At last year’s world junior championship in Saskatoon, Slovakia was clearly a team on the decline. But one gangly kid on the blue-line caught my eye – and I wasn’t the only one who noticed him.
Martin Marincin had a great stride and yes, he needed to put some more meat on his six-foot-four frame, but that’s the type of thing that can be accomplished quite easily over time.
In the summer, the Oilers nabbed the big Slovak 46th overall at the draft. Meanwhile, Marincin was tabbed by the Western League’s Prince George Cougars in the CHL Import Draft and the young man was headed out to B.C. for the 2010-11 season. So far, it’s been all smiles in Prince George. Marincin leads the WHL in scoring by a defenseman with 35 points through 33 games and will suit up for Slovakia again this year at the world juniors in Buffalo, N.Y. He is one of several Edmonton prospects to look out for.
On Team Canada, goaltender Olivier Roy and left-winger Curtis Hamilton will rep the Copper and Blue. Netminding is a big question for Canada this year (and it certainly wasn’t the answer last time), so Roy and Phoenix draft pick Mark Visentin will have to be on their games. I believe Roy will get the first crack at the starter’s position. Hamilton, a power forward with the Saskatoon Blades, is one of a plethora of big, talented players tabbed by Canada coach Dave Cameron and he will be given free rein to bang around the ice.
Elsewhere, Swedish centre Anton Lander will be a key member of the Tre Kronor. Always lauded for his leadership skills, Lander is a great two-way forward who plays a responsible game. He’s having his best offensive season yet for Timra back in Sweden, too.
Sweden’s archenemy, Finland, will also have some Oilers flair in left-winger Toni Rajala. The gifted offensive sniper is back in Finland to complete mandatory military service after last year’s run with Brandon in the WHL. The change back to the European style of play threw Rajala off early this season, but playing against his age group again in Buffalo will change that.
Team USA’s Tyler Pitlick will find out today if he made the cut with the returning gold medallists.