Blame It On The Growing Confidence Of 19-Year-Old, Slafkovsky Is Here

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals
Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens 2022 number one overall draft selection has had his fair share of critics, but they all seem to forget that Juraj Slafkovsky is just 19 years old.

Has he just smashed through the floor and exploded on the NHL scene? No, he hasn't, but being impatient with a player is nonsense. No player develops at the same rate as the other, Zach Benson is in the NHL already, and guys like Tage Thompson and Quinton Byfield took a bit longer. But that doesn't mean that they are busts, it simply means that they needed time to figure out how to use their physical traits.

Not many 19-year-old's are 6'4" 230 lbs, and even less are dominating the NHL straight out of the gate. They can't all be Connor McDavid, Bedard or Sidney Crosby and that's why those players are so special. But a player can take a little extra time, and still develop into a very special player for his team.

It's pretty fair to say that well before Slafkovsky was put on the ice to take a shootout attempt that could seal the Canadiens win, that he was playing a strong game. He was effective on the power play, making smart passes, and using his size along the boards to hold off defenders. Defensively, he just seems to always be in the right position, using his well positioned stick to disrupt plays.

Martin St. Louis has shown increased trust in Slafkovsky, and that has come in large part because the Slovakian Olympic MVP, has made sure to play a full 200 foot game. You can see him often coming back to his zone, even more so than Nick Suzuki his centre, and supporting his defenseman. You can't force a player to become more defensive minded, if he refuses to, but Slafkovsky has bought in.

His shootout beauty on Saturday night, was only allowed to happen, because the big, smiley winger has worked hard to be the best version of himself. You can sense the willingness and interest in Slafkovsky to be a difference maker, and he proves with each passing game that he is ready to take on bigger responsibilities. And it feels like once he scores a goal at 5-on-5 that the floodgates will break open, and they will start pouring in.

Now with his first NHL fight under his belt, and playing close to 20 minutes a night, Slafkovsky is flourishing into exactly what the Habs management envisioned that he would. He has earned his role on the first line with Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Because of that, it just feels so much more chill inducing when he does something to amaze everybody.

Slafkovsky's increased confidence is so very apparent, and his linemates have taken notice. They all knew what he was capable of, and it was only a matter of time, before he put everything together and started to thrive on the ice. He is a gamer, and has proven that those big moments are exactly why he was the right choice as the number one selection by a crazed hockey market like Montreal, QC.

The Slovakian mammoth has arrived, but he isn't done developing, and that is a very fun thing to think about. He has six years until he hits 25, which is typically a players prime. And he has already shown such huge strides in his growth game-by-game, just imagine what he will be doing when he is Caufield and Kirby Dach's age.

He can mix it up with his fists, or undress the opposing goaltender right out of his jockstrap with a disgusting one-on-one move. Slafkovsky is a Montreal Canadiens, and for that we should all be grateful.