Newark, N.J. — Two dreams came together at NHL draft on Sunday for Marko Dano.
No only was he drafted in the first round, 27th overall, by the Columbus Blue Jackets, he will also get the opportunity to play for the same team as his idol and fellow Slovakian, Marian Gaborik.
"They have very good players, they have a Slovakian player, Marian Gaborik," said Dano. "I am happy I can play here. It's very good for me."
He said that he actually started following the Blue Jackets once they traded for Gaborik from the New York Rangers.
"I know him," said Dano of the NHL. "We're from the same city (in Trencin, Slovakia)."
Dano was drafted out of the KHL where he plays for HC Slovan Bratislava. This season he played in 37 games and scored three goals and added four assists in his rookie campaign. There's a knock that the 18-year-old might not be strong enough, given his 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame. But Dano says he's all ready for the rigors of pro hockey.
"I play against men in the KHL," said Dano. "So I'm tough.
"I'm not very (tall), but I have good puck skill and passing."
Watching him skate with Team Slovakia at the past two world junior tournaments, Dano plays much bigger than his size suggests and is not afraid to mix it up. Dano said that if he doesn't make the NHL, he's open to possibly playing in the American Hockey League.