Canadiens: For Juraj Slafkovsky, Alexandre Daigle Isn't a Draft Bust, He's a Draft Lesson.

Ottawa Senators v New Jersey Devils
Ottawa Senators v New Jersey Devils / Focus On Sport/GettyImages
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Thankfully, were in 2024 now, not 1993, and not only has the Expansion Draft improved as NHL executives realized with how much owners pay for these teams, they shouldn’t be given every other team’s table scraps, but the NHL Draft has too.

Teams prospect pools are deeper, scouting and analytics are apart of the game more than ever before, and a teams draft philosophy isn’t completely and totally centered on size and size only (genuinely what was with the 90s NHL and its obsession with size). Juraj Slafkovsky came into a Canadiens team that already had a decent foundation built around star forwards in Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, and now playing alongside those two on the first line, Slafkovsky has been given a chance to develop and progress naturally and more importantly, patiently, as Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis has always emphasized an open and learning environment above all else.

Slafkovsky isn’t here to save the Canadiens right away, nor should it be expected he’s the player to do so. He’s a promising prospect and has played remarkably solidly over the past few months, and there’s a high chance his ceiling extends beyond being another top-six NHL forward. St. Louis and company know what they have in Slafkovsky and aren’t putting pressure on him to be something he simply isn’t ready to be, which is exactly what Ottawa did with Daigle.

For all the worry fans had comparing Slafkovsky to other prospects like Logan Cooley and Shane Wright taken directly after, especially after a less than ideal start to this current season, things have expectedly evened out. Cooley has hit the rookie wall and his numbers have regressed, and Shane Wright isn’t even in the NHL currently in spite of the Kraken’s offensive depth being less than ideal. Slafkovsky is progressing similarly to every other Top 10 pick from 2022 and that’s all-Canadiens management could ask for from him. He’s solidified the first line and brings excitement and intrigue night in and night out in spite of some growing pains.

The Canadiens have handled Slaf well this season and need to continue to do so. While the Conor Bedard’s and Connor McDavid’s of the hockey world are a treat to watch, they don’t come around often, and not every NHL Draft necessarily has a Bedard or McDavid among them. That’s the modern-day NHL for you, and as we move forward into what looks to be a continually bright future for the league, cases like Daigle need to serve as lessons to NHL GMs throwing the weight of the world onto a player that was far from a finished product, in spite of what his junior numbers would you have told you.

Even still, Alexandre Daigle isn’t just an draft bust. His story is far more complicated than that, and his career isn’t deserving of being brushed away with the label of being yet another whiff in the NHL Draft, let alone the biggest whiff of all time. Daigle isn’t a bust, he’s an example, a lesson and a true what-if, and considering he never really put effort in over his entire NHL career (save for his brief comeback) and still managed three 50-point seasons and some truly highlight-reel plays, says enough about the skill he possessed that Ottawa rushed out the door faster than EA rushes out the next Madden. Daigle wasn’t ready to save an NHL team let alone one like the Senators that had nothing, and well… still have nothing.

Juraj Slafkovsky is the future of the Canadiens in one way or another, yet as the Habs 2023-24 season continues, cases like Daigle continue to come up in casual NHL discussion. Yet, for as long as he’s been known as the NHL’s biggest draft bust, Daigle’s career is ultimately, so much more than that. Alexandre Daigle is a example and a lesson for every NHL GM, and he’s a pretty damn good one at that.