nine rounds of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville were complete, a total of
10 Slovakian players were taken. While none of these prospects are considered
blue-chippers, the prospect class of 2003 fared much better for Slovakia then
last year’s group, and, as usual, there were a few surprises.
10 prospects that were selected, in order of selection:
round – 50th overall, Ivan Baranka, D, NY Rangers
Of all of
the prospects expected to be taken first out of Slovakia, Baranka was not on
most people’s lists. Baranka is a punishing defenseman who was a demon at the
recent WJC18, and moved up drastically because of that.
round – 65th overall, Branislav Fabry, RW Buffalo
winger who had a solid year, Fabry was drafted just a little higher than
round – 76th overall, Richard Stehlik, D, Nashville
be a second round selection at the very worst, Stehlik inexplicably dropped all
the way to the third round, and right into the lap on the Predators, who were
waiting in the bushes for this juicy pick. Concerns about his backwards-skating
ability must have scared off other teams.
round – 81st overall, Stefan Ruzicka, RW, Philadelphia
forward picked right around where he was expected to, but behind Fabry likely
due to his shorter stature.
round – 91st overall, Martin Sagat, LW, Toronto
jumped up quite a bit after a solid year of pro experience.
round – 120th overall, Stefan Blaho, NY Islanders
top prospect heading into this season, a poor WJC18 performance and shaky season
had his stock drop a bit. Still, he fared quite well all things considering.
round – 176th overall, Ivan Dornic, C, NY Rangers
had Ivan Dornic highly ranked due to his skill level and high upside. A shaky
WJC18 from Ivan scared off some scouts, and the Rangers may be thankful that he
round – 212th overall, Denis Rehak, D, NY Islanders
junior defenseman with good size netted himself a draft position. Will need to
show himself in the pros or the CHL next season.
round – 258th overall, Vladimir Kutny, W, Detroit
the disaster that was his QMJHL season, an eighth round position isn’t
surprising. Kutny has the size and tools that the scouts love, and if he
develops like he was expected to, the Wings might have gotten themselves a
steal. Kutny should be expected to get more quality ice-time next season.
round – 271st overall, Jaroslav Halak, G Montreal
faller for Slovak prospects, the Habs should consider themselves quite fortunate
to have picked up such a solid goaltending prospect this late in the draft. In a
draft with little goaltending depth, it’s hard to see why the patient Halak
dropped all the way to the ninth round. Playing for an obscure Slovakian
Division I team may have factored into that, but scouts really got a good look
at Halak at the WJC18, where he performed superbly.
With all but
two of these draft picks currently in Europe, it will be interesting to see how
many will choose to go the CHL route in order to further their career
aspirations. Although these players can make a fairly good wage in the Slovak
Extraliga, there will be pressure from their NHL squads to play in the CHL and
develop in the North American environment. Given the financial situation of the
Slovak Extraliga, and the fact that some of these kids will have a tough time
earning a good roster spot (and good playing time) on the pro team, we may see
many of them head over to the CHL.
of the notable prospects that weren’t picked:
Balaz, LW – Although Kutny was drafted after a terrible CHL start, the
smaller Balaz was not. He will have another year to adjust and prove himself
to scouts. If Balaz can play well, he may benefit from a higher draft
position next year.
Markovic, C – The talented center became this year’s Slovak victim
of bad paperwork, a recent trend that has inflicted quite a few Slovak
prospects over the past few years. Like Tomas Surovy and Richard Stehlik in
previous years, Markovic’s agent fouled up the opt-in paperwork, and
Jaroslav was declared ineligible for this year’s draft. This skilled
center will be one of Slovakia’s top prospects for the 2004 Entry Draft,
as we head into next season.
Overagers and Dark Horses –
With the NHL constantly looking for any hidden gems left over in Europe, zero
Slovak overage prospects were taken in the 2003 Entry Draft. This is especially
surprising since teams are always seemingly looking to add cheap depth to their
organizations. NHL teams showed a willingness to spend late round picks on low-end
CHL players, whom they will have to sign or lose within two years, instead of
taking a chance on a developing European, whom they can hold the rights to for
Slovak involvement at the 2003 Entry Draft
the 10 prospects picked in the draft, a couple of Slovaks were also involved in
the numerous draft-deal trades that occurred.
traded towering defenseman Ivan Majesky to the Atlanta Thrashers for
the 38th overall pick in the second round. The Panthers used this pick to
select heady Czech center, Kamil Kreps. As the Panthers had spent only a
ninth rounder to draft Majesky a few years ago, they managed to parlay a
solid year of his services and essentially trade a ninth rounder for a
high-upside second round pick. A perfect example of the draft-day brilliance
that Rick Dudley is becoming known for.
Nashville Predators traded defenseman Tomas Slovak to the Colorado
Avalanche for the rights to Russian forward prospect Sergei Soin. After a
tremendous year with the Kelowna Rockets, Slovak’s stock rose quite a bit,
and this deal looks essentially like a swap to fill organizational
weaknesses within both teams.