Photo credit:Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds
Realistic expectations for Calgary Flames prospect Samuel Honzek at the World Junior Championships
1 month ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Presents have been unwrapped, and time has been spent with family for the holidays, but now we get to the real reason why hockey fans love the holiday season: the World Junior Championship. A tournament that lasts from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, comprised of a multitude of countries full of their best under-20 players, all attempting to bring home the glorious gold medal that some of the best players in the history of the sport have won. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
One player who will be representing the Calgary Flames organization at this prestigious tournament is Samuel Honzek, the team’s 16th overall selection in the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, TN. He will be sporting the jersey of his home country, Slovakia, who had a slightly depressing result in last year’s tournament, finishing 6th out of the 10 teams in the tournament. Additionally, he will be wearing the ‘A’ as an alternate captain along with Filip Mesar of the Montreal Canadiens and Adam Sýkora from the New York Rangers, named captain.
Honzek has only played five games so far this season due to injury, all coming with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, where he scored three goals and four assists for seven points. And because of those setbacks, it will be curious to see the kind of performance he’s able to put up against his peers.
So, with the first game of Slovakia’s tournament in the books–a strong 6-2 win over a Czechia team that just last year made it to the final game of last year’s tournament, losing out to Connor Bedard’s Team Canada–what are some realistic expectations for Honzek over the course of this tournament?
In the first game with Team Slovakia, Honzek tallied a goal and an assist. Here’s the clip of his goal, which would end up being the game-winning goal:
It’s good to see Honzek using his big frame and off-puck positioning to put himself in a position to score goals like the one above, and he did that most of the night.
As far as expectations go for the rest of the tournament, Slovakia will play the other teams in their group, Team Switzerland, Team Norway, and Team USA, with the USA game likely being the hardest of the bunch.
Considering what Honzek did both with and without the puck throughout the game for Team Slovakia, the expectation for him to score a lot should be high. Two points in the first game is a good start, and the likelihood that he adds to that total as a main player on the Slovak team is high, but the real test will be against Team USA. We know the kind of offence (and even the kind of defence) he can bring to every game, so his play against arguably the best team in the tournament will be the real test. Nonetheless, the expectations should probably hover around Honzek scoring at least a point per game (if not more) while also being a formidable defensive and transition presence over the course of the group stage of play.
Slovakia putting themselves in position for the knockout stages should also be a real possibility, and Honzek can help lead the charge.
Honzek’s performance for Slovakia in the first game against a rival team was impressive, and it’s important not only for his team but for his confidence, given the number of games he has played this season in total, to make these kinds of performances consistent over the group stage of play. Expectations should be high for him just to test the waters and see what he can do against the best of his peers.
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