Montreal Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovsky Moving In The Right Direction

MONTREAL, CANADA - NOVEMBER 30: Juraj Slafkovsky #20 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the third period against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on November 30, 2023 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Florida Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, CANADA - NOVEMBER 30: Juraj Slafkovsky #20 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the third period against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on November 30, 2023 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Florida Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The lights are always shining bright on the Montreal Canadiens, but there is no topic bigger or hotter than Juraj Slafkovsky’s play. It is always at the top of the Canadiens media’s pressure cooker.

He has taken considerable strides since finding familiarity with Cole Caufield on his wing. And continues to improve each game, making strong defensive plays routinely. Don’t sleep on his offence either, because he has been heating up recently, gaining more confidence with the puck.

Naturally, Slafkovsky has looked more like a first-overall pick when playing with top-six linemates. Even with Christian Dvorak playing the second-line center role, and his questionable offensive reads, the Slovakian has looked much more confident. Another center filling the role makes a lot of sense, but Martin St. Louis calls the Canadiens shots, not me.

Slafkovsky Needs To Breathe, Then Shoot The Puck

With increased touches, Slafkovsky has grown more confident with the puck, benefitting from strong positioning and a smart stick. But he still tends to freeze up with open space in the offensive zone, he appears to overthink. This is evidenced best by the fact that he shoots slow, on the off chance that he doesn’t try to pass the puck.

There are kinks in the hose at times, and that comes with development and trying to contain the excitement. He is full of drive, and that is a reason to trust in Slafkovsky. Infectious energy runs through him, and he just wants to help the team and be at his best.

Because he cares so much, the increased zone time with the puck on his stick will continue to accrue. Canadiens Director of Player Development Adam Nicholas will undoubtedly work on things with Slafkovsky, getting him used to puck play when the intensity level increases. He has the shot, and his vision aids him well in the passing game.

Slafkovsky will immediately become more of a threat when he begins shooting more, it will help his confidence. Once he sees that shooting isn’t just beneficial for a scoring attempt, but to keep defenders and the goaltender honest. They will respect the shot, and Slafkovsky will learn how dangerous he can be with a shot release.

The confidence and ability are there, so when the mind slows down, increased comfort will serve him well in all facets of the game. Once he can slow things down, his processor and vision can be fully utilized. Slafkovsky has dynamic qualities, and once everything falls into place he will be a disruptive player.

A new center who is more offensively inclined and some work with Nicholas would serve him well. His ceiling is hard to assess because he is very raw, but the tools are all there. He is huge, skates like the wind, has a great shot and has taken big steps defensively – if all goes well, he could opponent’s least favourite player to match up against when the face the Canadiens for the next decade.

But first, let Slafkovsky iron out some things, we will all benefit from the product of hard work. And take a deep breath.

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