Slovakia announced its roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics earlier this week, and while injuries could keep a few key players off the ice, two Detroit Red Wings forwards have a chance to impress in their first trip to the Olympics. Tomas Tatar is no stranger to the international stage, and continues to play some of the best hockey of his career. Tomas Jurco has impressed in the AHL, and a seven-game stint with the Red Wings this season likely put him on the radar of his home country. Both forwards are skilled scorers, and with Marian Gaborik injured they could be in line for a great deal of ice time in Sochi.
Tatar has waited four seasons for a full-time spot with the Red Wings, and he has made the most of that opportunity this season. He is fifth on the team with eight goals, and tied for fifth with 16 points. He had 23 goals and 49 points for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season, then scored another 16 goals in the playoffs to take home postseason MVP honors as he led his team to its first-ever Calder Cup championship.
Jurco was also a star for the Griffins during the Calder Cup run last season, chipping in eight goals and 14 points after a 14-goal, 28-point regular season. He leads the Griffins with 12 goals and 29 points in 29 games this season, and he had two goals and three points in his first taste of NHL action with the Red Wings earlier this season. He has previously appeared in two World Junior Championships (2011, 2012) for Slovakia. He will have the chance to play with Marian Hossa, a player he grew up watching and modeling his game after.
Slovakia will be an outside contender for a medal, thanks to the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak and Zdeno Chara‘s presence on the blue line. Jurco and Tatar have a great opportunity to contribute, and the Red Wings should end up being the long-term beneficiaries of the experience they will gain in Sochi.