Slovak Draft Preview

By Daniel Kysel

The 2000 NHL entry draft is right around the corner and I am back as I promised in my previous article. I will now focus on Slovak players who might be picked in this draft. I divided these players into four categories. The first category includes hot prospects who are ranked in the top 40 of the North American and European CSB lists. The second category includes kids who are ranked in the top 100. The third category mentions junior prospects who were not ranked. The fourth and final category specifies over-aged players who are in my opinion really solid prospects not only for the top European Elites but also for the NHL, even though they are not 18 or 19.

First Category

No doubt that Marián Gáborík (CSB Euro #4, 02-14-1982, 6’1″ 183 lb., LW, Trencín – Extraliga, 50GP 25G-22A-47Pts +1 34PIM) is the top Slovak and European prospect. He has a real chance to be the #1 pick. While CSB ranks him at #4 on the European list, a lot of scouts, GM’s, journalists, and fans do not dispute that he is the best prospect. It does not matter whether Marián will be selected as #1 or 2 or 3. He has all the potential to start in the best hockey league next season and prove his obvious talent. In the last two seasons he refused more serious offers from IHL and QMJHL (where he was picked in the import draft) and stayed to play in the Slovak Elite – Extraliga. However, next season will be a big challenge for him and he will make the account of that.

Peter Hamerlík (CSB Euro G#2, 01-02-1982, 6’2″ 167 lb., GK, Skalica – Extaliga & Jr., 7GP 286min. 3,36GAA 89,54% in juniors 37GP 3,92GAA) is a very gifted goalie and many people think he is the biggest Slovak prospect in the mask since the era of Vlado Dzurilla (goalie superstar of 70’s). Peter has played on junior as well as on senior teams. He showed a lot of amazing performances as well as several obscure games but this is not abnormal for an 18 year old goalie. He will follow Lašák and Stana in the draft but from better position. I do not venture to forecast when Peter will be selected. In second, third or in other rounds.

Marcel Hossa (CSB NA#20, 10-12-1981, 6’1″ 200 lb., C, Portland – WHL, 60GP 24G-29A-53Pts -8 58PIM) Many fans want to see other Marián but Marcel is not the same type of player. He is not as good a forward as his older brother but he is still talented and has all the skills to play in the NHL in the near future. I guess he would be good 2nd or 3rd round choice.

Jozef Balej (CSB NA#34, 02-22-1982, 5’11” 170 lb., RW, Portland – WHL, 65GP 22G-23A-45Ps -14 33PIM) He is not a tall and muscled type of forward but he is a skilled two-way winger with good scoring ability, impressive stickhandling, and outstanding skating. He presented all of his assets at the WJC U18 in Germany too.

Tomáš Surový (CSB Euro#20, 09-24-1981, 6’1″ 198 lb., C/W, B.Bystrica – Div.1, 39GP 25G-29A-54Pts, 4PIM) He belonged in the top scorers of Slovak Division 1. However that league is not that interesting for many scouts. For this reason I thought he did not keep his mid-season ranking. Fortunately Tomáš has played outstanding games and was nominated on Slovak Olympic team. He skated on Pater Bauer Cup and in several other games. Also Canadian scouts saw that he is very gifted playmaker, and an impressive scorer, a solid prospect.

Tomáš Kopecký (CSB Euro#27, 02-05-1982, 6’3″ 187 lb., C/W, Trencín – Extraliga, 57GP 3G-4A-7Pts, -8 24PIM) He had a lot of bad luck. His team had a very strong end to the season but Tomáš usually played only 5-10 shifts. However worse things happened later on. He suffered a wrist injury in the first game of WJC U18. That is the reason why he dropped from the #11 ranking. If he could have played a complete championship I feel for sure that he would be among the top 20 prospects.

All above kids should be picked in first five rounds.

Second category

If I take into consideration previous drafts I find out Slovak kids ranked in range #40 – 60 still have a good chance to be picked. Their chances are about 60-70%. The selection of the other kids (who are not in top 60) depends in many cases on their agents and not on their skills and qualities.

Luboš Velebný (CSB Euro#43, 02-09-1982, 6’2″ 189 lb., D, Zvolen Jr.) Strong defenseman with offensive feeling. He played mostly in Junior league but he skated in Extraliga and Division 1 as well.

Tomáš Frolo (CSB Euro#45, 01-26-1982, 6’1″ 189 lb., D, Zvolen Jr.) Luboš’ team-mate, another gifted defenseman with less experiences from senior leagues but still solid prospect.

Tomáš Malec (CSB Euro#47, 05-13-1982, 6’2″ 185 lb., D, Skalica Jr.) Strong and aggressive defenseman who should succeed in North America with his tough play.

František Skladaný (CSB Euro#58, 04-22-1982, 5’11” 180 lb., LW, Martin Jr.) and his “twin” from the same team Michal Macho (CSB Euro#95, 01-17-1982, 6’1″ 169 lb., RW/C, Martin Jr.) are very skilled forwards. They played on senior team but mostly on junior one. Their team – HC Martin played to win Division 1 in order to play in the Extraliga (finally they won Div.1) next season. That is why their coach preferred old veterans and Fero & Michal played irregularly. If they could play more games with seniors they would score much more goals and assists. In such case their ranking would be better too.

Peter Gajdoš (CSB Euro#90, 02-13-1982, 6’3″ 191 lb., C, Liptovský Mikuláš Jr.) He is a tall and strong center. Peter is Košice native but last season was spent on L. Mukuláš team in junior league and next season will probably be spent in major juniors.

