Craig Ramsay returned to Slovakia after a month and a half at home in Florida. He is already fully following the events in the leagues, especially in the Czech and Slovak, from where, together with the team management, he selected the players for the first nomination for the November German Cup.
At the tournament in Krefeld, he wants to try and see players who he did not yet have in the national team or who were not in it during the August Olympic qualification. He gives Nitra as an example from the extra league, from where they nominated up to four hockey players.
Zdeno Chára can no longer chase the players around the field, but he still has something to give the team towards the Winter Olympics, says CRAIG RAMSAY
How are you and what do you say to the matches you have seen so far in the new season?
“I feel great, I enjoy having our hockey season back. Recently I liked the duel in Nitra against Nový Zámky, where a goal was scored in a weakening of five against three, also in a power play, and an extra time came into it. Overall, I saw several new players, including young boys. Not only in Nitra, but, for example, also in Slovan Bratislava, where I liked Andrej Golian. ”
You can and want to try on the German Cup. Most players probably don’t have a good chance towards the Beijing Winter Olympics …
“By approaching the national team, we never know what will happen. Players know what they need to do to be successful on the national team. We are also constantly looking for new hockey players to whom we want to give a chance. They have to fight hard, have speed and skate well. We also have surprises every year at a big tournament. ”
This is not the first time you have reached for several hockey players from Nitra. What can you say about that?
“I often talk to manager Tomáš Chrenko. I am glad that they not only give young players a chance, but also offer them a lot of space on the ice. Then they move and can play internationally. However, it is not about looking at only one club and choosing reinforcements for the national team from there. It is also related to the fact that at the beginning of the season, Nitra is at the forefront of productivity and performs well. ”
The Slovak Extraliga, from an economic point of view only, will never be one of the best competitions in Europe, as clubs cannot afford to pay for the best hockey players. Is Nitra, which annually pushes talents or a bit of forgotten hockey players, an example of how to do it?
“I believe it is the way. If you look at the NHL, each team works after the draft to engage young players in the lineup. Therefore, they often have to sacrifice something so that they do not give them the opportunity for just a few minutes in two or three matches. An example is now Fehérváry, whom he finally trusts in Washington and Martin repays them with excellent performances. In Slovakia, it is not just about Nitra. I have already mentioned Goliana in Slovana Bratislava, I also like how much Filip Mešár plays in Poprad, or other young players. ”
You mentioned Mešár, who will get the first chance in the senior national team. Why did you decide not to call the duo Juraj Slafkovský – Šimon Nemec?
“We have seen enough of both. We know what the players are. They have had enough lately and they are also waiting for the demanding junior world championships. We gave them a break and others get a chance. As for Mešár, I like how mature he plays for his age. He gets a puck, he doesn’t panic, he doesn’t throw it away, he skates well. I appreciate that the coaches in Poprad give him so many opportunities and use him not only in power play, but also in weaknesses. They deserve respect for that. ”
The prestigious overseas magazine The Athletic ranked the three young men in the top thirteen for next year’s NHL draft. What do you think about it?
“It’s exciting for Slovak hockey, and for me. All the coaches who have worked and are working with the boys deserve recognition. All three are modern hockey players and top world talents. The best proof is that we used the three teenagers as members of the basic line-up at the World Championships and in the Olympic qualification, which proves something. ”
You are also nominated by Samuel Kňažek, who played well for the national team in the last two tournaments. However, his situation in TPS Turku is difficult, as he usually only joins as a junior. What do you say to that?
“It is difficult to understand at a distance. I trust him myself. He played very well at the World Championships. We wanted to show him that we were still counting on him. He will be given space to enjoy it at the German Cup. He has a difficult situation in the club, maybe we will help him with other matches for the national team. ”
In the August qualification, you missed the previously regularly representing Michal Krištof, who was helped by the club change in Comet Brno. What do you say to his nomination?
“It is important to emphasize that we gave other players a chance in August, but that does not mean that we are depreciating hockey players we already know well. We want to show them that we are still watching them and if they play at a high level of performance, they will get another chance to play in the national team. However, we do not take someone on the team because he was in it in the past. Everyone must deserve a nomination for performance. I like Miša as a player, as well as a person. We also need hockey players in Krefeld to give the team experience. ”
You have chosen players from the Slovak and Czech extra leagues for the German Cup. Do you follow others?
“I was here for a few weeks and at the beginning I struggled with a time lag. Hockey players in other leagues are primarily monitored by Oto Haščák, who reports to me regularly. He has a lot of contacts all over Europe and thanks to them a great overview. Currently, we don’t want to select a lineup for the Winter Olympics, but we need to see more players. The team for the German Cup will probably be different than the next one for the December tournament in Switzerland. ”
Peter Cehlárik also shows his shooting potential in Omsk with the defending champions in the KHL. He was injured for two weeks now, but overall he followed up well on the national team. Did the world championship, where he became the best striker of the tournament, help him to have a similar confidence?
