The Montreal Canadiens never should’ve played forward Juraj Slafkovsky in the NHL last season.
There, now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss training camp a bit. With the Canadiens intra-squad scrimmages having gotten underway this past Thursday, there were naturally many who were excited to see the numerous new and returning players take the ice for the first time and see how their chemistry looked. As with most NHL organizations, Montreal already has a fairly good idea of what the roster will look like come opening night, but there are still those occasional surprises who make an impact.
The typical plethora of PTO’s teams offer to a who’s who of prospective hopefuls, always comes with some interesting stories, like the Colorado Avalanche inking former first rounder and Habs minor leaguer Peter Holland to a PTO after initially announcing his retirement from hockey following a rocky stint in the KHL and Sweden. Then, we have the prospects, players who are still developing and coming up through their respective organizations. Some NHL ready. Some… not so much.
The 2022 NHL Draft was a weird one for the Canadiens. After enduring one of their worst campaigns in recent memory in 2021-22 after coming off a miraculous Stanley Cup Finals appearance, Montreal was rightfully awarded the first overall pick in that Summer’s draft after former head coach Dominique Ducharme nearly killed any sense of progress Montreal had made with their prospects (funny considering he’s a former junior coach).
In the leadup to the 2022 Draft and for much of the year’s prior, the expected first overall pick was Kingston Frontenacs star Shane Wright, an exceptional status player in the OHL who had shown immense promise since joining the league at the age of 15.
Other names that were tossed around included Simon Nemec, David Jiricek, and NCAA product and scoring star Logan Cooley. Then, you had Slafkovsky, a largely unproven yet interesting player who had come off a solid 2021-22 campaign in the Finnish SM Liiga and the Olympics for team Slovakia. With 10 points in 31 games for TPS Turku and 7 goals in 7 games at the Olympics, Slafkovsky proved he had the ability to keep up in a men’s league, albeit in limited minutes.
His performance at the Olympics, coupled with his large frame and solid shot, compelled the Habs to ultimately select him first overall over Wright, Cooley, Nemec, and Jiricek.