Martin Zajac (CSB #76, 10-25-1981, 6’2″ 213 lb., D, Trencín – Extraliga) Strong and interesting D-man. Good mid-season ranking (#51) but… He was a key player on his mother’s team HC Nitra in Division 1. After his transfer to Extraliga he did not find a regular spot. Due to his age he could not play on WJC U18 and he was not in scouts focus.

Peter Frühauf (CSB #96, 08-15-1982, 6’1″ 187 lb., D, Prešov – Div. 1) One of the best scoring defensemen on WJC U18 but he fell in the CSB rankings and I do not know why.

Tomáš Harant (CSB #84, 04-28-1980, 6’3″ 180 lb., D, Žilina – Div.1). Another 20 year old prospect among Slovaks. He earned this ranking due to his presence on Slovak Olympic team where he surprised with a solid performance.

Jaroslav Prošvic (CSB #100, 02-23-1982, 6’1″ 187 lb., C, Skalica Jr.) Solid junior league scorer.

Third category

Players who should be ranked but were not.

Karol Križan (06-05-1980, 5’9″ 158 lb., GK, L. Mikuláš – Extraliga) Real big prospect, third season on senior team, good work ethic but complicated character causes him a lot of troubles. That is why he is not ranked. He was good enough to be #2 goalie of national team on World Championship in Russia but due to above reasons Slovak head coach fired him from the team. What a pity Karol makes stupid choices because he is an impressive goalie.

Tomáš Starosta (05-20-1981, 6’0″ 186 lb., D, Trencín – Extraliga) He is not huge but is a clever D-man. Very good on offense as well as on defense, good passer. I like his game.

Marek Svatoš (06-17-1982, 5’8″ 156 lb., C/RW, Košice – Extraliga & Jr.) Best scorer of the Junior league and added 19 games and 4 points on Extraliga. Amazing skater, stickhandler and shooter. Scouts ignored him due to his slight figure.

It looks like 50% of Slovaks have name Tomáš. Fortunately it is not true. Tomáš Oravec (03-13-1982, 5’11” 158 lb., RW, Žilina – Div.1) Another gifted scorer and playmaker from Division 1. He played pretty well on WJC U18 too, but needs to gain 10 – 15 pounds of muscle.

Other notable prospects:

Matúš Kostúr (1980, GK, Zvolen), Ján Homér (1980, D, Zlin – Czech Elite), Ladislav Harabín (1980, D, Poprad), Andrej Nedorost (1980, RW, Essen – German Elite), Lukáš Hvila (1981, C/W, Poprad Jr.), Roman Takác (1982, LW/C, Pr.George – WHL).

Fourth category
Swedish, Finns, Czechs and Russians feed the NHL with over-aged players every year. After a silver medal for the national team at WC 2000 the scouts found out Slovaks have solid over-aged players suitable for NHL too.

Lubomír Višnovský (08-11-1978, 5’10” 178 lb., D, Slovan Bratislava – Extraliga). He is the best Slovak defenseman playing in Europe. He is not tall and robust but he is an amazing skater (double winner in speed competition of Extraliga), stickhandler, passer as well as scorer. He dominates in +/- rating (+64) in the league. He is able to play a physical game as he proved in the World Championships against USA and Canada.

Richard Kapuš (02-09-1973, 6’0″ 200 lb., C, Slovan Bratislava – Extraliga). He does not lead the best scorers but he is a very valuable forward. He always plays solid games in the regular season but he really shines in important games (playoff, WC and EHL games). He loves mental games and scores winning goals. By the way Richard is the best face-off player among Slovaks.

Ján Pardavý (09-08-1971, 6’0″ 198 lb., RW, Vsetín – Czech Elite) Natural scorer. Last season he proved it in the Czech league as well. Solid acceleration and speed, soft hands and good selection of shots.

Peter Bartoš (09-05-1973, 6’0″ 182 lb., LW, Ceské Budejovice – Czech Elite) My favorite player. Inconspicuous forward but very valuable on offense as well as on defense. Excellent desire and work ethic, able to make good pass and/or to score.

Miroslav Hlinka (08-31-1972, 6’1″ 200 lb., C/W, Jokerit – Finnish Elite) Strong on his skates, tenacious forechecker who works hard. Maybe the best (Slovak) defending forward playing in Europe. Solid face-off player.

Peter Podhradský (12-10-1979, 6’2″ 189 lb., D, Slovan Bratislava – Extraliga) Tremendous progress, steady in physical games and able to score. He had to face strong criticism after the game against Canada (in WC 2000) but do not forget he is 20.

… and two veterans:

Lubomír Sekeráš (11-18-1968, 6’0″ 180 lb., D, Trinec – Czech Elite) proved he is still an excellent defenseman. Lubo is a good passer, big shooter from the point and controls the front of the net. He dominated at WC 2000 but he is probably too old to start in the NHL.

Vlastimil Plavucha (11-06-1968, 6’0″ 184 lb., RW, Zvolen – Extraliga) Vlasto is a natural scorer (43 goals and 29 assists in 52 games). He has been among the top Slovak scorers for more than 8 years. Last year he proved he was not a one-dimensional player by playing short-handed in a lot of games. Amazing speed and shot. But, he is 31.

My forecast for Slovak picks:

Pessimistic 7 picks
Realistic11 picks
Optimistic15 picks