The hockey world awoke to tragic news Sunday as the IIHF reported Marek Svatos, who spent the bulk of his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche, has passed away at 34.
Details about Svatos’ passing are still unclear, but the Denver Post’s Terry Frei reported the former Avalanche winger’s death came Saturday in Lone Tree, Co., and Svatos leaves behind a wife and two young children.
“The entire Avalanche organization is extremely saddened by this news,” said Avalanche executive vice president and GM Joe Sakic in a statement. “Marek was a tremendous person, a talented hockey player and a great teammate. Our thoughts, prayers and our deepest sympathy to his wife, children and his entire family.”
Svatos was a seventh-round pick, 227th overall, of the Avalanche in 2001 after his rookie campaign in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice, and the following season he showed just how much offensive punch he could have. During the 2001-02 campaign, he scored 38 goals and 77 points in 53 games and added another 12 goals and 18 points in 21 post-season outings on an Ice team that would go on to win the Memorial Cup.
It was during that same season that Svatos made some waves on the international scene, too, as he turned heads with seven goals and eight points in seven games while representing Slovakia at the World Junior Championship.
The following season, Svatos transitioned to the pro game and skated in 30 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears with much of his season lost to a shoulder injury, an ailment that would continue to bother the winger throughout the early part of his career.
In 2003-04, in what could have been his rookie campaign, he was only able to play four games for the Avalanche due to the shoulder injury, but he got into 11 post-season games, scoring one goal and six points. The lockout season in 2004-05 would see Svatos’ rookie debut again halted, but he finally got his chance to shine in 2005-06.
Realistically, were it not for the lockout and a pair of high-flying rookies named Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, Svatos’ freshman campaign would be better remembered as one of the most impressive of his time. Both Ovechkin and Crosby ran away with the Calder Trophy voting — Ovechkin was the winner — but Svatos’ 32 goals was the third-best mark of all rookies, behind Ovechkin and Crosby, and his 50 points ranked fifth behind Ovechkin, Crosby, Brad Boyes and Jussi Jokinen. More impressive yet is that Svatos’ production came in 61 games, as he was again sidelined due to injury.
That would unfortunately continue to be the case following his rookie year. In each of the subsequent four campaigns, Svatos failed to appear in any more than 69 games in a single year, and his best performance in the years that followed was a 26-goal, 37-point showing in 62 games in 2007-08. By 2010-11, Svatos was playing in the KHL, but that wouldn’t be the end of his career.
By late December, Svatos had caught the eye of the Blues, and St. Louis attempted to bring him back to the NHL. However, in order to return to the league, Svatos would have to clear waivers, and he was subsequently scooped up by the Predators and later picked up again off waivers by the Ottawa Senators after appearing in just nine games in Nashville. He only managed four goals and eight points in 28 games during that season.
Svatos sat out the following year and played two short seasons in Slovakia, one with the then-KHL side HC Slovan Bratislava and finally with his hometown HC Kosice. His career came to a close following the 2013-14 campaign, injuries having made it increasingly difficult for him to contribute.
His NHL career finished with 100 goals and 172 points in 344 NHL games, and the honor of representing Slovakia on the international stage several times, including the 2006 Turin Olympics.
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