2022 IIHF World Juniors Preview: Slovakiaby Carson Babbini December 26, 2021 1 comment
Slovakia will once again have a rough hill to climb at the World Juniors. After finishing fourth in their group in the prelims, Slovakia had a quick exit from the playoffs losing to the United States 5-2. The team will have a new head coach this season with Ivan Fenes leading the charge behind the bench this time around. In this year’s tournament, Slovakia is in group B along with the United States, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland. Let’s take a look at the Slovakia roster for this year’s tournament.
Make sure to check out all of our other IIHF World Juniors Previews.
There are many players returning to this team and it starts right up front with the forward core. Martin Chromiak is one of the bigger names returning to this year’s squad. Chromiak, a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2020 NHL Draft, will have to step up his offensive production this time around with only one goal in last year’s tournament. Chromiak is very capable of scoring as he currently has 32 points in 23 games for the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL.
The other drafted player on the team is Jakub Demek who will be making his World Juniors debut this year. Demek has shown signs of offensive firepower with 35 points in 28 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL. Demek was a fourth-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 NHL Draft.
There are also multiple 2022 draft prospects who will be on this year’s Slovakia team to keep an eye on. The biggest name of those prospects in the forward group has to be Juraj Slafkovsky, who comes into this year’s tournament with something to prove after being held scoreless last year. Slafkovsky is currently thought by many to be a first-round talent in this year’s draft. He hasn’t been able to show his scoring touch in Liiga, the premier hockey league in Finland quite yet, with only four points in 20 games for TPS, but this will be the chance for Slafkovsky to get on many scouts’ radar.
The Slovakian defensive core will once again be led by Simon Nemec, who was the top scorer for Slovakia at last year’s tournament with four points in five games. Nemec is another 2022 draft prospect that many predict could easily go in the first round, if not top ten or top five. He has shown his offensive prowess playing for HK Nitra in Slovakia this season with 13 points in 22 games and comes into this year’s World Juniors looking to solidify his spot as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class.
Nemec is far and away the best blueliner in this year’s core for Slovakia, but the captain of this year’s team, Samuel Knazko, could be considered the next best defenseman. Knazko was a third-round pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2020 NHL Draft spending most of his time this season on loan to TPS, playing on their U20 team, scoring 14 points in 15 games. He has scored four points in five games when given a chance for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL, but he’ll need to have a big tournament on both ends of the ice if he wants to lead his team to success.
Manning the crease once again for Slovakia this year will most likely be Simon Latkoczy. Latkoczy comes into this year’s World Juniors after starting in three games during last year’s tournament, posting a .922 save percentage and a 2.61 goals-against average. In his 17 appearances this year for the Madison Capitols in the USHL, Latkoczy has a .892 save percentage and a 3.21 goals against average. His backup this time around will most likely be Rastislav Elias, who will be making his World Juniors debut. Elias is also a 2022 draft prospect who will look to make the most of whatever opportunities he may get during the tournament. Playing currently in the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers, Elias has a .849 save percentage and a 4.78 goals against average but has some international experience in tournaments like the Hlinka Cup as well.
The third goalie on the team is Tomas Bolo, who also will be making his World Juniors debut. Bolo currently plays in the NAHL, starting most games for the St. Cloud Norsemen. During this season, Bolo currently holds a .904 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average. While Bolo might not get much action, if any, at the World Juniors, he is more than capable of filling in if he is needed for Slovakia.
Player to Keep an Eye On
Simon Nemec, 17, Defenseman, HK Nitra (Slovakia)/2022 Draft Eligible
As mentioned earlier, Nemec is the highest touted prospect on this team, which makes him the player to keep an eye on as the tournament gets underway. With his offensive prowess, Nemec will more than likely once again be a key piece of the Slovakian offense and has shown that he is able to live up to the challenge. With a good performance in this year’s tournament, Nemec could continue to improve his draft stock, and may even cement himself as a top-five pick.
The schedule doesn’t start easy for Slovakia as they face the defending champion United States team in their first game tonight. They then face Sweden tomorrow, Russia on Wednesday, and Switzerland Thursday to end group play. There is certainly a daunting task ahead of Slovakia in this group, but they should be able to make it out of group play. This year, unfortunately, it appears that a medal won’t be in the cards for Slovakia, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make a strong team.
Prediction For Slovakia: Non-Medal Finish
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