Juraj Slafkovsky impressed Canadians both on and off the ice

The No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft isn’t your typical teenager, and it’s not just because he’s 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds.

article content

Juraj Slafkovsky, the Canadiens’ No. 1 overall pick Thursday night in the NHL Draft, isn’t your typical teenager.

Announcement 2

article content

For starters, the 18-year-old Slovakian is already 6-foot-4 and weighs 229 pounds. He has confidence, arrogance and a great personality. Part of that could come from the fact that he moved away from home and lived alone when he was just 15 years old to play for Slovakia’s HC Koske U16 team, where he went 30-24-54 overall in 23 games. Slafkovsky only turned 18 on March 30, but last season he played against men for his team TPS Turku in the Finnish Elite League.

When the Canadiens’ management team had a meeting with Slafkovsky Thursday morning while still trying to decide who they would take with the No. 1 pick, general manager Kent Hughes was surprised and impressed to learn that Slafkovsky could live alone in such a situation. . early age.

When he asked Slafkovsky how he cooked his meals, the teenager replied: “With a stove.”

Announcement 3

article content

A simple answer that said a lot.

“He’s very independent,” Hughes said Thursday night after recruiting Slavkovsky. “He is confident without being arrogant. We think this is a kid that not only has the mindset that we’re looking for, but we’re also assessing where he is in his game, what he has in terms of natural abilities, and where he could be if we help him along the way.

“We talked about his character, his desire to make a difference,” Hughes added. “You see it in the way he plays. You see it when you talk to him. He is a very charismatic boy.”

He’s a kid you can easily see Canadiens fans falling in love with, similar to what happened with Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Hopefully for the Canadiens, things work out better with Slafkovsky under new team management.

Announcement 4

article content

Slafkovsky only went 5-5-10 in 31 games last season with TPS Turku, but his value really rose after his performance with Slovakia at the Olympics and IIHF World Championship. He was named Olympics MVP after scoring seven goals in seven games as Slovakia won a bronze medal, and went 3-6-9 in eight games at the world championships.

Nick Bobrov, the Canadiens’ co-director of amateur scouting with Martin Lapointe, noted on Friday that the Finnish Elite League is very conservative with a heavy focus on defense and Slafkovsky learned to play a strong defensive game with TPS Turku. But when he got on the world stage, he was able to show what he can do offensively when given the chance.

Bobrov said the Canadiens had not yet made a final decision on who they would take with the first pick when the management team met with Slafkovsky Thursday morning.

ad 5

article content

“We were still deliberating on Thursday, so the decision was obviously not an easy one,” Bobrov said. “There are several great players in that area and from different positions. So the discussions were still ongoing. In the end, it’s not what other kids didn’t do. It’s what Juraj managed to do and what he’s done on the big stages and how he handled himself on some of the biggest stages in the world. For that age that was very special.

“But, having said that, the draft, as you all know, is about projecting into the future and trying to find the best available player for the long-term benefit of an organization, the Montreal Canadiens,” Bobrov added. . “So it’s not about who is more ready to play today, tomorrow. He is trying to find the best player a few years from now, who will still be the best player, and we think Juraj is that person.”

ad 6

article content

Lapointe also believes that Slafkovsky was the best player available in the draft and said Thursday morning’s meeting was all about dotting i and crossing t before making the final decision.

“He’s a very impressive guy,” Lapointe said Friday. “A very strong boy. Great. He still has a lot of room to grow. He is a boy you want to be close to. He has such charisma. You want to be talking to him, you want to be close to him. He wants to make a difference and that’s the way he plays the game. Here in Montreal, he loves it. He felt it yesterday when all the fans were cheering him on. This guy is a hockey player and he wants to get better. He’s not perfect, but he wants to get better and to me that’s what a hockey player is.”

What does Slafkovsky need to do to improve?

“I think teaching,” Lapointe said. “He is 18 years old… those players are kids. They need to be taught the game. Positioning, just little tricks. And I think the fact that we have Martin St. Louis as our head coach and that Martin is willing to work with younger players like that… Martin is very open. He works with everyone and I think Juraj will benefit greatly from that.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/StuCowan1

Announcement 1

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their thoughts on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve enabled email notifications – you’ll now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there’s an update in a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. visit our Community Principles for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail settings.


Leave a Comment