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2018 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Slovakia preview & roster

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Is the young Slovak squad a potential underdog or a relegation candidate?

Slovakia v Italy - 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

After a disappointing showing at the last World Junior Championship, Team Slovakia will look to bounce back in Buffalo. The Slovaks were eliminated in 2017 following a crushing 8-3 loss to Sweden, bowing out of the tournament after only playing five games. Unfortunately, luck does not seem to favour this year’s team either.

The 2018 squad looks set to face an uphill battle. Stuck in the more competitive Group A, the Slovaks will have to contend with perennial favourites Team Canada and Team USA, while also fending off a determined Team Finland and an upstart Team Denmark.

Not all hope is lost however, as Slovakia has the potential to emerge as a surprise contender. If returning forwards Adam Ruzicka and Marian Studenic can demonstrate some offensive prowess, while goaltender Dávid Hrenák holds down the fort in net, the Slovaks have as good a chance as any of the lower clubs to sneak into the medal round.

Team Slovakia final roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
30 Roman Durny G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
1 Dávid Hrenák G NCAA St. Cloud State University
2 Jakub Kostelny G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
5 Martin Bodák D WHL Kootenay Ice
6 Martin Fehérváry D Allsvenskan IK Oskarshamn
27 Samuel Fereta D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
3 Tomas Hedera D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
12 Michal Ivan D QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst Titan
7 Marek Korencik D SuperElit Luleå HF J20
9 David Matejovic D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
24 Vojtech Zelenak D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
13 Samuel Bucek F USHL Chicago Steel
14 Viliam Cacho F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
17 Milos Kelemen F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
16 Filip Krivosik F LeKi Mestis
20 Peter Kundrik F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
18 Adam Liska F OHL Kitchener Rangers
26 Milos Roman F WHL Vancouver Giants
21 Adam Ruzicka F OHL Sarnia Sting (CGY)
4 Erik Smolka F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
23 Samuel Solenský F NAHL Johnstown Tomahawks
19 Marian Studenic F OHL Hamilton Bulldogs (NJD)
25 Alex Tamasi F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20

Strengths

Team Slovakia will be led up front by forwards Ruzicka and Studenic. Having played on the 2017 squad, neither player is a stranger to the tournament.

Ruzicka has put up 39 points in 34 games with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting this season, scoring 20 goals and adding 19 assists. Meanwhile, Marian Studenic has scored 30 points in 32 games with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, tallying 13 goals and 17 assists.

They will be joined up front by fellow returnee, and draft eligible centre, Milos Roman, who has put up 29 points in 33 games with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. While among the newcomers, Samuel Solenský and Adam Liska will be tapped to provide offensive support as well.

Weaknesses

The Slovaks simply lack defencemen who can score. With the sole exception of Martin Bodák, who has 12 points on the year with the WHL’s Kootenay ICE, no other defenceman on the roster has scored points in the double digits. This is particularly concerning for a team that struggled to score at last year’s tournament.

Team Slovakia is also prone to taking too many penalties. Despite playing in only a handful games during the last World Junior Championship, Team Slovakia was the third-most penalized team in the entire tournament. The Slovaks took a mind-boggling 24 penalties over the course of 5 games. This is particularly concerning considering that the Slovakian penalty kill was abysmal and ranked dead last at the 2017 tournament.

X-Factor

Slovakia’s hopes will ultimately live and die with young goaltender Dávid Hrenák. Hrenák has been phenomenal in the NCAA, managing an excellent .942 SV% and 1.82 GAA over six games in his first year with St. Cloud State University. This follows his respectable stint with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, where he posted a solid .923 SV% and maintained a 2.24 GAA as a rookie.

Having to slog it out in a difficult Group A, the odds of getting out of the group stage seem stacked against Team Slovakia. But if Hrenák can continue his recent run, he might just be able to have a Godla-like performance to steal enough games to sneak the Slovaks into the medal round.