Christoffer Malm had been chasing Dalibor Dvorsky for a while. The young Swedish exec was working for Rogle three years ago when he first set his sights on the Slovak kid, who was playing for Linkoping’s program at the time. But Dvorsky had already decided his next step would be to join AIK, just outside Stockholm.
Malm, now first-year GM of AIK, finally has a chance to help develop Dvorsky, who made his Swedish pro debut in the second-tier Allsvenskan at 16 this season and has also dominated Sweden’s U-20 ranks. “For me, his biggest asset is his vision out there,” Malm said. “His vision is tops. He sees the game before anyone else, and when he plays center, he finds those passes where he almost knows where his teammates will be before they’re there. So he’s always a threat offensively, and he has a good shot from the half-wall, too. He scores quite a bit from there on the power play.”
For many North American fans, Dvorsky first came onto the radar this past summer when he was electrifying for Slovakia at the U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, played in his home nation. His 12 points in five games put him one behind Russian phenom Matvei Michkov for tops in the tourney, and his eight goals equalled what Michkov produced – again, atop the leaderboard. On a team featuring top 2022 draft prospects Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec, Dvorsky propelled the Slovaks to a shocking silver medal (Russia took gold) and served notice he was one to watch for the 2023 draft. Needless to say, it was a phenomenal experience. “It meant a lot,” Dvorsky said. “We had a great team. Our chemistry was really good, and we were really close to each other the whole tournament. We helped each other on and off the ice, and it was really fun to play there.”
Dvorsky also suited up for Slovakia at the COVID-shortened world juniors and will surely be a staple of the national program for years to come – which makes his journey all the more intriguing.
While several young players from Slovakia have left the country to develop elsewhere recently – Slafkovsky is now in his third season with Finland’s TPS and played the year before in Austria and the Czech Republic – Dvorsky may have been the most hardcore. He and his parents headed to Sweden when he was just nine years old. His first stop was IFK Tumba, a program in Stockholm’s suburbs. “Honestly, I don’t remember so much because I was so young, but I know the Swedish people were really nice to me,” Dvorsky said. “The kids and parents took me into the group very well. I didn’t have any problems, and I’m glad I went there.”
Dvorsky now speaks Swedish and English along with his native tongue. And he was a trailblazer in another sense, too: while the pandemic introduced many kids around the world to online schooling, Dvorsky has been distance learning the entire time he’s been in Sweden, so his education is still Slovak.
Dvorsky did head back to Slovakia last season when Sweden’s junior leagues shut down for the pandemic, but he returned with a vengeance and has been quite the asset for AIK at both the junior and pro levels. “I knew his game, and I wanted to work with him and help him develop as much as possible,” Malm said. “This year has been good for him to play (under-20) for the first time and also play some games up with the pro team. The biggest thing has been seeing him adapt to the pro level.”
The teenager played his first pro game with AIK back in August, giving team management a baseline to work off for his development. Dvorsky was called back up in November and only needed two weeks to get acclimated to the men’s game. “Because of his IQ, he caught up to the speed of the game quite fast, and he’s comfortable with the puck, he loves having it on his blade,” Malm said. “He wants to contribute, he’s not just there to survive. He has zero nerves.”
That was evident to Malm in early December when Dvorsky scored two shootout goals, including the clincher, in a win over Troja-Ljungby.
A big fan of Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom, Dvorsky knows the next step is to improve on his defensive-zone work, particularly his positioning. For Malm, the kid’s passion for the game reminds him of another youngster he worked with back in his Rogle days: Vancouver Canucks spark plug Nils Hoglander. “He’s very humble and knows exactly what to work on,” Malm said. “He needs to get stronger, he needs to get faster, and he needs to know his body more. But he’s right there. He’s a really good kid off the ice, and he just loves hockey.”
And clearly, Dvorsky is willing to travel to make his dreams come true.