By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com
Heading into the 2018 World Junior Championship, the Slovakian team was thought to have “the potential to emerge as a surprise contender,” according to SB Nation, and had “as good a chance as any of the lower clubs to sneak into the medal round.”
The Slovakian s never got past the quarterfinals, where they fell 3-2 to eventual silver medalist Sweden.
Roman Durny was solid in goal in that game, giving only three on 39 shots. The Anaheim Duck draft pick (147th, 2018) is a ‘98 and eligible for the 2019 tournament coming to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Durny was also in goal on Dec. 28, when the Slovaks upset Team USA 3-2. He had to make 43 saves for that win.
Two other goalies likely to be on the 2019 team are Dávid Hrenák and Jakub Kostelny, both of whom were on the 2018 squad. Hrenák is property of the Los Angeles Kings and will play his second season at St. Cloud State year. Kostelny is an undrafted 1999-born player. At 5’9”, 154 pounds, Kostelny doesn’t fit the mold of a modern goalie, but he did turn in a stellar performance in the 2017 U18 World Junior Championship, where he had a goals-against average of 0.58 and save percentage of .974 in a pair of games.
Defenseman Marek Korencik, also a ‘99, is an interesting undrafted prospect who will play another season in Sweden’s junior system. The big blueliner — he’s 6’3” and weighs more than 200 pounds — played five games in last year’s WJC, but recorded no goals or assists. He’s never put up big points. Will this be his breakout year?
Forward Filip Krivosik, who scored two of the Slovakian s three goals in their win over Team USA, is another fascinating prospect. He is also a ‘99, big (6’4”, 207), and undrafted. While he’s known for physical edge and corner worker, one preview noted before the 2018 WJC that he sometimes is able to make plays with the puck.
Milos Kelemen is another big forward who might impress at the 2019 WJC. He’s an undrafted ‘99 who could crack the top six in British Columbia. If he does, he’ll be expected to contribute more than just the single point — an assist — he put up last year.
Perhaps Slovakia’s most exciting player is 1999-born Milos Roman. The forward is only 5’11” and less than 190 pounds, but he is an elite playmaker. He had two goals and no assists in the last WJC, but another year of development with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, and a bit of a “home-ice” inspiration, should lead to some far better numbers.
Slovakia opens the tournament on the day after Christmas against the U.S. The Slovakians will be wanting to show it was no fluke. They’ll have to get A+ efforts from everyone to do that.