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Pair of Lightning Prospects Team Up For Slovakia

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning prospect Richard Panik scored a goal Monday as Team Slovakia downed Germany in overtime, 2-1, on Day 2 of the 2011 World Junior Championships, being held in Buffalo, New York.

Young prospects Richard Panik and Adam Janosik soon hope to make a lot of memories as Lightning teammates in the near future. Each know that time may not come for some years ahead, but both players will have the opportunity to simulate the experience much sooner than expected without having to endure such a long wait.

Panik and Janosik, at just 19 and 18-years-old, respectively, were recently selected to suit up for Team Slovakia to compete in the 2011 World Junior Championships, which begin Dec. 26 in Buffalo, New York. After previously being invited to participate in Team Slovakia’s World Junior Championships Selection Camp, the forward and defensive prospects were among those who made the final cut and were chosen to join the team, which filled out its 30-man roster just last week.

Panik already has one year of play under his belt at the World Under-20 Championships, competing in the 2009 tournament, where he notched two goals and five points in seven games played. And although at a ripe age, Panik’s hockey experience is more comparable to a seasoned veteran rather than a young novice.

The native of Martin, Slovakia has appeared in a number of junior tournaments throughout his native country, while also skating in games with Trinec of the Czech League, as well as Windsor, Belleville and Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League. Just last season, he received the call up to Norfolk of the American Hockey League, and despite playing in just five of the team’s games, the experience was one that undoubtedly helped him develop as a player, both on and off the ice.

In addition to a refined skills set, the exposure he has received by playing at many of the game’s most talented levels will be looked upon to not only serve as a benchmark of his progress, but to also play a role in improving Panik’s play as he strives to one day earn a spot on an NHL roster. It is likely to take on an additional role as well, factoring into the mentorship of his fellow countryman and Lightning teammate, Janosik, who will appear in his very first World Junior Championships tournament.

Both players are ready to embrace the challenge with open arms, and after enjoying a year marked by growth and development in their respective games, there is, without a doubt, no better time to display their talents on the world stage when the puck drops in Slovakia’s first game Dec. 27 against Germany.

What a culmination it would be, shall the two promising hopefuls round out a year that began with one being selected by the Bolts in the third round of 2010 NHL Draft, and the other reaching double digits in points during the 2009-10 OHL season with two different teams after being the subject of a late-season trade.

Panik and Janosik already received an early Christmas present by being named to represent Team Slovakia in this year’s tournament. Now, with play under way, they’re looking to usher in the New Year with a simple resolution: winning a gold medal in Buffalo.

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