When the NHL doesn’t participate in the Olympics, new stories can be written. One of this year’s best was Slovakia, which won its first Olympic hockey medal by defeating Sweden in the bronze medal game. A huge reason why the Slovaks won was young Juraj Slafkovsky, a draft-eligible forward that scored seven goals in seven matches. Slafkovsky was named tournament MVP by the IIHF.
In this tournament, most nations decided to take a more veteran group, but the 17-year-old Slafkovsky is the one who stood out the most. A brilliant mix of size and skill, the 6’4″ forward continues to climb up draft boards and make his case to be picked among the first few selections later this year. Amazingly, that seven-goal performance came after several other goalless appearances at the international level. In last year’s World Juniors, last year’s World Championship, last year’s Olympic qualifying, and this year’s shortened World Juniors–16 games in all–Slafkovsky had no goals and just a single assist.
If this is his coming-out party, it couldn’t have come at a better time. With limited action with TPS in Liiga this season, some teams may have not been extremely familiar with the young forward even if their European scouts were. They certainly will be now, only helping his stock rise as the year continues.
The rest of the tournament All-Star team has some familiar faces as well. It was as follows:
G Patrik Rybar (Slovakia)
D Mikko Lehtonen (Finland)
D Egor Yakovlev (ROC)
F Juraj Slafkovsky (Slovakia)
F Sakari Manninen (Finland)
F Lucas Wallmark (Sweden)