Michal Toman isn’t going home for the holidays – he’s going to Alberta.
The Traverse City North Stars forward was selected to represent his native Slovakia at the World Junior Championships pre-tournament camp, which opens today near Calgary. Thirty-five players were invited to the camp by the Slovakian Ice Hockey Association, which will gear up a WJC tune-up against Finland on Dec. 21.
“Obviously, it’s a tremendous honor,” said Toman, who leads the North Stars with 10 assists through 20 contests. “To be asked to be a part of your country’s national team is something that means a lot to all the players.”
After a second friendly against the U.S. national team is slated for Dec. 23, with the tourney kicking off on Dec. 26 and wrapping up on Jan. 5. The Slovaks’ camp roster includes six returning players from a team that placed eighth at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y., and six players who have already been drafted by an NHL team.
“I know a lot of the guys – three of them I worked out with all summer,” Toman added. “It’s a very skilled group of players with the talent to compete with the top teams in the world. It should be an exciting tournament.”
Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier will be missing one of his top playmakers while Toman is on international hiatus, but recognizes the rarified air of the WJC. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for Michal,” Fournier said. “These are the best junior players in the world, there will be a ton of scouts, and guys are playing for national pride. It’s the best of the best against the best of the best, and what a great experience for him.”
The Slovaks drew a Group A assignment, and will face Latvia, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland in pool play. Group B is comprised of Team USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Finland. Russia is the defending champion.
For more information on the 2012 World Junior Championships, visit www.iihf.com.