I very much admire the European kids who come all this way to chase the "Canadian dream" of playing in the NHL. I find it impossible to imagine myself at the age of 16 leaving home to play 6 hours down the road in Prince George, or further. Yet these kids give up life as they know it and travel half way around the world, leaving their families behind.
One of many such examples of Juraj Kolnik, a talented Slovak prospect who came to Rimouski in 1999. He put up some impressive numbers in the QMJHL and ended up being drafted 101st overall by the New York Islanders in 1999. He was no sure thing, but he continued to chase the dream.
It didn't look like the dream would fully materialize for quite a while, either. He seemed destined to stick in the minor leagues until 2003-04 when he made the Florida Panthers. The lost lockout season of 2004-05 aside, he stuck with the Panthers through 2007.
Kolnik was a consistent 15 goal, 35 point threat. A shifty puckhandler with a sneaky shot, Kolnik rounded his game into that of a reliable depth forward. He was deceptively strong and worked hard on improving his foot speed.
After 2007 Kolnik headed back to Europe, playing mostly in Switzerland.