What Marko Dano accomplished this season didn't seem to faze him much, but it was something no other player in this year's draft class was able to achieve.
Dano, a 5-foot-11, 183-pound center, is No. 12 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft. He also earned a spot on Slovakia's team for the 2013 IIHF World Championship. He was the only top prospect for this year's draft to earn a spot in the tournament.
And he played well, with a goal and an assist in five games while averaging 9:43 of ice time to help Slovakia advance to the quarterfinals.
"It was really good for me," Dano told NHL.com. "It was a good opportunity for me. I go up with my game. It was good for me."
Competing against grown men at high levels is nothing new for Dano. He spent two seasons with HK Dukla Trencin in Slovakia's top league, including eight games with them as a 16-year-old in 2010-11. After being picked in the first round of the 2012 Kontinental Hockey League draft by HC Slovan Bratislava, he had three goals and four assists in 37 games this season.
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"I play against men from my 16-year [season]," Dano said. "It's good for me. I play against big guys, bigger than in junior leagues. It's quicker, faster, so it's hard for me to make some points and play against them. It's a good experience for me."
Scouts certainly liked what they saw.
"Marko Dano played a promising rookie season with Slovan Bratislava in the KHL," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "He started as an extra forward, and then was a regular with a lot of ice time towards the end. An offensive-minded player with a very good shot; a sniper who always tries to shoot. Could work on his skating and first-step quickness. Team player who also understands his defensive duties. Wants to improve, works hard, good attitude. Surprisingly strong even if he is not all that big.
"Best prospect from Slovakia in years."
Helping Dano grow this season was a pair of NHL imports who played for Slovan in the early part of the season, during the NHL lockout.
"The younger guys must learn something from the older guys," Dano said. "The guys from NHL during the lockout, Lubomir Visnovsky and Andrej Sekera, they helped me with some things. … I learned some new things for my game. I played better physical game. I'm faster than before and I know playing against the big guys."
He also learned from his father, Jozef, who played professionally throughout Europe for 19 years and currently is an assistant coach with Dukla Trencin.
Dano said there isn't much to compare between his game and his father's, saying his father "was a little bit softer than me."
Marko did say he inherited his father's ice vision and hockey sense, and also knew enough to listen to him when he imparted one bit of advice as a youngster.
"I wanted to play goalie, but my dad said no you don't," Marko said. "'Go forward.' So I want to thank him for that."
Where he plays forward next season, though, is a question. Dano was selected by the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League in the 2011 Canadian Hockey League import draft, so that remains an option, or he could elect to spend another season with Slovan.
"It's hard to say now," he said. "I'll see after the draft -- who drafts me and how big a chance will be for me to go to [the NHL]. Then I'll see."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor