Especially after losing 6-2 to Russia, the Slovaks are looking for scoring depth and one player that they are hoping breaks out is second-year national team player Ladislav Scurko. Scurko, a member of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, has yet to score in international play. But the gritty forward will do everything he can to break that slump and help Slovakia into the playoff round. HockeyCanada.ca’s Kevin Parnell caught up with the affable Scurko in Kelowna.
HockeyCanada.ca: How exciting is it for you to take part in a World Junior tournament right across the border from the city where you play?
Ladislav Scurko: I was very excited. I waited for the time since three months ago at our training camp, when everyone was filling the dressing room and was so excited. We have to play good here and focus.
HockeyCanada.ca: What have you enjoyed the most about living and playing in Seattle?
Scurko: It’s a pretty big deal in my lifestyle there because I am from a small country in Slovakia and the WHL hockey is pretty different from my country. I changed pretty quick from that. It’s going good.
HockeyCanada.ca: What are the most valuable things you’ve learned from Coach Rob Sumner?
Scurko: Rob Sumner is a very good guy. He is the best coach in my hockey career. He’s kind of a smart ass (laughs) He's good. He helped me with a lot of things.
HockeyCanada.ca: For fans who haven’t seen you play before, Ladislav, how would you describe your style?
Scurko: I don't really know. It’s way different playing here because there are a lot of penalties and the hockey rules are so much different. It’s very important in the World Junior to have a good power play and penalty kill. Whoever has the best PP and PK will win.
HockeyCanada.ca: What kind of a player is your Seattle teammate Roman Tomanek?
Scurko: He's a good player but he has bad luck. He has had shoulder surgery and I want to help him so bad. If someone has bad luck, I’m sorry, but he's a very good player. I think he was very important for our team.
HockeyCanada.ca: What have the Slovak guys who play in North America been telling the European-based guys about what to expect on the smaller rinks?
Scurko: We have pretty much bigger ice, and in the WHL it's a small ice and small buildings and very fast. In Europe we make a lot of passes and make nice plays. We don't need to hit the body.
HockeyCanada.ca: At last year’s tournament in North Dakota, you didn’t score a goal. How much more of an offensive contribution do you hope to make this year?
Scurko: I have to score. My coach says that I am a very important player for our team. I have to score my first goal in the World Junior. I’ve played three times before, U-18 twice and U-20, and I get lots of assists, but haven’t scored yet.
HockeyCanada.ca: Last year, Andrej Meszaros of the Vancouver Giants suited up for Team Slovakia at the World Juniors. Now he’s going to the Olympics. What was your reaction when you heard that news?
Scurko: Andrej is a very good guy. He is one of my buddies. I am very happy for him. He was a good captain for us last year [in the World Juniors] and very important for our team, and I wish him luck for the Olympic team. He is a very good player.
HockeyCanada.ca: What kind of a future do you see for yourself in the Philadelphia Flyers organization?
Scurko: I was very happy when I was drafted by Philadelphia. It’s different because…I don't know…nobody has talked to me from Philadelphia so I feel a little bit lonely. I just talked to my agent and he says to keep going. Every single guy has a big dream of playing in the NHL. You have to get a lot of luck, but I am pretty close because I was drafted. I’ll give all my effort in hockey to play there because I canceled my school in Slovakia to play WHL hockey. My mom was pretty sad because she is a teacher.
HockeyCanada.ca: Facing the Russians, Czechs, Swedes, and Latvians in Group B, what will be the biggest challenge for Slovakia?
Scurko: In this group it's hard work. We have to score and we have to go up from Group B to make the playoffs. It will be tough games for us. We have to play with a lot of effort and hard work to get a chance to win.
HockeyCanada.ca: What is this like, playing for your country, in the WJC?
Scurko: I’m so happy that I can play for Team Slovakia. We have a very small country and it’s very nice to play for Team Slovakia. We have a good group. What is different from WHL to WJC is it’s one time in the year, and here are the best players in the world, so it’s a very good tournament for us and very important for myself too.