Latvia is a country located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe and is one of the three Baltic States.
Ice hockey is considered to be the most popular sport in the small country. Latvia has had many hockey players earn their way to the National Hockey League like Arturs Irbe, Sandis Ozolinsh, the late Karlis Skrastins, the late Sergei Zholtok and more recently Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons.
In the North American Hockey League, the Johnstown Tomahawks have a Latvian player that has already experienced a taste of the NHL and his name is Filips Buncis.
Buncis, a native of Jelgava, is in his second season with the Tomahawks after a successful first season in the NAHL.
The 6-3 forward arrived in Johnstown from the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, where he scored one goal in 10 games. Prior to joining the Musketeers, Buncis played 12 games for the TPH Thunder U18 team in the U18 T1EHL.
Upon his arrival in Johnstown, Buncis made an immediate impact scoring 12 points (one goal and 11 assists) in 29 games for the Tomahawks. After the 2014-15 season, Buncis was invited to participate in the New York Islanders rookie development camp in July 2015.
Fast forward to the 2015-16 season and Buncis has surpassed his point total from last year with 16 points (nine goals and seven assists).
Earlier this season, he traveled to Vienna, Austria to participate in the U20 World Championships and to represent Latvia. The tournament, which lasted from Dec. 13, 2015 to Dec. 19, 2015, saw Latvia compete against Austria, Italy, Germany, Kazakhstan and Norway.
Buncis scored one goal and added 2 assists to help the Latvians win the tournament and promotion to the World Junior Championships next season where they will compete against countries like Canada and the United States.
With more than half the season played, the league will hold the 2016 Top Prospects Tournament, which is a highly-scouted event with more than 200 scouts attending annually.
The Tomahawks will send seven players to the tournament including Buncis, who will have a chance along with his chosen teammates to make another impact.