Marek Zagrapan scored once and added four assists in Slovakia’s first game of the 2006 World Junior Championships, a 7-4 victory over Latvia.
A gifted offensive player, Zagrapan has the good fortune of playing in this tournament alongside Stanislav Lascek (TB), who he also plays with in Chicoutimi of the QMJHL. Tomas Pretruska (Cleveland Barons) joins the pair on the wing. Their familiarity with each other led to a combined total of ten points in the game against Latvia.
Back in Chicoutimi, Zagrapan and Lascek have combined for 133 points in 35 regular season games. Zagrapan admits he is battling the language barrier, but he suggests he has become comfortable with life and hockey in Canada during this, his second campaign in the CHL. He credits Lascek with helping him to adjust to life in Chicoutimi and is pleased to be able to contribute to a winning hockey club.
Zagrapan, who celebrated his 19th birthday on December 6, was drafted in the first round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. At the WJC, the 6’0, 200-pound forward is being looked upon to create scoring chances as a member of a solid first unit for Team Slovakia.
HF: How are you feeling about the progress of the Slovakian team so far?
MZ: We are very happy that we won today against Latvia because we played three pre-tournament games and lost them all. (Including a 5-1 loss to Latvia) You know, we are happy tonight, but I also do not think it was a very good game for us. We have to talk about the mistakes we made, but I think we can play much better.
HF: What is your experience playing with your linemates, the other players on your five-man unit?
MZ: I know Tomas [Pretruska] from when we were little kids, we played together quite a bit and with Stanislav [Lascek], we are getting a lot of ice time in Chicoutimi. It is very nice to come here and play with players I know.
HF: What can you tell us about your experience at international tournaments?
MZ: I played here last year and also played two years with U18 team. Many of us on this team have played together for a number of years. When we come back to national teams, we are happy to spend time together again. When we don’t see each other for much of the season, it is very nice to get together to play because many of us are good friends.
HF: Almost half of the Slovakian team plays in the CHL and the rest have come from Europe. Does this create challenges when the coaches ask you to play a different system?
MZ: Before many of us left home to come and play in Canada, we played U16 together, so we know that we can play a system well together. We know what has been asked of us in the past and most of us do not find it difficult to play the five-man system.
HF: How do you feel about your play so far in Chicoutimi?
MZ: It can always be better, but I feel like I have improved since last year.
HF: Have you been in contact with Buffalo since the being drafted? What parts of your game are they hoping to see you improve?
MZ: They have been in contact with my agent, but when we spoke at training camp in Buffalo they wanted me to continue to improve my skating. I like to play an offensive style and I think that things will be very good for us in the future.’
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.