Slovakia is generating a lot of hype heading into the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships, and for good reason. Slovaks have had some success at the World Juniors over the past decade, including winning bronze in 2014-15. The team featured future back-to-back Stanley Cup winner Erik Cernak, alongside Christian Jaros, Peter Cehlarik, and goaltender Denis Godla, who had a tremendous performance. The Slovaks look to rebound at this year’s World Juniors after six consecutive quarterfinal exits.
A majority of Slovakia’s roster last year has outgrown the tournament. The team had several 2001-born players such as assistant captain Michal Mrázik, who had three points in five games. This year, however, all eyes will be on the Slovak team more than ever as they have a plethora of young, talented prospects coming through the pipeline.
Forwards: Slafkovsky & Mesar Return for Redemption
One of the forwards who will be returning from last year’s squad is Martin Chromiak (Los Angeles Kings). He currently plays for the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Kingston Frontenacs where he has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 16 games and will be able to provide the team with some leadership. Another forward on the returnee list is Oleksii Myklukha, who currently plays for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and has accumulated 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 19 games, so far. Speaking of the QMJHL, watch for Matej Kalsik to make his return as well, he is on a tear right now with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and currently has 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 22 games. Expect Roman Faith, Jakub Kolenik, and Maros Jedlicka to also make their returns as 19-year-olds.
The last two returnees will be 17-year-old top prospects Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar, both of whom have been all over scouts’ radars. A storyline that has been followed by many, Slafkovsky is considered to be a top-10 pick at the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He currently plays in Finland for TPS in the under-20 SM-sarja league and has racked up 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 11 games. He was held pointless last year in the World Juniors as a 16-year-old, but he recently represented Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he had a stellar performance recording nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games. He is expected to have a big showing this tourney.
Filip Mesar on the other hand is a player who has quickly been making a name for himself and is soaring through the draft rankings. He is a quick playmaker who currently plays for HK Poprad in the Slovakian Men’s League. He has eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 games. He is considered by many in the scouting industry to be a top-15 pick at the 2022 NHL Draft.
A few names to keep an eye on are Alex Ciernik, Ondrej Molnar, Markus Suchý, Peter Repcik, and Servác Petrovský. Suchý is a teammate of Myklukha, where they both play for the Armada. Repcik has had a slow start to his season in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He currently has two assists in 19 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. While he has struggled so far, his tournament play at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup will likely allow for him to make the team.
Petrovský is a 2022 draft-eligible prospect playing with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL and has had a very strong start to his season. He currently is third on the team for points with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 19 games. Expect his name to pop up more frequently in draft rankings. Lastly, the 16-year-old phenom, Dalibor Dvorsky is a guaranteed lock. Dvorsky put up a flawless performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, registering 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in just five games. While his draft class is still a year and a half away, there has been an enormous amount of hype surrounding the kid. Expect him to battle hard against Russia’s Matvei Michkov, and Canada’s Connor Bedard as all three are considered top prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft.
Defence: It’s Nemec’s Time to Shine
All eyes will be on 2022 top prospect and returnee, Simon Nemec. He is an incredibly mobile offensive-defenceman who has all the intangibles to become an elite NHL defenceman. He had four assists at last year’s tournament and was the captain for the Slovak squad heading into the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Expect him to be on the top pairing along with last year’s captain and returnee Samuel Knazko (Columbus Blue Jackets), who is also playing in Finland with Slafkovsky.
You can expect Marko Stacha of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers to also be among the returnees. He has nine points in 19 games this season with the Blazers who are among one of the top teams in the WHL. Also among the returnees will be United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Simon Becar, who is actively playing with the Chicago Steel. Lastly, expect 19-year-old Rayen Petrovicky to also make his return to the blue line.
Jozef Viliam Kmec, a 17-year-old right-handed defender, is likely to be one of the new kids on the block this year. With nine points in 18 games for the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, I expect him to push hard for a roster spot. Watch out for 16-year-old Maxim Strbak and Boris Zabka to also crack the team.
Goalies: The Options are Available
The Slovaks will be without Samuel Hlavaj, and Eugen Rabcan this year as the 20-year-old’s are no longer eligible for the World Juniors. Expect returnee Simon Latkoczy of the USHL’s Madison Captials to be the starting goalie this time around. He currently has a record of 10-3-1, to go along with an goals-against average (GAA) of 3.04, and save percentage (SV%) of .899. As for the backup position, this could be filled by either 2022 prospect Rastislav Elias or Patrik Jurcak.
Both goalies represented Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Elias will likely assume the backup position. He is playing for the Green Bay Gamblers also of the USHL, and currently has a record of 2-4-0, while posting a 5.33 GAA and a .822 SV%. Jurcak is playing for HC Kosice in the Slovakia under-20 league. With goaltending options widely available, the Slovaks look to be solid between the pipes heading into the tournament.
Here is what I believe Slovakia’s roster will look like this year. This is a team that will be able to compete hard in their respective division. They are the underdogs once again this year, but with some luck from the hockey gods, the Slovaks could find themselves in a medal-wining scenario. With future NHL superstars like Slafkovsky, and Nemec, this will be a team that will surely attract attention around the hockey world.
THW Projected Team Slovakia Roster
Goalies: Simon Latkoczy, Rastislav Elias, Patrik Jurcak
Defensemen: Simon Nemec, Samuel Knazko, Marko Stacha, Rayen Petrovicky, Jozef Viliam Kmec, Simon Becar, Maxim Strbak, Boris Zabka
Forwards: Martin Chromiak, Juraj Slafkovksy, Roman Faith, Matej Kaslik, Dalibor Dvorsky, Filp Mesar, Oleksii Myklukha, Markus Suchý, Servác Petrovský, Jakub Kolenic, Ondrej Molnar, Alex Ciernik, Peter Repcik, Maros Jedicka
All the 2022 World Junior Championship Team Information:
Austria – Team Preview – Roster
Canada – Team Preview – Roster
Czech Republic – Team Preview – Roster
Finland – Team Preview – Roster
Germany – Team Preview – Roster
Russia – Team Preview – Roster
Slovakia – Team Preview – Roster
Sweden – Team Preview – Roster
Switzerland – Team Preview – Roster
United States – Team Preview – Roster
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die-hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been a part of his life. Now, Colton is exploring the sports media world and looking to make it a career. He currently covers the Winnipeg Jets, as well as contributes to World Juniors, and draft-related content. He is co-host of the WesternCentric Podcast, which revolves around the WHL.