Slovenia Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Projecting 25-Man Roster for Sochi Games

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2013

Slovenia Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Projecting 25-Man Roster for Sochi Games

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    When Slovenia went to a qualifying tournament in Denmark this past February with Belarus, Denmark and the Ukraine, there were no expectations that it would emerge as the team that would earn the last berth in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

    Yet that's just what happened. Not only did the underdog Slovenians win all three games, they did it in dominating fashion, by a 12-4 margin.

    The Slovenians should be quite a bit stronger in the Olympics than they were in February because they will have Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar in the lineup. Kopitar was genuinely shocked that his Slovenian teammates played well enough to qualify, and he pledged to join them in the Olympics.

    Kopitar's brother Gasper plays on the team, and their father, Matjaz, coaches the Slovenians.

    The team should be loose and able to skate free and easy throughout the tournament because the Slovenians will not have to battle any expectations or pressure against their highly touted opponents.

     

     

     

Top Candidates for Olympic Roster

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    Slovenia will likely go with the same roster it had in February when it qualified to compete in the Olympic ice hockey tournament.

    In addition to those players, they will be joined by Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.

    G

    Andrej Hočevar

     

     

    Ukraine Sokol Kyiv

    G

    Robert Kristan

     

     

    Slovakia HK Nitra

    G

    Luka Gračnar

     

     

    Austria Red Bull Salzburg

    D

    Andrej Tavželj

     

     

    France Dragons de Rouen

    D

    Blaž Gregorc

     

     

    Denmark Odense IK

    D

    Žiga Pavlin

     

     

    Sweden Rögle BK

    D

    Klemen Pretnar

     

     

    Austria EC VSV

    D

    AleŠ Kranjc

     

     

    Germany Kölner Haie

    D

    Mitja Robar

     

     

    Germany Krefeld Pinguine

    D

    Sabahudin Kovačevič

     

     

    Slovakia HK Poprad

    F

    Žiga Jeglič

     

     

    Sweden Södertälje SK

    F

    Tomaž Razingar

     

     

    Germany EV Ravensburg

    F

    Luka BaŠič

     

     

    France Gothiques d'Amiens

    F

    David Rodman

     

     

    Germany Bietigheim Steelers

    F

    GaŠper Kopitar

     

     

    Sweden Mora IK

    F

    Žiga Pance

     

     

    Slovenia HDD Telemach Olimpija Ljubljana

    F

    Jan Urbas

     

     

    Sweden Växjö Lakers

    F

    Marcel Rodman

     

     

    Germany Bietigheim Steelers

    F

    Rok Tičar

     

     

    Germany Kölner Haie

    F

    Robert Sabolič

     

     

    Germany ERC Ingolstadt

    F

    BoŠtjan Goličič

     

     

    France Diables Rouges de Briançon

    F

    Rok Pajič

     

     

    Italy HC Pustertal Wölfe

    F

    AleŠ MuŠič

     

     

    Slovenia HDD Telemach Olimpija Ljubljana

    F

    Anze Kopita

     

     

    Los Angeles Kings

Goaltender Breakdown

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    Projected Starter: Robert Kristan

    Kristan has an excellent chance to start for Slovenia. He had a 1.50 goals-against average in the Olympic hockey qualifying tournament. He demonstrated a quick glove hand and solid instincts.

     

    Projected Backups: Andrej Hocevar and Luka Gracnar

    While Hocevar and Gracnar have both demonstrated some ability, neither one has the confidence of the coaching staff to supplant Kristan.

Projected Defensive Pairings

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    Projected Defensive Pairings

    PairingPlayerPlayer
    1Andrej TavzeljKlemen Pretnar
    2Blaz GregoricZiga Pavlin
    3Ales KranjcMitja Robar

    The Slovenian defense did a solid job in their three-game run that earned them their spot in the Olympics. Tavzelj and Pretnac have shown some offensive ability in addition to being able to cover in their own zone.

    Tavzelj had one assist in the three qualifying games and also finished plus-one overall. Pretnac had those same stats, but he also registered five shots on goal. Gregoric also had an assist in the qualifying games and added five shots on goal

Projected Forward Lines

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    Projected Forward Lines

    LineLWCRW
    1Gasper KopitarAnze KopitarDavid Rodman
    2Rok TicarZiga JeglicJan Urbas
    3Robert SabolicTomas RazingarMarcel Rodman
    4Ales MusicLuka BasicZiga Pance

    The Slovenian team is going to get a huge bonus with the addition of Anze Kopitar. He will almost certainly play with his brother Gasper and the Slovenians' most productive offensive player, David Rodman.

    Anze Kopitar will be quite inspired to play for his homeland with his brother playing next to him and his father coaching the team.

    If Anze Kopitar is at his best, he is capable of dominating a game. Rodman showed in the qualifying tournament that he was a capable scorer with six points in the three games.

    Rok Ticar and Jan Urbas proved capable scorers at the international level as well with four points each in those three games.

Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses

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    Strengths

    World-Class Star: When Anze Kopitar is at his best, he is capable of being the best player on the ice in a given game. That means that Slovenia is going to be able to ride its superstar as far as it can. Kopitar has scored at least 20 goals in every full NHL season he has played. Kopitar sees the ice well, he can make key plays on the defensive end and knows how to play his best when the game is on the line.

    Underdog Status: Slovenia has never made it to the Olympics in the past, and it's been considered a major upset that they even reached the quadrennial event. There's no pressure on Slovenia, so the team will be be loose and carefree when it takes the ice in pressure situations.

     

    Weaknesses

    Inexperience and Talent Deficiency: The Slovenians have never been up against the best teams in the world when they are playing for something as valuable as an Olympic medal. While they won't feel pressure, the Slovenians are going to see wave after wave of skilled players, so it's doubtful they will be prepared for the situation.

    Schedule: The Slovenians are in Group "A" with Russia, Slovakia and the United States. If they can stay with any of those opponents for more than one period, it will be considered a major upset.

Most Important Players

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    Anze Kopitar, Center

    It's impossible to overstate what Kopitar can do. However, hockey is not a one-man game and one of the best things that Kopitar can do is make his teammates better players. He certainly has that impact when he plays for the Kings, and it could happen at the Olympic level as well.

     

    David Rodman, Forward

    The Slovenians got timely scoring from Rodman when they qualified for the Olympics in the preliminary tournament in February. Rodman scored four goals and had two assists in the three games, and he managed to score his goals on just eight shots. Rodman scored 12 goals and had 33 assists while playing in Germany last year.

     

    Robert Kristan, Goaltender

    Kristan had a remarkable run in the qualifying tournament, as he gave up just three goals in 120 minutes of action. Kristan has played solid hockey in the Austrian League for the last four years. He had a 2.21 goals-against average in 2011-12.

Olympic Prediction

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    The Slovenians are in the Olympic hockey tournament, and that's a very proud achievement for them. It represents a huge step for the program.

    However, qualifying to play on the big stage and actually winning a game are two different things. The Slovenians might actually have a chance to win a game if they had been in a different pool, but they are in the same draw as the United States, the Russians and the Slovakians. None of those teams will be able to afford giving away points to an opponent they should be able to dominate.

    The presence of Anze Kopitar will make the Slovenians somewhat tougher, but they they don't have the depth of talent or experience needed to play 60 competitive minutes against any of their rivals.

    If they can stay within two goals after 40 minutes, they should consider it a moral victory.

    Prediction: 0-3, and it's unlikely that any of the games will be close.