Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

Goalies: The Slovaks were blessed with an incredible performance by Jaroslav Janus back in 2009, helping the team to a fantastic 4th place finish. Since then, the team has struggled to find a goaltender that could help replicate that level of success. That could change this year with Barrie Colts puckstopper Daniel Gibl. Gibl may only be an OHL backup, but with very little North American experience on the team, they could use all the help they can get. Gibl has served as Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup the past two seasons, and it’s very possible that playing behind the top rated goaltender for the 2015 NHL draft will prove to be a major plus heading into this tournament. The Slovaks will also be bringing two of their goalies from their junior team program, HK Orange. Denis Godla and David Okolicany, the two goalies within the program this year, play between the pipes for the national junior team that competes against former NHLers such as Jozef Stümpel and 1992 Hartford Whalers first rounder Robert Petrovický. Yes, those aren’t exactly future Hockey Hall of Famers right there, but the fact that they are playing against men is still impressive. Slovakia seems to always get a good showing from their goaltenders, whether it be Adam Nagy in 2013 or Richard Sabol in 2014, even though the Slovaks still seemed to get pummeled. Godla is the starter for HK Orange in league competition so it would be expected that he’ll get more action between the two goalies throughout the event.

IIHF Photo

IIHF Photo

Defensemen: So, uh, unless you are a hardcore Slovak fan, there is a good chance you haven’t heard of any of these defensemen. Well, you may have heard of Erik Černák, a potential option to be drafted in the top four rounds this year. In fact, he may be of just two Slovak defenseman chosen in the NHL Draft this year, the other being Swedish league defenseman Christián Jaroš. Other options on the blue line include Matúš Holenda, a 19-year-old that has seen limited ice time this year, multi-time Slovak representative Patrik Bačík (HK Orange’s top defensive scorer with three assists) and Lukáš Dubeň from the Czech U20. Don’t expect the defense to be doing the Slovaks any favours at this tournament.

Photo from Jakub Homoľa

Photo from Jakub Homoľa

Forwards: Last year, the team was aided by scoring stars Martin Réway, Dávid Gríger and Milan Kolena. This year, they will only have Réway back again. The HC Sparta Praha is only currently trailing Jaroslav Hlinka in team scoring, putting over a point per game in his first season in the Czech league. He does have experience on the smaller ice, having excelled with the Gatineau Olympiques in two seasons with the QMJHL club, and after posting ten points in five WJC games last year, it’s clear he’s got a knack for the net in these type of events. Additionally, the team will be lead by HK Orange scorer Matúš Sukeľ, who lead the team in scoring with ten goals at the time of the preliminary roster announcement. Other notables include Prince George Cougars forward Dávid Šoltés, who was solid at the 2012 U18 World Juniors, former Shawinigan Cataractes winger Patrik Koyš and another winger in Dominik Briestenský. Dávid Šoltés isn’t going to bring down the roof with his incredible offensive ways, but there was a reason that Prince George chose him 4th overall at the 2012 CHL Import Draft. Named one of Slovakia’s top three players at the 2013 U18 Juniors, expect Šoltés to put up some decent numbers for a team that is starved for talent.

Projection: Ask any Slovakian hockey fan what they think about this team and likely, it’s not positive. It’s not a good thing that most of the talk surrounding the team is about who didn’t make a team that didn’t have much of a chance in the first place. Odds are, they wont have to worry too much about relegation, but don’t expect them to finish better than eighth once again.

Check out Slovakia’s roster here.

Last five results:

2010: 8th Place

2011: 8th Place

2012: 6th Place

2013: 8th Place

2014: 8th Place

 

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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