Montreal Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovsky's First 82 NHL Games Eerily Similar To Jack Hughes

Jan 17, 2024; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Juraj Slafkovsky
Jan 17, 2024; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Juraj Slafkovsky / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens winger Juraj Slafkovsky is clearly on an upward trajectory in his development.

The first overall pick from the 2022 NHL Draft, Slafkovsky had a bit of a rude awakening to the National Hockey League as an 18 year old. He didn't look prepared for the rigours of the best league in the world and was often knocked off the puck easily or just demolished by an opposing player.

While the Habs youngster is a big man at 6'3" and 230 pounds, it didn't really matter when he appeared unaware that contact was coming. He was knocked to the ice countless times and knocked out for of the lineup for half the season as well.

Slafkovsky would play 39 games in his 18 year old season and score just four goals and ten points. This season, Slafkovsky began the year with five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in his first 43 games. That is only a smalll step forward if you just focus on the numbers, but his play on the ice has taken major leaps ahead.

Slafkovsky is starting to look more and more like a budding power forward that will make life really difficult for the opposition for years to come. He has the size, speed, hands, skill and offensive awareness to become a dominant presence for the Canadiens, but has not quite put it all together yet.

That has led to some naysayers and people questioning why they didn't choose Shane Wright or Simon Nemec instead of Slafkovsky, but patience is proving to be wise when it comes to Slafkovsky's development.

An interesting comparison between Slafkovsky and recent first overall pick Jack Hughes show that an 82 game sample to begin an NHL career should not define a teenager's potential.

After 82 career games, Slafkovsky scored nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it isn't far off what Jack Hughes did to begin his career. The New Jersey Devils first overall pick in 2019 scored 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in his first 82 games and quickly developed into a Hart Trophy contender after that.

There are no guarantees that Slafkovsky finds himself on Hart Trophy ballots in a couple years, but there is recent precedent to suffest a player can go from where he is now to much greater heights in a short period of time.

With all of the great things we are seeing from Slafkovsky this season, it is just a matter of time before he starts piling up points as well.