Slafkovsky Has Silenced His Doubters

Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks
Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks / Derek Cain/GettyImages

Juraj Slafkovsky has been one of the most polarizing Montreal Canadiens players in recent history, and assessments have been somewhat of a mixed bag.

But like the professional that he is, Slafkovsky has ignored the outside noise and let his play do the talking. After a slow start to his sophomore season, Slafkovsky has been one of the Canadiens' best and most consistent forwards. Martin St. Louis and the 19-year-old have put in a ton of work to improve his two-way game and it has done wonders for his confidence.

One of the most impressive things that has happened for Slafkovsky is his 200 foot game growing at an incredibly quick rate. This has also translated to the scoresheet for him, and he has proven to be consistent point producer. Of late he has developed a knack for emerging from behind the oppositions net and deflecting point shots past the goaltender.

On Sunday night, yes you read that right - the Habs played on Sunday night instead of Saturday. Slafkovsky assisted on Nick Suzuki's 28th goal of the season. With 13 games remaining in the Canadiens season, No. 20 shouldn't be counted out as a potential first-time 20 goalscorer before the final horn of the season blows.

You can ask anybody if they thought that this was possible, for Slafkovsky's development to skyrocket at the pace which it has. The answer is a collective no and for many who touted him as a bust or a reach in the draft, they are awfully quiet now. Kent Hughes trusted his scouting staff to present the best option for the team and they did exactly that.

There isn't just one thing that stands out about Slafkovsky, although the point production is impressive. He does all of the little things right and if you compare his first 25 games with his last 40-plus games there is a big difference. Confidence and trust in his abilities have allowed him to play much looser and he does less thinking and more doing.

The top trio felt like Slafkovsky's destiny when the Habs selected him with the first overall pick in 2022. But the chemistry that he has developed with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield in just his second NHL season couldn't have been envisioned. Not like this anyway, it often seems like the top line has played together for seven to eight years.

I can't imagine how good the trio will be in another two to three years and that is music to the organization's ears. With the competitive years still on the horizon, having a top line solidified is crucial. The Habs have exactly that and there is no telling what the three will look like when they're all playing in their prime years.

Slafkovsky is only 19 and this level of play wasn't expected, with that said, perhaps another gear still hasn't been reached. With such a bright future ahead for him, the Canadiens have plenty of time to reap the benefits that come with selecting him. Hughes and Jeff Gorton's first draft may end up being one of the most important in their quest to rebuild one of the NHL's most storied franchises.