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2019 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Slovakia preview & roster

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Slovakia, led by nine returning players, looks to get back in the medal hunt.

Sweden v Slovakia - Quarterfinal - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Slovakia has been in the top division of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship for 23 straight years since being promoted to the top group for the 1996 World Juniors. It has been feast or famine for the Slovaks, and unfortunately it has been a lot more famine for them.

They have two bronze medals in their history, most recently led by Martin Reway in 2015, and a fourth place finish but other than a fifth place finish in 2003, they have never been above sixth and their last three World Juniors saw them finish seventh twice, and eighth.

While being able to reach the quarterfinals every year since 2001 is notable, they have not been able to have much success in the playoff round.

Team Slovakia preliminary roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
2 Samuel Hlavaj G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
1 Jakub Kostelny G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
30 Juraj Sklenar G Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
14 Daniel Demo D SuperElit Luleå HF J20
8 Marcel Dlugos D Slovakia U20 MsHKM Zilina U20
6 Martin Fehervary D SHL HV71 (WSH)
9 Andrej Golian D Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
29 Michal Ivan D QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst Titan
7 Marek Korencik D SuperElit Luleå HF J20
22 Adam Ziak D Slovakia U20 MsHKM Zilina U20
24 Jozef Balaz F Czech HC Vitkovice
19 Mikos Fafrak F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
18 Patrik Hrehorcak F QMJHL Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
17 Milos Kelemen F Slovakia HKM Zvolen
27 Andrej Kollar F Slovakia Team Slovakia U20
13 Filip Krivosik F Liiga HPK
28 Andrej Kukuca F WHL Seattle Thunderbirds
23 Adam Liska F KHL Slovan Bratislava
25 Martin Pospisil F USHL Sioux City Musketeers (CGY)
15 Pavol Regenda F SuperElit Växjö Lakers HC J20
26 Milos Roman F WHL Vancouver Giants (CGY)
21 Adam Ruzicka F OHL Sarnia Sting (CGY)

Weaknesses

The biggest weakness for this Slovakia roster is the goaltending. Their two goaltenders who played last season are no longer eligible but their third goalie from a year ago, Jakub Kostelny comes back. Slovakia’s bronze medals were on the back of great goaltending performances from Jan Lasak and Denis Godla, and they will need their goaltender to stand on their head. In a group with Finland, Sweden, and the United States, their fate may come down to their game against Kazakhstan unless their goaltender can steal a game.

Strengths

In a tournament where experience is usually limited as turnover is high, Slovakia is returning nine players, including three on defence and five forwards. Yet, their average age is under 19 years old. Players like Washington Capitals second round pick Martin Fehevary will lead the defence, and a trio of Calgary Flames fourth round picks like Milos Roman, Adam Ruzicka, and Martin Pospisil will lead the way offensively. Ruzicka, who plays in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, is playing in his third World Junior tournament. Skilled players have always been Slovakia’s calling card and they have a big group of key players with at least one year of experience in the tournament. That could provide them with an added edge.

The Slovakian team keeps a lot of their under-20 team together for their regular season, so the familiarity they have with each other can be an added asset in a short tournament where chemistry is not easy to obtain.

X-Factor

Aside from Fehevary, who will be one of the players to watch in the entire tournament, one of the returning forwards for Slovakia is Adam Liska. Last year, he had 31 points in 62 games with the Kitchener Rangers but went undrafted in the NHL Draft. This year, he’s playing for Slovan Bratislava in the KHL and has two goals and five assists in 38 games this season. The deeper down the roster Slovakia gets contributions, the better they’ll be.

Another player to watch is 17-year-old forward Maxim Cajkovic. Cajkovic was a star at last year’s World Under-18 tournament finishing second to only Jack Hughes in tournament scoring with four goals and seven assists in five games. This year, the draft eligible forward is playing his first season in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs and has eight goals and 12 assists in 29 games.

He’s not listed as a top prospect necessarily, but a strong showing as an underager in the second consecutive World Championship would go a long way towards increasing his draft stock.