Grading Juraj Slafkovsky's season

Juraj Slafkovsky's season started slow, but once he hit his stride it was a much different story.
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Montreal Canadiens 2022 first overall selection Juraj Slafkovsky entered the 2022-23 season with some hefty expectations.

First off, going first overall in any draft comes with its pressures, if you're projected as the top talent, you are expected to perform. And it's not that he didn't play well, but he was still growing into his frame - more so learning how to use it for good. Limited to only 39 games due to an injury, he managed just 10 points, which had many calling him a bust.

But, most big players don't come along right away, they require time to figure out how to use their natural abilities. We have seen it time and time again, where players look like they are close, but just need some time to adjust. In a hockey hotbed like Montreal, where an Original Six team with 24 Stanley Cup championships calls home, expectations are always high, so it's not surprising.

But writing off an 18-year-old is foolish, there aren't many players who are superstars as soon as they enter the league. If you look at some of the league's best talents, they took a while to adjust. Slafkovsky deserved the same treatment, but he didn't dwell on the past.

The 2023-24 season started slow, he seemed to lack awareness and was bullied of the puck at times. But he seemed to turn a corner out of nowhere, perhaps feeling inspired by head coach Martin St. Louis' stubbornness to steer clear of sending him to Laval. Slafkovsky flipped the script and looked like a different player.

Up on the top line, Slafkovsky made easy work of retrieving loose pucks in the offensive zone especially, but all over the ice. Either reaching the puck ahead of opponents or just outmuscling them in puck battles, then putting his playmaking skills to work. With pinpoint passing and awareness of where to be to capitalize on high-danger passes from Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, the top duo found its bandmate and became quite the top line.

The scary thing for the rest of the league is that Slafkovsky played so well through to the end of the 2023-24 season and he has room to grow. Give it a season or two and we will likely see how good he will be. All his tools have just begun to gel together and the package that earned him first overall honours has already started to shine.

There is immense room for him to grow and time as well, but he deserves credit where its due and because of that I believe he is worthy of a B+. I don't think 50 points is his ceiling, I think it's much higher than that and I believe that he will get there. When he does, A+ seasons might become a regularity, but for now, he is still growing into what he will become.