After several Slovak goalies were taken in the most recent NHL Draft, it’s clear that Slovak goaltenders are rightfully getting a good amount of attention from the scouting community. Jan Koziak is widely considered one of the top Slovak goalies heading into next summer’s draft. He played the 2014-15 season with HC Slovan Bratislava’s U18 and U20 teams.
Before playing the USA for the third and final game of preliminary round play at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Hockey’s Future had a chance to chat with the outgoing Slovakian goalie.
Hockey’s Future: Jan, we’re here speaking in German with each other. How is it that you speak such natural and fluent German?
Jan Koziak: When I was young, my family moved to Dresden. My father was a pro soccer player and he spent many years playing for Dresden. So I spent my schooling years from preschool to the ninth grade living in Germany. That’s also were I began playing ice hockey, or at least as a serious goalie. I was a skater before that when I played for fun in Slovakia. But hockey as a goaltender first became serious in Dresden.
HF: What made you switch to the goaltending position?
JK: Honestly, I just thought it looked really cool. I loved the equipment and the look of a goalie. It just was something that spoke to me and had appeal. And I’ve never regretted deciding to be a goalie and I’ve never looked back.
HF: Well yesterday you were in goal and had a lot to do against Russia. How did you feel about the game?
JK: For me personally, it was OK. I was happy with some things I did, but not with the loss and some of the goals against. It could have been better. I think, as a team, we had far too much respect for the Russians. We could have skated with them. We could have given them a much better challenge. They caught us sleeping in a bad first period, then we played with them in all the three zones for the rest of the game. We found what we need to build on.
HF: What about the performance by your teammates today?
JK: Today was really good and an improvement over yesterday. However, we lost the game in the first period – again. It’s something we talked about coming in and it was our goal to get off to a strong start. But we just didn’t make it happen. Then we played well. Sometimes real well. We often had the Finns on their heels and then, when we scored the second goal, they were dead tired and couldn’t keep up. At times, we really showed what we are capable of.
HF: You now face the USA, who also hasn’t won yet. How do you reckon your chances to be?
JK: If we begin against the USA the way we finished today, then I think we have a real good shot at beating them.
HF: What’s on tap for you this season?
JK: I’ll be playing in Slovakia’s U18 project. We’ll spend the whole year playing together and then the majority of the players will be part of the U18 entry at the World Championship. We’ll also be playing in the Slovakian junior league.
HF: And where do you hope to be playing in the future?
JK: Well, I think every young player dreams of playing in the NHL one day. I do too.
HF: Do you have a favorite goalie?
JK: I sure do. I’d have to say it’s Jonathan Quick. I really like how he plays.
HF: If a scout would ask you what your strengths are, what would you tell him?
JK: It would have to be my legs. I can move them quickly. I can stretch them out to reach the hard shots and quickly cover the far posts. That leg movement has been my big strength thus far.
HF: And what about your game do you need to improve the most?
JK: My stickhandling. I’m not where I need to be. I’m not where I want to be in that department. I have to get better at that and more effective in getting the puck safely to my defensemen and up the boards.
HF: If you have the chance to go to North America in the next few years, would you take it?
JK: It’s something I’ve talked to my manager about. For this winter, I’ll be with the project the whole time, as I mentioned. The games played with the project last until the end of February. Then we are returned to our original clubs, where most of the players will finish off the regular season, some possibly even with their pro teams. At that time, I’ll be looking to see if there is a chance to play abroad, maybe in the USHL. So it’s definitely an option I’ll be entertaining.
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