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Juraj Slafkovsky Comes As Advertised: High Potential, Work In Progress

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BUFFALO — Much has been said about the recent play of Juraj Slafkovsky, but there’s a certain idiom that’s worth keeping in mind as the Montreal Canadiens enter a new era, one filled with high potential and delicate development paths.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In Slafkovsky’s case, I assume his parents bathed him in the local water tower, but the logic still applies: when attempting to eliminate something bad, you must avoid eliminating the good.

And when it comes to Slafkovsky, there’s plenty of good to go around.

But last night, the sense among some analysts, fans and media was that Slafkovsky’s bad plays, which, to be perfectly fair, were relatively abundant against the Sabres, were enough to cast doubt as to his long term potential.

Take this play, for example.

There’s a lot going on here, some good, some bad, but as per usual, the vast majority of the comments lack the nuance required to come to a logical conclusion.

First and foremost, yes, Slafkovsky will need to keep his head up as he continues to face a higher level of competition. He gained most of his hockey experience playing on larger rinks against a less physical brand of defence. Therefore, it is absolutely normal that he’ll have to adapt to this new style of play.

Secondly, he’s freakishly strong. I’m talking Hulk strength. But not the mediocre Hulk we see in Marvel movies, rather, World Breaker Hulk. If I was the Kool-Aid man, I’d be worried the young Slovak could steal my job at any time, because there’s no doubt Slafkovsky could bust through a brick wall with the greatest of ease.

But the most important thing in Slafkovsky‘s case, is that he’s making mistakes in situations which allow mistakes. There’s absolutely no doubt a highly-touted prospect is better off ironing out the wrinkles at a Prospect Tournament than on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Say it with me: this isn’t a bad thing.

Realistic Expectations

Slafkovsky isn’t perfect, far from it, but when evaluating prospects, we must look at the good before the bad. Every single hockey player, save perhaps for Connor McDavid and Lyle Odelein before him, has flaws in their game.

The key, in this case, is encouraging the good while working on the bad.

The Canadiens’ new approach, one that fosters a positive environment for their prospects, an environment which allows for mistakes as long as they’re paired with progression, isn’t just an encouraging step, it’s necessary to properly develop young hockey players.

In other words, it’s time for yet another idiom.

If you’re focusing solely on the bad, you’re failing to see the forest for the trees.

Slafkovsky will make more mistakes, and that’s fine. The key will be how he reacts to said mistakes, and how quickly he learns from them. I can say, for a fact, that I’m already seeing him learn from his mistakes. He’s making fewer errant passes than he did at development camp. He’s paying a lot more attention to his defensive duties. He’s slowing down to allow his teammates to catch up with him. And he’s never satisfied with his results.

That’s what you want from a prospect. And that’s exactly what you’re seeing from Slafkovsky.

Rest assured, there will be more hot takes focused on single plays, especially since you could argue Juraj Slafkovsky was somewhat of a reach as a first-overall pick, but unless they take a look at the bigger picture, the long term picture, they’re just that: hot takes.

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habbernack

IMO he should start in Laval . I came to this conclusion after watching him last night. He needs to get use to the smaller ice. Plays have to be made quicker and he will be playing against men. Build up his confidence.

Curtis Ault

I’m reserving judgement, I like the kid. Alot of refinement required. Laval would be a good place to start. I loved the Odelein reference, by the way.

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