Montreal Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovsky Making Good On Pre-Draft Premonition

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Montreal Canadiens youngster Juraj Slafkovsky was confident that Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield would be a good duo for him to turn into a trio.

During pre-draft interviews, Slafkovsky said that he was available if the Montreal Canadiens would like to have somebody to play with Caufield and Suzuki. And that confidence is backed by his skills and talent, which has undergone significant growth in year two. Slafkovsky has found a fit on the top line, and he looks pretty good with the Habs top pair.

The 2023 first overall selection has undergone a ton of scrutiny, heavily attributed to where he was selected. But his ascension to the Habs top line should put much of it to rest. Simply put, Slafkovsky has been one of the Habs' best forwards and earned Martin St. Louis’s trust.

Alongside Caufield and Suzuki, Slafkovsky’s strengths fit like a needle in a groove. Stating the obvious, Slafkovsky is the power forward who can rush the puck and create space with his reach and strength. While the shot hasn’t found the net too often yet, he has been doing all the right things and has been encouraged to shoot more. 

The top line can play any way that you want, and Slafkovsky has shown some physical bite. Along with his willingness to stand up for his linemates, Slafkovsky has also taken considerable strides in his play away from the puck. This has made the line great in transition, exploding up the ice through the neutral zone regularly.

In the offensive zone, the first line has created plenty of chances using the cycle. The little outlet passes and quick one-timers or tic tac-toe plays are their bread and butter. And each one can beat goalies from deep or deke around defenders to create sustained zone time. 

Slafkovsky has taken time, and I have spoken at length about the importance of giving bigger players longer to develop. The role on the top line had been sitting vacant, but Slafkovsky had his eyes on the prize. If Slafkovsky can do this now, when he is 22, he will be a nightmare to play against. 

Slafkovsky is just fine, and he will become a regular in the top six for a long time. Toss in Suzuki and Dach down the middle. Then Alex Newhook and either our 2024 first-round prospect or perhaps a free agent in a couple of seasons. 

He has arrived, but we won’t know his full potential until he hits his prime. All signs point to him being a strong power forward, who paired with his size has great speed and puck skills. He is dangerous in front of the net, using his strong positioning and instincts to beat goalies.

Once he irons out his one-timer he will start to score more goals. It’s all coming together, and Lane Hutson will run things from the blueline in. With Jacob Fowler taking over duties in the crease. The young talent in the organization is all coming together, and Slafkovsky is just scratching the surface.

Kent Hughes heard Slafkovsky’s message loud and clear. And it appears he knew that 20 belonged one day with 22 and 14. He is indeed a perfect complement to Suzuki and Caufield.