Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovsky is Finding His Game

Seattle Kraken v Montreal Canadiens
Seattle Kraken v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens selected Juraj Slafkovsky first overall in the 2022 NHL Draft with the expectation that he would be the best player in that draft not just right away but five years into the future, too. After a tough rookie season that saw him miss a ton of time with injuries and only register ten points, Canadiens fans started to get a little nervous.

And rightfully so. Yes, you want to exhibit patience with Slafkovsky, or any young player for that matter, but not without progress. He doesn't have to be a point-per-game player right off the bat, but there has to be a level of production and performance that shows an improvement. The longer those struggles continue, the harder it is to exhibit patience without some concern.

Fortunately for Canadiens fans, after a bit of a slow start to this season, Slafkovsky has started to show some significant strides in his game. The points are not necessarily where you'd like him to be, but he's doing things that will lead to points in the long run.  He's being more physical with his large frame, winning puck battles and getting to the dangerous areas of the ice more often.

And everyone has taken notice, including his head coach, Martin St. Louis, who rewarded his good play by putting him on the top line and top powerplay unit in Monday night's contest versus the Kraken. He earned that opportunity, and although he didn't register a point in that game, he had a few chances. When he plays like that, I'm confident the points will come; it's only a matter of time.

Slafkovsky has a great blend of size, skating and puck skills that could make him a lethal weapon once he puts it all together. And every game, it feels like he's getting closer and closer to doing that. He's being more physical with each passing game, getting into the dirty areas and winning puck battles. And he's making smarter plays with the puck on his stick. And keep in mind, for large sums of the year, he's played alongside struggling players who have gone long stretches without scoring.

On Monday night, he got the opportunity to play alongside the Canadiens best players both at five-on-five and on the powerplay. That should lead to more of the scoring chances he helps create end up in the back of the net. And Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield could benefit from Slafkovsky on that line as well.

It's too early to make any kind of sweeping declaration about Slafkovsky as a star or a bust. But you can see why the Canadiens took him first overall. Now that he's been promoted to the top line, you just hope the box score will start to reflect that pretty soon, too. There's still a long way to go in his development, but Slafkovsky has shown good strides so far, it's just got to continue. I'm confident the points will come soon after.