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NHL: Juraj Slafkovsky in profile

Juraj Slafkovsky became a household name when he was selected first overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2022 NHL draft.

The 6'3" Slovakian winger immediately signed a three-year entry-level contract with Montreal and has been introduced straight into the NHL this season.

Shot to fame

Slafkovsky shot to fame at the 2022 Beijing Olympics when his tournament-high seven goals helped Slovakia win a bronze medal (their first ever) and he was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

He followed that performance with nine points (three goals, six assists) in eight World Championship games, prompting Montreal to take him ahead of the projected number-one pick, Canadian centre Shane Wright.

First NHL goal

Slafkovsky scored his first NHL goal on 20th October in a 6-2 win over Arizona Coyotes in what was his fifth NHL appearance.

The strike came 8.17 into the second period when he forced a turnover and ripped a wrister past the Coyotes goalie to give the Canadiens a 4-0 lead.

Following what they hope will they first of many, the Bell Centre crowd chanted Slafkovsky's name as he waved in recognition from the bench.

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Readiness for NHL?

Like any first overall pick, Slafkovsky's performances have been heavily scrutinised in the early going and particularly more so given the shock of his selection over Wright.

By taking one look at the Slovakian, it's easy to see what attracted General Manager Kent Hughes and why the Canadiens chose to introduce him into the NHL right away rather than have him spend time with their AHL affiliate Laval Rocket.

Slafkovsky has great size and skates well for a player of his stature. His skill level is high, and he has a more than useful shot which has dominated at international level. The combination of assets is hard to find, but he still clearly needs to learn how to harness it all to become the player Montreal hope they've drafted.

Like many teenage players, Slafkovsky needs time to adjust to the style of play at the highest hockey level. This includes getting used to a smaller ice pad, new systems, higher defensive responsibility and playing with and against much better players than previous.

Pro experience

It was through the TPS system which Slafkovsky developed into the first overall pick which he has become, beginning in 2019/20 with the under-16's team before being moved up to the under-18's and then the 20's group.

He was a prolific scorer all the way through juniors and represented Slovakia at all international age levels.

In his draft year of 2021/22, Slafkovsky began the season with the under-20's but earned a call up to the Finnish Elite Liiga TPS side after scoring 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in 11 games.

At pro, he scored 10 points (five goals, five assists), which was an underwhelming contribution from 31 regular season games, though he did help the side to a lengthy playoff run, scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) in 18 games.

He hasn't set the NHL alight either yet, but despite critics to the contrary, his progress has shown to be steady and his ice time increased to a season best 14.26 against the Coyotes.

Currently managing day-to-day with an upper body injury, he hopes to return to the Canadiens' line-up shortly after missing Tuesday's defeat to the Wild. Montreal are 3-4-0 to start the season.

Hope to remain in NHL

It remains to be seen if he will remain with the NHL side on return from injury or head to the AHL to gain more experience, but for now he appears to have done enough to convince the Canadiens that they made the right decision to spot him straight into the big league.

With the monkey of his first goal off his back, the ambitious Slafkovsky will hope to contribute more regularly on the scoresheet and take the advice of Hall of Fame forward St. Louis, who has told him to focus on the little details like driving to centre ice more often where many NHL goals are scored.

If he does that, he'll surely be rewarded by St. Louis with more responsibility which will include opportunities on the powerplay and make it impossible for GM Hughes to do anything other than allow him to develop alongside the world's best.

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