Slovakia: Draft Preview

By jes-golbez-ursulak

After 2002’s draft day disaster, in
which only three Slovaks were taken in the entire entry draft (Of those three,
one was an overage prospect, and one was a draft re-entry), things are looking
brighter for the Slovaks this year for a return to prominence.

After a stellar second place performance
at the World Under-18 WJC, and a solid fifth place finish at the World Under-20
WJC, Slovak prospects had managed to capture the attention of scouts, who have
neglected scouting the various Slovak leagues in the past few years. Although
there is no superstar draft pick like Marian Gaborik coming out of Slovakia this
year, there are quite a few solid talents who have just started to get the
notice they deserve.

Below is look at the Slovak prospects
and overagers who may get selected this draft day.
Ranking in parentheses)

Sure-Fire Picks
(90-100% chance of being drafted)

Richard Stehlík, D,
Sherbrooke, 6’4”-245 (NA #49) –

This defenseman from the QMJHL is profiled in the Hockey’s Future Magazine Draft

Jaroslav Halák, G,
Bratislava Jr./Ruzinov, 5’11”-165 (EU#4 goalies) –

A rather unknown prospect coming into the season, Jaroslav shocked many
scouts after an amazing run at the WJC18. For those who’ve seen him play in
Slovakia, his performances were no surprise. Jaroslav played on the weakest
Division I team (Ruzinov), and carried the team with some amazing performances.
In a draft lacking in goaltender depth, Halak could find himself drafted
anywhere from the second to the sixth rounds.

Stefan Ruzicka, RW,
Trencin, 5’11”-189(EU#16) –

This very skilled forward made himself known with a monster performance
at the WJC18 (7GP 5-3-8PTS), where he was Slovakia’s best forward by far.
Ruzicka’s size is his one drawback, but his experience in the senior Extraliga,
combined with his intensity and work ethic, should help him overcome any size
deficit. Expected to be selected in the second or third round.

Ivan Baranka, D, Trencin,
6’2”-185(EU#18) –

A surprising ranking for a kid who has minimum experience at the senior
level to date. His performance at the WJC18, however, was very impressive.

Stefan Blaho, RW,
Trencin, 6’1”-198 (EU#19) –

At the start of the year, Blaho was expected to be the top Slovak draft
pick. His disappointing WJC18 performance, combined with the fact that other
prospects developed a bit more, led to Blaho’s drop in the rankings. Not much
experience at the senior level, but should find himself drafted in the first
three rounds, regardless.

Branislav Fábry, RW,
Bratislava Jr., 6’0”-185 (EU#31) –

Had a very good junior season, and impressed in the senior Extraliga as
well. Showed some very good performances at the WJC18. Finished with a solid
ranking and is expected to be picked around the third to fifth rounds.

Other Notable CSB Ranked Prospects

There are a few other prospects whose chances to be drafted run about
10-30%. The WJC18 performance vaulted many into the radar of the scouting
community, but are still very much long shots.

Martin Sagát, LW,
Trencin Jr., 6’3” 191 (EU#54)– Big winger had a solid year and some pro

Ivan Dornic, C,
Bratislava Jr, 6’0” 183 (EU#56) – Probably the most upside out of this
lower group, Dornic played well in the Senior Extraliga, but had a rough WJC18
tournament, finishing with a –5 rating.

Jaroslav Markovic, C,
Martin, 5’11” 176 (EU#77)– A center who likes to shoot, it appears his
agent may have fouled up the draft paperwork, and Markovic may be ineligible.
Out of these three prospects, Markovic saw the most playing time at the senior

Vladimír Kútny, LW,
Quebec, 6’4” 195 (N.A. #144)

and Vladimír Baláž, LW,
Sherbrooke, 6’2” 180 (N.A. #177) – Both of these top CHL Import draftees
had terrible transition years, and their rankings dropped accordingly. Could
find themselves taken based on their size and potential, if a GM is willing to
take a chance.

Dominik Granák, D,
Slavia Praha, 6’0” 180 (EU#109) – An extremely skilled defenseman who has
been overlooked in previous drafts, Granak found himself on a superstar Slavia
team, and did not look out of place playing alongside former NHLers such as
Frantisek Kucera, Pavel Kolarik, and Marek Posmyk. Granak has more skill and
experience than many of the other Slovaks in this draft, but NHL teams seem
afraid of his small build.

Peter Tabacek, W, Martin
Jr., 6’0” 176 (EU#80)

Denis Rehák, D, Trencin
Jr. 6’2” 196 (EU#101)

Milan Hruska, D,
Topol’cany, 5’11 189 (EU#103)

Tomás Vodicka, W,
Trencin Jr., 6’3” 187 (EU#104)

Ivan Švárny, D,
Belleville, 6’1” 185 (N.A. #182)

Dark Horses

These players are unranked, and have been passed over in previous drafts.
However, they rate a second look as they all have good skill and potential.
Enterprising GMs might figure one of these players would make a good late round

Rastislav Spirko (RW,
1984, Martin) smallish (5’9” 165) but very gifted forward. Spirko was the
most dangerous forward for the Slovaks at the WJC20, and he’s the favourite
candidate for the Rookie of the Year award in the Slovak Extraliga.

Karol Sloboda (D, 1983,
Ottawa – OHL) 6’1” 195lbs defenseman was named the best defensive
rearguard in OHL, finishing with an impressive +/- ranking. Earned a training
camp tryout with the Bruins last summer, and while impressive, Sloboda did not
earn a NHL contract. If he’s not drafted, he will surely be signed as a free
agent this summer.

