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Kent Hughes Envisions Juraj Slafkovsky As ‘Difference Maker’

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Montreal Canadiens

The fact that Juraj Slafkovsky can and wants to be a difference maker was a deciding factor in Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens choosing to draft Slafkovsky first overall at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft this past Thursday.

“When we talk about his character, it’s his desire to be a difference-maker,” Hughes said after he made his first draft pick as the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. “You see it in the way he plays, you see it when you speak to him that he’s a very charismatic kid. I try to think about being an 18-year-old kid, and he left home at 15. I asked him if he lived in a dorm and he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘So, one of your parents moved with you?’ and he said, ‘No.’ Then I said, ‘How’d you cook?’ and he said, ‘With a stove.’

He’s very independent. He’s confident without being arrogant, and we think that this is a kid that not only has the mindset that we’re looking for, but we also evaluate where he is in his game and what he has in terms of natural abilities and where he could be if we help him along in the process.”

Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens are excited about the potential of Juraj Slafkovsky barreling down the wing and making the Bell Centre explode with his sick skill that leads to a goal. Slafkovsky’s desire to be the man and do whatever it takes to win was another key selling factor on the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Slovakian winger.

“There aren’t many players who can skate, who have a big body and are able to score like Juraj,” Hughes pointed out. “At the same time, when you build a team, we often talk about centers and goaltenders. When we tried to differentiate one player from another, we often came back to the fact that Juraj, even when he played with men at the World Championships, wanted to make a difference. He wanted to have the puck all the time. One of the questions that I asked him when I met him was to know what he loved most about hockey. He told me being on the ice when they’re up 4-3 or are down 4-3. This type of response is what we saw from him as a player.”

As for Slafkovsky, he’s already embracing the spotlight of being in a hockey mecca like Montreal.

“It’s a hockey city, so everyone likes hockey and I just enjoy it,” Juraj Slafkovsky said after the first day of development camp. “I always wanted somewhere where they love hockey and I think I’m probably in the best spot in the world for that. It’s just totally different. They are living a hockey life and I don’t think it’s anywhere else in the world like this.”

The plan is to have Slafkovsky, 18, hopefully looking for a Montreal residence in a few months and starting his NHL career playing for the Montreal Canadiens.

“We’d like him in North America. We’ll be fluid in terms of that decision and flexible,” Hughes said. “We’re hopeful that, wherever he starts, based on how he looks over the remainder of this summer and in training camp, if he shows that he’s ready to play in Montreal, he’ll play in Montreal. If not, he’ll play in Laval. We’d like to get him signed fairly quickly here.”

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