Slovakia is one of the more intriguing teams of the men’s hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Not because it’s expected to win gold or even compete for a medal, but because two of its top players — Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec — are the two youngest players competing at the Games. They’re just 17 years old, and both are likely to be selected early in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in July.
The Slovaks fell to Finland in their tournament opener early Thursday morning by a score of 6-2, but Slafkovsky, who’s the youngest player competing in the men’s tournament, gave fans in his home country a whole lot to cheer about.
Early in the first period, he opened the scoring from point-blank range where he cleaned up a rebound and roofed the puck past Finnish netminder Harri Sateri. He later scored again with a wicked wrister from the right faceoff dot to briefly shift momentum back in his squad’s favor.
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In the end, though, Slovakia was unable to keep up with the Finns in the scoring department. Finnish forward Sakari Manninen netted a hat trick while Harri Pesonen and Miro Aaltonen (who scored twice) both earned markers of their own.
While it was a disappointing start to the tournament for the Slovaks, the strong play of Slafkovsky certainly gives them something to build on going into their next tilt.
They’ll face off against Sweden Friday morning at 3:40 a.m. ET while Finland will next take the ice against Latvia Friday morning at 8:10 a.m. ET.