International Ice Hockey Federation

Bucek: “It’s up to us”

Bucek: “It’s up to us”

Top Slovak scorer has big dreams

Published 01.01.2018 16:33 GMT-5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Bucek: “It’s up to us”
Samuel Bucek celebrates one of his goals in the tournament. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
No matter what happens in the medal round, Slovakia’s Samuel Bucek will long be remembered for his dazzling 3-2 winner on the U.S. at these World Juniors.

The 19-year-old left wing, however, has more on his mind than the solo effort that stunned the partisan crowd of 8,188 at Key Bank Center just 1:03 after Sabres prospect Casey Mittelstadt had scored an electrifying tying goal reminiscent of Bobby Orr’s airborne 1970 Stanley Cup clincher.

Right now, it’s all about how to pull a stunning upset against Sweden, which finished first in Group B. It’s not Mission Impossible. After all, it was the Juniorkronorna that Slovakia beat 4-2 in the 2015 bronze medal game in Toronto for their first (and only) World Junior medal since 1999’s bronze in Winnipeg.

Still undrafted by an NHL club, Bucek is continuing to make his mark in North America. Under the bright World Junior spotlight, he’s among the tournament scoring leaders with six points, and has shown good chemistry with both Filip Krivosik and Adam Ruzicka. The Nitra native has game-breaking ability, enthusiasm, and size (at 190 cm and 88 kg). After spending 2016-17 with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, he’s in his second go-round with the USHL’s Chicago Steel, where he has 18 points in 20 games so far this season.

We spoke with Bucek on Sunday after he had two points to help Slovakia beat Denmark 5-1 and move on to the elimination games.

How do you feel about the way you’re producing offensively?

I don’t really care. It’s really good and I’m happy because it’s helping my team, but the most important thing is that we won two very important games and it gave us points. Now we’re going to the quarter-finals. It’s going to be huge.

In 2016, you scored the 4-3 winner against the Czechs that put Slovakia into the U18 quarter-final in North Dakota. How does this World Junior experience compare to the U18?

This is more men’s hockey. It’s a lot faster and more physical, compared to the U18. The U18 are still like kids playing hockey. Here the players are more skilled.

In general, which players do you admire the most?

That’s a good question. I really like Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa, because he’s a two-way player, he plays for his team and he does the right things on the ice. He was kind of like my idol when I was growing up. Now it’s more Patrick Kane.

You’re wearing number 13 here. How about Pavel Datsyuk?

If I would say Datsyuk is not one of my favourite players, I would probably lie, because he’s unbelievable with the puck. He’s just outstanding, everything he does. Even if he doesn’t have any points during the game, he’s just playing. He’s just a guy you love to watch. I wish I could be like him one day, but it’s lots of work ahead of me.

Nitra has produced some well-known NHLers like Jozef Stumpel, Juraj Kolnik, and Branislav Mezei. How well do you know those guys?

I know them pretty well. I actually played with Jozef Stumpel two years ago for my hometown. He was my linemate and he taught me many things: how to shoot the puck on a one-timer, how to protect the puck, and stuff like that. He was always giving me advice. It was really good for my development. I’m glad I spent that year with him. I really appreciate what he did for me. His hockey sense is unbelievable. That’s why he played over 900 games in the NHL.

How do you feel about Bratislava and Kosice hosting the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship?

I’m really looking forward to it. I wish I could be there. I think I’m still too young to be there, but I would really appreciate if they send me an invitation. I will do my best.

What was your reaction when Slovakia won the World Junior bronze three years ago in Toronto?

I was watching that back home, and I was saying to myself, “I wish I could be playing there one day and be like them.” We are really close to that, but there is still lots of work ahead of us. We just have to stick with the plan and keep working hard, and I hope we’ll beat Sweden.

How far can your World Junior team go?

As I said a couple of games back, we have really good chemistry both on and off the ice. I think if we’re going to stick to the plan, play the right way, and do what we have to do on the ice, we could go really far. But it’s up to us.

 

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