This year’s class of 1999-born junior hockey players around the world will forever be a part of a unique graduating class.
Their junior careers didn’t end with a championship or a salute from their fans at season’s end; it was ended abruptly by a global pandemic.
For a short amount of time there was a possibility that there would at least be playoffs at some point but the WHL and the rest of the CHL shutdown that possibility as well as this year’s Memorial Cup slated to be held in Kelowna towards the end of May.
Three players fall under this umbrella for the Vancouver Giants, so I decided to have a chat with those young men and put together individual articles as a farewell that they weren’t able to properly receive.
First up is Milos Roman…
The native of Kysucke Nove Mesto, Slovakia came to the Giants via the 2017 CHL Import Draft where he was picked sixth overall and solidified himself as an offensive threat right away in the WHL.
Roman was very well-spoken on the matter at hand and understood all these decisions being made are for the better, as hard as it is for a 20-year-old to end his junior career in the first place.
He is still living at his billets as a result of the Slovakian borders being shut down while Vancouver’s other import Michal Kvasnica only just got home to his native Czech Republic recently.
“It’s sad and unlucky what’s going on, none of us expected to end our junior career like that. But also there is a way more important thing going on in the world, it was a big decision but we have to be safe. We have to stay together and try to fight it (COVID-19) now.”
Roman spent three seasons with the Giants compiling 139 points (61G, 78A) in 160 regular-season games and leaves as one of the best imports the franchise has seen in its 19 seasons.
He proved himself to be an exciting offensive addition early into his WHL career which impressed the Calgary Flames enough to select him in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft but has yet to find himself a contract.
The Flames have until June 1st, 2020 to sign him or they’ll lose his player rights.
European players don’t often stick around the CHL as long as Roman did but the decision to continue his development here was an easy one for him.
“It was a really good experience (playing in the WHL), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was special, especially last year going all the way to the WHL Final. All teammates, coaching staff and all the people around the Giants really helped me, especially my billet family. It was a great life experience, it gave me a lot…I learned English here. I’m thankful for all three years.”
When asked to reflect upon his most memorable moment(s) of his Giants career, the answer was an easy one and for good reason. It was the highlight for almost everyone that’s been around the team in recent years and it was a roster of players that won’t soon be forgotten in these parts.
Although Roman may have been being modest by not bringing up his two goals he scored in Game 7 of the WHL Final.
“Every season had something special, but that second year was something great. We were one goal away from a WHL Championship. I liked how we came back from down 3-1 in the series and we came back to Game 7 overtime.”
The five-foot-eleven 194 pound centreman had four points in the league final and had struggled finding the back of the net throughout that playoff run but not from a lack of effort.
He showed up when the team needed him the most and that should never be forgotten when you think back to his time as a Vancouver Giant.
“We just showed how tight of a group we were and how strong we were.” he finished saying about that 2018-19 team.
Every player’s experience during their time in the WHL is different, some leave the league with a sour taste and some leave with lasting memories and a jump to the next level whether that’s within hockey or not.
He says the WHL gave him a lot both as a hockey player and an overall person and he came here just wanting to show he belonged despite being from somewhere different.
“All of my family have been back in Europe so it was kind of hard to move somewhere and not really know how things worked. I just wanted to show that I could play hockey and show that I could compete with all the guys in the best junior hockey league in the world. I’ll take those experiences with me to the next step.”
For his future plans, Roman waits for the Flames to make a decision on him but understands that there are a lot of uncertainties around sports in general for the time being. His composure during what is a stressful time for a 20-year-old unsigned NHL draft pick is admirable and is a testament to the person he has grown into in the last three years.
Success always finds a way with Roman’s mindset.
His last words for Giants fans show his belief in the young core coming through the system and his appreciation for those who follow the team no matter what.
“It was great playing in Langley, the fans were supportive even in bad times. It was unbelievable how great they were, I’m really sad we couldn’t finish this year. I promise the young group of younger guys are going to come strong next year and they’ll be hungry to bring a championship back. The Giants will be back next year.”