Tomás Jasko (W, 1983,
Des Moines – USHL) – 5’10” 175lbs winger had an obscure start to the
season, but a very impressive second half. In 60 games, Jasko finished with 30
goals and 67 points.


(D, 1983, Topeka – USHL) – A very solid blueliner, Slavomir will likely try
and win himself a free agent contract with an NHL or lower level club in the
future if he’s passed over in the draft.

Overage Prospects

Although the well has run quite dry in Europe in terms of overage
prospects, there are still a few worth giving some heavy consideration come
draft day. The Slovaks have a few younger overage prospects that have played
well at the pro and national level, and have styles suitable for play in North

Gabriel Spilár
(1980 – 5’11” 182, RW, Košice – SVK) The no. 1 overage prospect, Spilar
is a very good skater with excellent acceleration, who loves to play an
aggressive style. He is right shooting winger, able to play as a center, and
plays well at both ends of the ice. He
likes the
physical brand of hockey, and works hard around the net.
Spilar is very dangerous due to his speed and finesse around the boards. Gabo
has a solid wrist shot, but his slap shot could be more accurate. He’ll never be
a top sniper, but he creates space for his linemates due to his hard work, and
he can be used in penalty killing situations as well.
Spilar is a great competitor who plays with desire. He will have to continue to
work on his shooting accuracy and scoring ability. Would make a good NHL role
player, along the same lines as Flyers winger Radovan Somik.

Has a 50% chance of being drafted this year.

Tomáš Frolo (1982 – 6’2” 198, D, Vsetín/Kladno – CZE). 
A player with good size and strength, Frolo has shown excellent progress
over the past year. He tasted his first Czech Extraliga action two years ago,
although he mostly played in the junior league, where he established a new
record for PIM.

At the beginning of this season, he was a no. 7 or 8 defenseman, but quickly
forged himself a regular spot as the key rearguard on Vsetin. From November
onwards, he was paired with the teams’ top defenseman, Patrik Luza.

Frolo is a typical stay-at-home defenseman, who plays very hard and loves the
physical style. He is pretty good along the boards, and is able to clean the
space around his own net. Frolo is always willing to protect his own goalie, and
is a very good fighter. He uses his size well, and has a very good attitude.

Needs to improve his passing skills and shot selection.

Has a 30-40% chance of being drafted this year.

Martin Čakajík
(1979 – 5’11” 192, D, Liberec/Třinec – CZE) This short, but well-built
defenseman looks like 12-year old kid, but he is a tough man who created respect
by his style. Gained notoriety for his locker-room fight with Flames draftee
Radek Duda. Although
is three inches shorter than Frolo, he plays the same tough and aggressive
style, and works hard in every situation. Cakajik has loads of confidence, and
is very coachable with his work ethic.

Offensively, he has good speed and mobility, and is good passer who
possesses a solid slapshot. Defensively, he is good shot-blocker who plays well
in the corners and around his own net. Cakajik is more mature and rounded than
Frolo, but his height scares NHL GMs away.

He is a finalist for the Rookie of the Year in the Czech Extraliga.

Has a 20% chance of being drafted this year.

Ladislav Cierny
(3.11.1974 – 6’0” 176, D, Lada Togliatti – RUS)

Our oldest overager has better credentials than fellow Slovak Radoslav Hecl, who
had a cup of coffee this season with the Buffalo Sabres.

Cierny is a very good two-way finesse defenseman, who possesses good
hockey sense.

Offensively, Cierny is a fair skater with solid speed and acceleration.
Cierny is a great passer, and loves the long-bomb pass, but does not shoot
enough. Cierny has the ability to pinch in and help the offense, but will not
tend to do so at the expense of his defensive duties.

Defensively, Cierny is very good in his own zone, especially in
one-on-one situations. Cierny is a clean player (similar to Robert Svehla), and
will not take a lot of bad penalties. This lack of grit is also his downfall, as
NHL scouts wonder if Cierny would be able to handle the rougher game. At his
age, the transition is not too easy, but it can be done, as Hecl and Lubo
Sekeras have shown.

To his credit, Cierny has proven himself as a star player in the Russian,
Slovak, and Czech leagues, as well as at the national level. 

Cierny also possesses the intangibles that always help with team chemistry.
Cierny earned himself an Alternate Captain role with Lada Togliatti in the
Russian League, a very rare fear for any foreigner. Cierny is known for being a
positive influence on his teammates, and could easily be a good head coach when
his playing days are done. Has about a 10% chance of getting drafted, but could
help any NHL club looking to plug a hole.

Martin Kul’ha
(07-08-1976- 6’2” 193 – RW, Slovan Bratislava – SVK)
If you wanted to teach your kids how to skate, Kul’ha would make a
great teacher. With a fluid, effortless stride, Kul’ha is one of the best
skating wingers in Slovakia. He plays a solid two-way game, and has always had a
golden touch around the net, generally scoring noticeably more goals than
assists. He’s just coming into his peak, so now would be a good time for an
NHL team to take him as a mini-project.

Unfortunately for Kul’ha, he hasn’t shown the intensity every game needed to
be the elite player he could be. He has often been one of the last cuts for any
national team, and the Slovak coaching staff seems to be asking Kul’ha to take
that one big step up in his game. Kul’ha has about a 5% chance of getting
drafted, and certainly no earlier than the eighth round.

Draft Forecast:

The Slovaks will certainly do better than last season, but how will they
do overall?

Realistic Projection:
8-10 draftees