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Kent Hughes Discusses Slafkovsky’s Play, Developmental Strategy

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Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes joined the Ray and Dregs podcast on Thursday to discuss the play of first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky

He also elaborated on his goal throughout camp, putting an onus on the future without adding any extra pressure on the players that may not be ready to make the jump to the NHL.

“You watch the entire group, but the focus is on the young prospects and trying to figure out who may fill spots that are available on our roster,” said Hughes. “And also to get a better appreciation for the quality of the prospect and what their future may represent with our organization, whether it is this season or in the future.”

It’s a logical approach, one that will benefit many of the talented Montreal Canadiens prospects. Historically speaking, very few prospects were hindered by spending too much time in the minors, whereas there’s a laundry list of highly-touted players that have failed to achieve their potential due to being rushed into the NHL.

Of course, a fifth-round pick returning to Junior hockey will not garner a lot of attention. But the first-overall pick failing to make the lineup certainly.

Mats Sundin currently stands as the last forward selected first overall pick that didn’t start the following season on an NHL roster, and that was way back in 1989.

However, it’s important to remember why the Montreal Canadiens chose to select Slafkovsky.

The goal was not to draft the best player on that day, but rather the player that projects to be the best once he goes through an intensive developmental process.

With that in mind, it’s only fair to say Slafkovsky hasn’t stood out at camp. The 18-year-old is improving every day, but he’s yet to put together a performance that would lead people to believe he would become an impact player for the franchise.

“We’ll see how he progresses. I thought his two exhibition games were a little underwhelming for him,” said Hughes.  “But the two rookie games in Buffalo, he was great.”

The first part of the quote will grab headlines, but it was the second part of his quote that Montreal Canadiens fans should pay attention to.

“We’ve got to do what’s right for him,” Hughes said. “If we do what we said when we drafted him, we weren’t looking for the best 18-year-old, we were looking for the best NHL player down the road, and I don’t think we do that without making the best decision for him, whether it’s the popular decision or not, we’re going to do what we believe is right.”

As Hughes has shown several times in the past, he’s not worried about external pressure, which is the perfect approach to leading a team in a hockey-crazy market like Montreal.

Juraj Slafkovsky has all the tools to become an excellent NHL player, but the Montreal Canadiens recognize that it’ll take a lot of work to get him to that point.

In many ways, it’s a reversal from the previous regime’s attitude towards highly-touted prospects, a reversal that should serve Slafkovsky, as well as many other prospects, well going forward.

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Dave

What nonsense. He’s a rookie. It’s pre season. He’s done ok.

Dave

I want to see him in regular season with Caulfield Suzuki or the second line.

Billy739

We were gonna then the collision of Suzuki/Eddy happened.
Suzuki is suppose to be getting close to ready and thinks he’ll get atleast 1 preseason game in so odds are we’ll see it.

I wouldnt get too excited though
Suzuki-Caufield dynamic works because the 3rd guys expendable.
No matter how good he is like Toffoli,Anderson, or Hoffman they dont last long as their numbers are effected and their production suffers.

Anderson moved to Suzuki-Caufield day 1 by MSL triggered a 22 game point streak in which Caufield scored 16 goals 25 points and Suzuki scored 21 points. But I think Anderson had 14 or 15 with most coming in 3-4 multi point games leading to MSL getting a lot of media question before eventually moving him. Toffoli went through the same thing after that Armia got his shot briefly before Hoffman joined them.

Issue is Suzuki-Caufield dont need a veteran anymore to hold their hands defensively so Toffoli was out, They dont need someone infront of the net to score it takes away their shot options. What they need is a juiced up version of Pezzetta for the top line. Only player i can think of close to fitting the bill is Comtois in ANA would fit like a glove.

Comtois works because he’s a 1 man show who can play a team game but doesnt rely on that for his offensive success. His issue is consistency which is why on a line beside these 2 it could work out for him. If he’s seen as more of the Danault less of the Tatar or Gallagher then he’s still in a prime position to get himself paid and be loved by the fans.

Comtois is who we want
We got some depth we could use to make that upgrade too

Billy739

He really has not and even i thought “he did ok at rookie camp” was a lie as he wasnt even top 5 in either game. Maybe more like 7th or 8th best on the ice as its clear the speed of small ice will be a bump for him.

Mesar on the other hand plays in the middle where as long as your a quick decisive playmaker you dont really need to be fast if your hockey IQ is high enough.

When your 27 OA pick and your 33rd OA pick have both out player your 1st OA pick by a country mile and then some thats a real issue. Especially since none of the 3 have done enough to warrant not being sent back to the OHL

habbernack

Simoneau, Mesar, Harvey_Pinard. The smurf line

Billy739

I was think Huey, Dewey and Louie
Less about sunshine and rainbows
More about being pains in everyone butt lol

Billy739

Firm Believer Slafkovsky to the OHL is the best thing to do for his career and ultimately Mesar’s or Becks as well. Teams have a history of re-uniting players like they did with Suzuki and Hillis or Mysak and Xhekaj. Hamilton didnt even need a LD and Xhekaj never played RD but they paid as much as Mctavish got to bring him in (and it paid off)

If you send Slafkovsky to Junior i’d expect 1/2 teams our top 2 Centers play for to pick him up for a Memorial Cup Run to remember like Radulov and Vlasic 2006 classic.

AHL is an option dont get me wrong
But OHL he’ll be given the time to adjust to the pace of small ice
Thats something you’re not really given in the AHL as guys fight for jobs and position at a much higher intensity with less options. Junior you get bumped there’s a numbed of places to go at the same level so while the competition is there its not as cut throat as like Slafkovsky they’re all trying to polish their games before turning Pro

Let Mysak,Ylonen,Norlind,Ghule,Primeau and even Barron go on a run in the AHL untouched. Dont ruin it with endless call ups leaving only half an ECHL roster for Primeau to go on another amazing ECF game 7 run with. Lets have the first Calder Cup Winners since Price was in net and take pride in development during a rebuild.

With 10 pending UFA’s the next 2 TDL’s not including Schuneman who’s on the fringe. That puts MTL in a position where we have the time to let them grow . The Flipside of this is Xhekaj who’s projected to play basically where he’ll start should play in the NHL now if for no other reason beside he can we should recognize his Career year after switching to Right Defense and see that as a way to cover 2 positions depth wise with 1 player.(Strategy 101)

This way when we sell whether we tank is on Suzuki,Caufield,Dach,Harris and our Veteran Leaders like Gally,Spiderman,Eddy and Allen. If even 1 of them is injured odds are we finish top 5 in this years draft that’s first 10 picks has 7 projected Centers with various styles and skill sets.

2023-24 becomes about the OHL class either jumping straight to the NHL or worse case rotating out with the AHL crew who’s in peak position to make the jump. Hughes made way too much off pending UFA/RFA’s to not approach things this way as he’s set to make enough in assets to get the Elite RD he covets in the media and maybe even PLD

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