“He played well for the national team last season. Together with Marek Hrivík, they gave top performances in all situations, whether in overpowering or weakening. I was kidnapped from both of them and I’m not surprised that they are doing well after the transition to the KHL. Our style, which we prefer in the national team, is based on offensive and attacking, which also helps players towards quality clubs. ”
In the last week, an amazing solo across the entire rink by Kristián Pospíšil, which ended in a goal, attracted attention in the Finnish league. What do you say to him?
“He is a unique player who can do it. When I saw his amazing goal, I remembered the legendary Pierre Turgeon we waved at the Buffalo Sabers. He was also able to turn his legs similarly to the sides and skate. However, it is unbelievable that Kristián skated the whole field in this way. I was similarly impressed by Fehérváry’s first goal in the NHL. ”
The beginning of the season overseas indicated that you should be confident in the squadron for the Winter Olympics, especially in defense, where you can see up to five backs from across the Atlantic. How do you see it?
“I have been with the Slovak national team for five years and we see the growth of young defenders who have moved to the highest level. The best example is the two-time Stanley Cup winner Erik Černák, mentioned by Fehérváry, or Christián Jaroš. Andrej Sekera is again an experienced fighter. It will definitely be easier for players to play in Beijing against the best in the world when they are used to skating against them in the NHL. ”
You keep talking about speed and skating. Can you imagine that Zdeno Chára will strengthen you in Beijing?
“Yes, because Zdeno is a very intelligent player. And it has one big advantage over the others: it’s huge and can work well with a hockey stick in defense. It is also improving in Islanders who play fast. Of course, he can’t race with players up and down, but there can still be a big boost to weakening and defensive activities. I hope to have a chance to talk to him about the national team. ”
What do you say about the situation of Tomáš Tatar, who is currently unable to go to China due to missing visas to the USA?
“First and foremost, it should be the job of leading the New Jersey Devils. I worked as an assistant manager in Buffalo myself and was in charge of similar things. There is still enough time to resolve this. Tomas is one of our key players we need for the Olympic team. I believe that his situation will be resolved. It would be a shame if it didn’t happen. ”
Hockey will also shine in the “bubble”
The hockey tournament in Pyongyang was a disappointment in quality. Most of the teams only built their bullies, as the NHL did not agree with the International Olympic Committee at the start of the best players in the world. It is all the more positive that the hockey elite of the planet will return in Beijing.
The overseas profiliga still left the back door ajar for the pandemic, but everything points to a positive end. The advantage is that almost the entire NHL is vaccinated against COVID-19. Excitement is aroused by the first three names, which the individual teams have published as players with a certain nomination, as long as they are healthy.
Dominant Canadian Connor McDavid, ageless Russian Alexander Ovechkin, the best current defender Victor Hedman from Sweden, American icon Patrick Kane or Czech gunner David Pastrnak are the best that world hockey has to offer.
“I’ve seen a lot of them at the World Cup and I watch them regularly on TV during NHL games. It will also be exciting for me to watch them live in Beijing. I’m looking forward to many, more specifically the great Canadian duo from Colorado Nathan McKinnon, Cale Makar, I’m curious about Finn Alexander Barkov, whom I once trained or Leon Draisaitl, with whom I know well, as well as his father.
Of course, I can’t forget Connor McDavid. All he has to do is accelerate behind the goal and everyone is on high alert. Let’s just see how he started in the new NHL season, “ Slovak coach Craig Ramsay told us.
He experienced a tournament in Pyongyang, where he shocked his team of Russia’s biggest favorites three years ago. The Slovaks lost 0: 2, but won 3: 2. In the end, it was the only defeat for the team in the Republic of Korea, where they made it to gold under the flag of Russia’s Olympic athletes. The Slovaks were eliminated in the round of 16 with the USA after a result of 1: 5.
“After Pyongyang, I didn’t think I would get the opportunity to be at the next Winter Olympics at my age. I believe that in the first place it will be well organized, players will have everything available and they will enjoy it. “ Ramsay said.
As a result, the Slovaks were outraged at the last two Olympic Games. The last time the NHL hockey players were in Sochi was 2014, where our team was beaten by the USA, they also lost to the Slovenes, played a goalless draw with the Russians and lost after the raids, and finally lost in the round of 16 to the Czech Republic. Now the national team will have even fewer NHL players than it did in Russia seven years ago.
“From the first day, when I came to Slovakia five years ago, I repeat to the players that we must believe in victory in the first place. That is the basis. If we wait and try not to lose, we have no chance at the best tournament in the world. It will be very difficult to fight the best players in the world, but we have to believe. “ continued Craig Ramsay.
According to the information they are getting out, “bubble” conditions are waiting for the athletes at the Olympics again. They will only be able to walk from the Olympic Village to the sports field and will not get to Beijing itself.
“I still hope that will change. We experienced it in Riga and it was a terrible stereotype to spend time only in the hotel and in the arena. One also needs to change the environment. The “bubble” will be a mental challenge. Personally, I will miss the walks that I regularly take in Bratislava and in every city where I am currently located, ” said the coach of the Slovak national team.