Slovakia, once a team on the rise with a talented group of forwards is now a team in decline. Players like Ziggy Palffy, Pavol Demitra and Peter Bondra have not been replaced. They are still being carried by players that are long in the tooth and there isn’t a lot of promising young players in the system.
Slovakia finished 4th in Vancouver, losing to Canada in the semi-finals. The 4th place finish in 2010 was the best finish for the Slovaks at the Olympic Games.
Round Robin Opponents
Slovakia will be competing in pool A along with Russia, United States and Slovenia.
Eight years ago, Slovakia had 23 forwards play at least one NHL game. Last season, they had only 6. Slovakia is a team in transition from veterans to youth, and their forward group represents that. Slovakia’s forward group is headlined by Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa. They have a plethora of young skilled players such as Richard Panik, Marko Dano and Tomas Tatar, that will comprise the majority of the bottom 6. The Slovaks are very thin at the centre position, forcing Michal Handzus and Tomas Kopecky into prime time minutes. They will have their hands full against the top teams in the tournament.
Marian Gaborik – Michal Handzus – Marian Hossa
Tomas Tatar – Tomas Kopecky – Miroslav Satan
Branko Radivojevic – Richard Panik – Marko Dano
Milan Bartovic – Tomas Zaborsky – Marcel Hossa
The Slovaks have a decent defence corps, led by Zdeno Chara. Chara will play big minutes for the Slovaks, which will give them a chance to win every game. The rest of the group is experienced and provides decent depth.
Zdeno Chara – Andrej Meszaros
Lubomir Visnovsky – Andrej Sekera
Milan Jurcina – Vladimir Mihalik
Slovakia’s strength is in goal. Jaroslav Halak is a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL and has the ability to get hot, as we saw at the Olympics in 2010 and in the 2010 playoffs with Montreal.
Most likely to get snubbed
Veteran goaltender Rastislav Stana will likely be unable to crack the roster, as the starter and backup spots look to be locked up. Slovak management will likely want to bring a young goaltender in Jaroslav Janus of the KHL to groom him to eventually take of the starting role.
Slovakia will have a tough time in their pool, having to play Russia and USA. With some of their high end talent, they are capable of an upset and are likely destined for the quarterfinals. That’s likely as far as they will go, as they will come up against one of the powerhouse nations with more depth.
Other Roster Previews:
November 11: Russia
November 12: USA
November 13: Sweden
November 14: Czech Republic
November 18: Slovakia
November 19: Switzerland
November 20: Finland
November 21: Canada
November 26: Latvia
November 28: Austria
December 2: Norway
December 3: Slovenia
Follow Ryan Biech on Twitter: @ryanbiech