WJC Preview: Slovakia prepares to embark on Mission: Improbable

The Slovaks are considered a prime candidate for relegation, but there is enough talent on the roster for a surprise victory and the chance to play spoiler.
Author:
Publish date:
Slovak Ice Hockey Federation

Slovak Ice Hockey Federation

In all likelihood, Slovakia’s most important game of the round-robin will also be its final one of that round, with Kazakhstan as the opponent. The outcome will probably determine which team has to fight in the relegation series and which one gets a quarterfinal berth.

There’s a chance Slovakia could surprise one of the bigger fish in their pool, as the team does have some talent, but the depth is not there. Should the squad be competitive, they’ll need big performances from forwards Adam Ruzicka (Calgary), Milos Roman (Calgary) and Maxim Cajkovic (2019 draft). Ruzicka and Roman have already played in two previous WJCs, while Cajkovic emerged as a breakout star at the world under-18s last year, leading the tournament in assists and posting 11 points in five games. The youngster had great chemistry with linemate Oliver Okuliar at that event, and they could be reunited in Victoria.

On the back end, Slovakia looks shallow, though they will have some experience. Martin Fehervary (Washington) is the big name, and he’ll keep opposing forwards honest. Undrafted Michal Ivan and Marek Korencik are also eligible to return.

Whenever Slovakia has made a run at the world juniors, goaltending has always been the key, and the stars haven’t always been household names coming into the competition. Undrafted Juraj Sklenar has been playing the majority of games for the HK Orange 20 program, which acts as a feeder system for the national junior team, and at 6-foot-2, he has the requisite goalie size for this era. He also put up great numbers during a short stint with HK Nitra’s junior team this year.

Veteran coach Ernest Bokros returns behind the bench for Slovakia, and he has pretty much seen it all during his years at the tournament. – ryan kennedy

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_14041630
Play

Five Recent High-Dollar UFA Buys That Paid Off

It's not often big-ticket UFA buys end up keeping their teams in the black, value-wise. But these five from the 2010s were able to.

USATSI_16138587
Play

The Top 30 Unrestricted Free Agents of 2021

With the expansion draft in the rearview mirror, the UFA list isn't as bountiful as it was last week. Which big names are still out there?

USATSI_16154132_168393426_lowres
Play

Panthers, Bennett Agree to Four-Year Extension

The Florida Panthers have locked in Sam Bennett to a four-year, $17.6 million extension mere days before free agency