clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

World Juniors 2016: Slovakia team preview

Can Team Slovakia replicate last year's surprise success?

Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Slovakia pulled off a stunning upset at last year's World Junior Championship, defeating Sweden to capture the bronze medal. Buoyed by strong performances from goaltender Denis Godla (one which earned him MVP honours) and team captain Martin Reway, the Slovaks equaled their best ever showing at the tournament and broke a 15-year medal drought in the process.

Despite their surprise finish last year, Slovakia has not been a traditional powerhouse at this tournament (having placed above fifth place only three times in the 20 years that they have participated). This year's Slovak squad will have to make do without the services of Godla and Reway, both no longer eligible to take part in the tournament.

Not all hope is lost for Slovakia, as the country will be competing in the weaker Group B (which includes Russia, Belarus, Finland and the Czech Republic). Though the Slovaks will still face an uphill battle in this group, their chances look a bit brighter than they would in Group A (which includes perennial WJC medal contenders Canada, Sweden and the United States).

Preliminary Roster

PLAYER POS LEAGUE CURRENT TEAM
David Hrenak G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Adam Huska G USHL Green Bay Gamblers
Stanislav Skorvanek G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Erik Cernak D OHL Erie Otters
Samuel Ivanic D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Christian Jaros D Allsvenskan Asploven
Patrik Koch D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Patrik Maier D WHL Kamloops Blazers
Matej Moravcik D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Ladislav Romancik D SuperElit (SWE) Sodertalje SK J20
Adrian Sloboda D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Radovan Bondra F WHL Vancouver Giants
Dominik Briestensky F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Lukas Hrusik F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Jozef Huna F Czech2 HC Benatky nad Jizerou
Filip Lestan F SuperElit (SWE) HV71 J20
Juraj Mily F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Matej Palocko F Czech2 HC Benatky nad Jizerou
Kristian Pospisil F QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Boris Sadecky F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Juraj Siska F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Matus Sukel F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
Maros Surovy F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20

Strengths

Returning veteran Erik Cernak, named an alternate captain for the tournament, will be looked upon to lead Slovakia's defence corps. The 6'3", 203-pound defenseman has put up eight points in 18 games this season with the OHL's Erie Otters and has accumulated an impressive total of eight penalty minutes in that time span. The Los Angeles Kings' 2015 second-rounder is a highly disciplined blue-liner, who is known for his physical play and defensive acumen.


Up front, the Slovaks will be depending on budding forward Kristian Pospisil. The 19-year-old has scored 24 points in 29 games with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL and leads the Slovaks in goals scored this season with 15. No other Slovakian forward has scored more than seven goals this season.


Pospisil is also no stranger to representing Team Slovakia on the international stage, having suited up for the U18 World Championship (scoring two points in five games).

Weaknesses

This Slovakian squad will be lacking experience. Only Erik Cernak, Christian Jaros, Radovan Bondra and Matus Sukel will be returning from the 2015 Slovakian team, and the four combined to produce one goal and three assists during the last tournament. The Slovaks have neither offensive nor defensive depth, icing only four players who have scored points in the double digits in any professional hockey league.

The team also faces a precarious situation in net. Outside of Adam Huska's stellar play this season, both backup goaltenders — Stanislav Skorvanek and David Hrenak — are coming into this tournament with a sub-.900 save percentage and a goals-against average above 4.00.

Slovakia's power play is another area of concern. Under head coach Ernest Bokros's tenure, the team's power play has ranked no higher than seventh at any particular tournament over the last four years. Last year's team only managed to score two goals on 18 power-play opportunities (a conversion rate of 11.1%). For a team that is going to have difficulty scoring goals at even strength, having an ineffective power play will only serve to further hinder the team.

X-Factor

As it was the case last year, Slovakia's success in this tournament hinges on receiving a strong performance in net. This year, the Slovaks will be depending on New York Rangers seventh-round pick Adam Huska to hold down the fort. The young goaltender is off to a strong start with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL this season, boasting a league-leading .942 SV% and 1.65 GAA over 17 games. Notably, he is the only goaltender in the league to post a GAA under 2.00.

Slovakia will benefit from placing in the weaker of the two groups, avoiding early matchups against Canada, Sweden and the United States. A relatively weak group, combined with opportune goal-scoring and hot goaltending may just be enough to sneak the Slovaks out of the group stage and into the medal rounds.