After a bronze medal victory in 2014-15, Slovakia is once again looking to take home a medal for themselves in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Arguably one of the most prestigious tournaments in all of hockey, Slovakia will once again be bringing a load of talented prospects to the international stage.
With returnees Martin Chromiak (LA Kings), and Samuel Knazko (Columbus Blue Jackets) leading the way, I am going to highlight a few other players you can keep an eye on. The Slovaks are in Group B and will be facing off against the likes of the USA, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland. While they are built to be the underdogs of the tournament, this will surely be an exciting group to watch as they clash against the best junior hockey players from around the world.
Arguably a top-three pick in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft, Slovakian defenceman Simon Nemec will have all eyes on him as he leads the blueline once again. The 17-year-old is among the returnees from last year’s squad and had four assists in five games during the 2021 World Juniors. This season, he has been finding success in the Slovak Men’s League, where he currently plays for HK Nitra and has 13 assists in 22 games. The success at the men’s level will allow for Nemec to play a more poised game when it comes to the World Juniors. In a higher-paced game, he will be able to use his flawless skating and mobility to maneuver around the opposition with ease and help create plays.
2004-born and top 2022 NHL draft prospect Šimon Nemec scored a beautiful shootout goal just minutes for Slovakia’s #U20 team.— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) September 2, 2020
Slovakia lost 6-1 in regulation, but this was still cool. #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/X5GbkBtJ2g
Nemec also represented Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup back in April. He was named Captain and finished the tourney with six points (one goal, five assists) in what was an unreal performance put on by the Slovaks that earned them a silver medal. He will likely take on a leadership role this year and even though he is just 17-year’s-old, he has the international experience to help tie the team and locker room together. With scouts already drooling over Nemec’s game, expect him to be lights out all-tourney.
Speaking of the 2022 NHL Draft, another top prospect who is returning to the Slovak squad is Juraj Slafkovsky. He was held pointless in five games last year but had a big showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup which saw him record nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games. The 6-foot-4 monster is a force to be reckoned with on the ice. He uses his large 225-pound frame to box opponents out and keep the puck on his stick. The big-bodied winger will be able to provide the Slovaks with a lot of force upfront while his elite mobility and shot will create many chances for his linemates.
Here’s a Juraj Slafkovsky move through the middle to help create a scoring chance. pic.twitter.com/kpoK3o6Mu7— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) August 27, 2021
Slafkovksy continues to play in Finland for the TPS program. He currently has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 11 games in the U-20 SM-sarja league, and has recorded four points while playing in the Finnish Men’s League (LIIGA). This will be a big tournament for not only Slovakia, but for Slafkovsky, as this will allow him to boost his draft stock even higher as he faces off against 2022 top-prospects Shane Wright, Ivan Miroshnichenko, and Joakim Kemell. With a number of forwards unable to return from last year’s team, expect him to play a major role in the line-up.
As we continue the talk of draft prospects, this list would not be complete without touching base on 2023 top-prospect Dalibor Dvorsky. Dvorsky took the hockey world by storm at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he registered 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in five games, helping capture a silver medal. He is not the only 2005 born prospect to be at the World Juniors this year. He will be accompanied by Canada’s Connor Bedard and Russia’s Matvei Michkov, both of whom are also considered “generational talents“.
Related: 2022 Guide to the World Juniors
This tournament will serve a big purpose for Dvorsky. While his draft year is still over a year away yet, he can assert dominance and insert his name into the talks of Bedard vs Michkov. After all, he only trailed Michkov by one point to lead the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
This year, Dvorsky is once again back in Sweden playing for the AIK program. He quickly amassed 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 20 games in the J-20 Nationell League – he has since been promoted to the HockeyAllsvenskan. The transition to the HockeyAllsvenskan has been a bit rough. Dvorsky currently has just one lone goal in 10 games but do not let that scare you. This is a 16-year-old playing in a men’s league, his game will continue to grow as he matures. He is considered to be Slovakia’s superstar and I expect him to be utilized as much as possible on the ice.
The Slovak’s have a lot of exciting talent making their way through the pipeline. This is an underdog squad that has all the potential to capture a bronze medal. After all, a number of the players on this roster won silver at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and will be wanting to chase the next big achievement. Slovakia will open the tournament up on Dec.26 against the United States.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
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.