6 PIM, which is a solid number on this team.
Michal Kozak – 27. 1. 1989, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’2” 187 lbs.
He represented Slovakia on the 2007 U18 WCI (8 PM and -1). In the Slovak senior league he collected 1 assist, 12 PIM and –10 in 14 games.
Milan Balis – 8. 6. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’1’’ 194 lbs.
Balis represented Slovakia on the 2006 U 18 WJC team. This season in 21 games, he has 3 assists, 22 PM and -28.

Forwards


Tomas Marcinko
– 11.4.1988, Barrie Colts (OHL), 6’4’’ 207 lbs.
NY Islanders, 2006, 4th round, 115th overall
A nice defensive game was the main reason for New York Islanders selection of him. But last season he also improved his offensive game, so he should be the No. 1 center in this squad. Maybe the leg injury, which stopped him for about a month, can prevent him showing his best skills. He represented Slovakia in the U18 2005 and 2006 and in U20 in 2007. Marcinko has 11 goals and 11 assists in 21 games.
Julius Sinkovic – 24.3.1988, Val d’Or (QMJHL), 5’11’’ 172 lbs.
For Sinkovic this is the third WJC in a row. He has nice passing skills, so he creates a lot of scoring chances. A little bit small and light, he must move fast.  In 35 games for Val d’Or, he collected only 5 goals, but 24 assists.
David Skokan – 6.12.1988, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 6’0” 192 lbs.
N.Y. Rangers, 2007, 7th round, 193rd overall.
Skokan is a two-way center with good hockey strength. He can play very hard, but also he can produce some offense. He will be a nice second line center. In 32 games, he collected 8 goals and 14 assists. Also for him it is his third WJC tournament in a row.
Patrik Lusnak – 6.11.1988, Sudbury Wolves, OHL, 5’11” 183 lbs.
This tournament is his first important national undertaking. In Sudbury he is the second best forward (30 games, 8 goals and 20 assists). 
Ivan Rohac – 25.3.1988, Kamloops Blazers, WHL, 6’0” 190 lbs.
This tournament will be his second. The first was a WJC U18 in 2006 (6 games, 3+2). In his WHL team he’s the fourth most productive player (23 points in 31 games).
Erik Caladi – 1.4. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 5’11’’ 185 lbs.
Two seasons ago many rated him as a one of the top Slovak prospects. But maybe the season in Belleville Bulls in OHL hurt his progress. We will see how he will play against the best juniors in the world, because to play against the seniors in Slovak Extraleague seems for him a little bit tough. But beside this is he the best goal producer in HK VSR SR 20 (21 games, 5 goals and 2 assists). He represented Slovakia also in WJC U18 in 2006.
Marek Slovak – 23.9. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 5’7” 161 lbs.
Last season he belonged to the most productive players in Slovak junior league (55 points in 39 games). He should be the offensive threat in this squad. Slovak is HK VSR SR 20’s most productive with 9 points. He represented Slovakia also in the U18 WC in 2006, scoring an assist.
Milan Jurik – 28.2.1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’3” 187 lbs.
Jurik played last season in the WHL (Prince Albert Raiders, 13 points, -7), so he knows what it is to play against the Canadian juniors. This year he refused to return to Canada and he wanted to play in the Slovak Extra league. In 21 games he collected 2 goals, 1 assist and only 4 PIM. He also represented Slovakia also in WJC U18 in 2006.
Matej Cesik – 26. 6. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’2” 183 lbs.
Cesik showed last season a very nice offensive game and not only in the junior league (51 points in 36 games). Also in the second senior league he was very productive (15 games, 7 goals and 8 assists). This season he played for HK VSR SR 20 in the top league, but his numbers aren’t so good (15 games, 3 goals. 2 assists, 35 PM a -8).
Oliver Duris – 13. 9. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’3’’ 203 lbs.
This is his first international tournament. He belongs to the productive core of HK VSR SR 20, but also he needs for this only 3 goals and 3 assists.
Jakub Suja 1. 11. 1988, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 6’0” 196 lbs.
Suja is a right wing, whose last season was very good. He earned a spot between the seniors in the Slovak second league and also his statistics were really good  – 31 points in 40 games and and impressive +30. But this year it isn’t so good. He plays a clean game (only 6 PIM in 21 games), but has only 1 goal, 4 assists and -20. For him this is his first national tournament too.
Dalimir Jancovic – 28.01.89, HK VSR SR 20 s.r.o., 5’11” 176 lbs.
He represented Slovakia also in U18 WC in 2007 (1 assist). In the Slovak Extraleague, he had 2 goals.