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2023 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Slovakia preview & roster

With no Juraj Slafkovský, Slovakia will have to rely on its other 2022 first-rounders to challenge for a medal.

Finland v Slovakia: Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images

Before we start, let’s be clear about one thing: Slovakia would be a medal contender if Juraj Slafkovský were on the roster. Neither Sweden nor Finland looks as strong as they usually do, and the Olympic MVP, World Championship performer, and Montreal Canadiens first overall draft pick could have exploited that, maybe not just by his play, but also in the belief in the team his presence would provide.

Slovakia is still far from a bad team. Budding NHL prospects Šimon Nemec and Filip Mešár will make this team play well and get them to the quarter-finals, however Slafkovský would have gotten this team even further.

This leaves it up to Nemec and Mešár to drive play and get the puck into the net, and there are teams that rely on lesser prospects aiming for the medals. Slovakia wil stand or fall with their two stars, and they could really stand tall and be counted among the top four.

Mešár is currently on a really good season in the OHL, with over a point-per-game average, whereas Nemec is having a stellar season in the AHL with the Utica Comets. Those two will be the pillars on which Slovakia’s chances rest upon.

Team Slovakia preliminary roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
1 Patrik Andrisik G Slovakia 2 HK Brezno
30 Adam Gajan G NAHL Chippewa Steel
29 Matej Marinov G USHL Fargo Force
3 Simon Becar D NAHL Corpus Christi IceRays
12 Pavol Funtek D SM-sarja Ketterä
16 Simon Groch D Extraliga HK Spisska Nova Ves
6 Viliam Kmec D WHL Prince George Cougars
17 Michal Laurencik D Slovakia 2 HC Topolcany
8 Marian Mosko D USHL Lincoln Stars
5 Dávid Nátny D Extraliga HC Presov
7 Simon Nemec D AHL Utica Comets (NJD)
4 Maxim Strbak D USHL Sioux Falls Stampede (2023)
27 Boris Zabka D Extraliga HC Slovan Bratislava
13 Robert Baco F WHL Moose Jaw Warriors
22 Alex Ciernik F HockeyAllsvenskan Södertälje SK (2023)
11 Tim Danielcak F Czech U20 HC Litvinov U20
25 Frantisek Dej F Slovakia 2 HC Modre Kridla Slovan (2023)
15 Dalibor Dvorský F HockeyAllsvenskan AIK (2023)
19 Samuel Honzek F WHL Vancouver Giants (2023)
10 Filip Mesar F OHL Kitchener Rangers (MTL)
23 Martin Misiak F Extraliga HC Nove Zamky (2023)
20 Libor Nemec F SM-sarja Lukko
18 Servác Petrovský F OHL Owen Sound Attack (MIN)
21 Peter Repcik F QMJHL Charlottetown Islanders
28 Alex Sotek F Extraliga HC Modre Kridla Slovan
26 Marcel Stefancik F J20 Nationell Luleå HF
14 Adam Sýkora F Extraliga HK Nitra (NYR)
9 Adam Zlnka F USHL Sioux Falls Stampede (ARI)

Strengths

It will come down to the counter-attacks and the special teams for Slovakia to succeed, and that will be on Nemec’s shoulders to manage. You can simply follow his numbers in regards to both ice time and points to know if Slovakia has progressed on this front and beaten the expectations that most scouts had before the tournament. Most Montreal Canadiens fans would look to Mešár to fill the offensive void of Slafkovský, but it is Nemec who is the heart of this team.

Weaknesses

The goalies take centre stage as the question marks, Slovakia needs one of Patrik Andrisik, Matej Marinov, and Adam Gajan to step up in a big way. It might be a goaltending by committee situation as there is no standout main option, but the coaching team can choose whomever suits the opponent the best. The problem might be that confidence is shattered, or the fact that the coaching team overthinks the situation and just picks the wrong one.

Projection

If the team does well, it will challenge for a medal, however it may come down to beating Finland in the group stage to make that happen, something they haven’t achieved very often.

They could just as easily end up in the relegation battle if an early result doesn’t go in their favour and they lose confidence. That scenario really shouldn’t emerge with the talent they have, but they need to find consistency from the start in order to find success in this World Juniors.


McKeen’s Slovak scout Matej Deraj joins the podcast to talk about Slovakia’s chances in the World Junior Championship.