For Team Slovakia captain Samuel Solensky, the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament has required him to be all he can be, and more. Leading an attack that few are expecting much from, he’s been the go-to guy for Slovakia head coach Anton Bartanus in every important situation.
A first-line center and veteran of last spring’s U18 World Championship tournament, Solensky will spend this next season once again with an aspiring Liberec program in the Czech Republic. But first, he will be giving all he can to get the Slovaks their first Ivan Hlinka victory in five years.
Hockey’s Future chatted with the tricky forward before his game Wednesday against the USA.
Hockey’s Future: Slovakia has played two games with a lot of ups and downs to kick things off. Despite the losses, there were some really good moments for the tourney’s youngest team. How are you feeling about this tournament right now?
Samuel Solensky: We’ve done some good things, but a game doesn’t consist of only one or two periods. We need to find consistency three periods long. But all in all, we’ve played two good games and I’m hoping the next one will be the charm and get us that win.
HF: Have you watched Team USA, who is also winless to this point?
SS: No, not personally, but the coaches have video and we’ll be studying aspects of their game later on.
HF: You’re manning the first line smack dab between two young underagers. How is that working and how do you feel about leading what is clearly the tournament’s youngest team?
SS: Well it is different than things were at the U18 WC where I was about the youngest guy, but they know that they have to give their all, shift for shift, and do everything for the team. It is really different than at the WC in Switzerland. It’s a new challenge.
HF: What is it like for you to play here in this big arena that plays host to Slovan Bratislava in front of a whole lot of NHL scouts?
SS: It’s a great experience. It’s a great chance to show our families and scouts what we can do. It does motivate us to play harder and try to be the best we can be.
HF: You’ll be returning to Bigli Liberec in the Czech Republic for the upcoming season. What do you hope to achieve there?
SS: We definitely want to make the playoffs and know that anything is possible if we do. Then we want to win that U20 league cup.
HF: That would be a good thing. What would you like to improve on personally this winter?
SS: My goal is to be a regular on the U20 team there and then maybe even get my feet wet with the pro team. I am also shooting to be part of the Slovakian WJC squad. I really want to make it. That’ll be my big challenge this winter.
HF: It would be great to see you in Helsinki this winter. You will of course still be eligible for the U18 next spring as well. What do you think about playing over in the state of North Dakota?
SS: It’ll be another great experience and challenge for Slovakian hockey. It’ll be our goal, like this year in Switzerland, to make it to the quarterfinals. Once there, we want to be good for a surprise of two.
HF: How about the NHL in the future. Is that a dream of yours one day down the line?
OS: Yes, it is a dream of mine and feels very far away. In order to start, I need to get drafted. To get drafted, I need to get stronger and improve everything, and I also need to stay healthy. I need to play as hard as I can and give my best all the time.
HF: Do have a favorite player out there?
SS: Yes, I did, but he retired. It was Zigmund Palffy. He was my long-time favorite.
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