Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Slovakia prepares for World Under-18 tournament

HK Orange 20, the project run by the SZLH to improve Slovakia's results in the Under-20 and Under-18 tournaments has received its new set of youngsters, as Slovakia seeks to win promotion from the tournament in April. Slovakia find themselves in Division 1A, the second rung of the Under-18 after being relegated from the top division last year, and will be desperate to win the competition, which is being held in Piestany, and reclaim their place in the elite of the age group.

The Orange 20 side, who play their games in Puchov, two hours north-east of Bratislava is now focused on the Under-18 World Championships for the rest of the year, and there are a number of prospects who will be looking to use the experience they gain in the Extraliga and 1. Liga games in order to help bolster their chances of being drafted. Many of the elite Slovak youngsters see their junior career in the CHL, but for many prospects, playing for the Orange outfit is a way of gaining vital ice time against professional sides.

The new roster for Orange 20 is as follows:

Goalies: Michal Dovina (Dukla Trenčín), Richard Sabol (HC '05 Banská Bystrica)

Defence: Michal Valjent, (HC Slovan Bratislava), Richard Buri (HC Nitra), Martin Chrkavý (HC Topoľčany), Lubomir Dinda (HK SKP Poprad), Jakub Predajnianský (HC '05 Banská Bystrica), Tomáš Rusina (MHC Martin), Denis Šimek (HK Trnava), Peter Šohajda (HK 36 Skalica)

Forwards: Ján Blaško, Marko Daňo, Patrik Koyš (all Dukla Trenčín), David Gríger, Andreas Štrauch (both HK ŠKP Poprad), Stanislav Horanský, Dominik Rehák (both MsHK Žilina), Eduard Šimun (HC '05 Banská Bystrica), Milan Kolena (MHC Martin), Dávid Šoltés (HC Košice) Denis Šimurka (EHC Linz, Austria)

Marko Daňo during the World Junior Championships
Photo: Majo Srnik
The side have played two games at the time of writing, as they faced off against 1.liga sides HC Prešov 07 and HC 46 Bardejov, losing both games by scores of 6-3 and 7-3 respectively. This side will be relying heavily on the performances of  Marko Daňo, who was one of the finds of the World Junior Championships in Alberta, where he found himself on the top line for Slovakia in the final game against the Czech Republic.Another player who will be one to watch is sixteen year old Patrik Koyš. The former HK Dubnica junior has made big waves since his performances in the Under-18 league at the age of 14, scoring 52 points in 48 games. Since then he made the move to one of the Slovakian powerhouses, HK Dukla Trenčín, and has impressed, scoring 73 points in the Under-18's last year, before making the step up to the Under-20's this season, scoring 26 points in 27 games before moving to Puchov, where he scored two points (1+1) in the opening game against Bardejov, before being held scoreless against Prešov. Koyš, who entered the spotlight, especially in North America after an article from 2009 is a 2014 NHL draft eligible prospect, and it remains to be seen whether or not he will move to the CHL in the next couple of years, but the 6'0'' winger is certainly one to look out for.

Richard Sabol in action for Slovakia-20
Photo: Majo Srnik
The new Orange roster features two players who were on the International Scouting Service's radar, as netminder Richard Sabol, who was the third goalie for the Under-20's in Alberta is ranked eighth on the list of European netminders, whilst defenceman Richard Buri is listed as the 130th best European skater in the Mid-term rankings. The chances of these two getting drafted is unlikely, and if they do manage to get drafted, it will be in the later rounds. The captain of Orange 20 is now MHC Martin forward Martin Kolena, who has had a very impressive season for Martin so far, scoring 35 points in 29 games.

However, all is not great in the camp, as there are a number of notable absences. First the SZLH had issues with Poprad over the releasing of players to the Puchov program. Poprad, whose Under-18's face the prospect of relegation to the second tier were desperate to keep a hold of their 1994 born players in order to help them stay up. However, after missing the sides first game, the three Poprad prospects, Dinda, Štrauch and Griger were in the lineup, the latter having a goal and an assist against Prešov. Head coach of both the 18's and the 20's Ernest Bokroš has been working hard to try and get some of the prospects playing abroad to come and play for Orange, and whilst the likes of Denis Šimurka, who is currently part of EHC Linz's junior program in Austria joined the program, others from abroad have stayed put.

Most notably is forward Martin Reway, who has been Slovakia's best player in recent international tournament play has decided to stay with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic. Reway, who transfered to Martin's juniors after playing for home town Dolny Kubin is one of Slovakia's best prospects, and is having a sparkling debut season in the Czech Under-18's, scoring 41 points in just 17 games. Reway will be hoping to get time with the Under-20's for the rest of the season, and will be a major player for Slovakia Under-18 at the World Championship. That's if his medication for his asthma passes IIHF doping standards, which was a concern he recently eluded to an interview with HKm Zvolen forward Tomáš Török is also absent from the tournament, aiming to get an injury plagued season back on track after leaving HC Slavia Praha in the Summer. Matej Paulovic has also stayed away, electing to stay with Färjestad in Sweden. Paulovic, a lanky scorer made the move to Sweden after a great season for HC Topoľčany Under-18's scoring 62 points in 42 games. After a relatively slow start, Paulovic, an early 1995 born has certainly impressed, scoring 28 points in 17 J18 Elit games, and getting called up to the elite Swedish junior division, the SuperElit.

Promotion is a must for this cohort of Under-18's, and the chemistry that the players will hopefully get from playing together will go a long way to securing their future in the elite of the Under-18's in the world.

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