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Juraj Slafkovsky Probably Needs Better Linemates & More TOI

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Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky

With Montreal Canadiens prospect Juraj Slafkovsky nearing the crucial 10-game mark, which would automatically burn the first year of his entry-level contract, it’s a perfect opportunity to analyze his overall impact in the first nine games of his career.

Usage

As it stands, Slafkovsky has been given an average of 11:05 of ice time in all situations, which is the second-least average ice time among all forwards. Only Michael Pezzetta has played less on average, and it was a mere second less, not to mention he only played one game.

The first-overall pick at the 2022 Draft averages a little more than 14 shifts per game, though his overall usage has varied significantly in recent games.

Juraj Slafkovsky Shifts Through 9 games

Slafkovsky has been given a total of 2 minutes and 43 seconds of power play time. Only Jake Evans has featured less often with the man advantage.

The Slovak’s most common assignment is on the fourth line, alongside Evans and a rotating cast of underwhelming veteran wingers, which, is not exactly conducive to generating offence.

Of his 99 all-situation minutes in the NHL, 59 of them occurred with Evans, 20 with Mike Hoffman, and 17 with Rem Pitlick.

Overall, the quality of teammates has been rather weak, even if it must be said Evans fulfills an important role for the team and possesses a fair amount of offensive prowess.

But the goal is not to develop Slafkovsky into a shutdown player, therefore, it can also be reasoned the actual assignments given to Slafkovsky are not ideal for the development of an offensively-talented player.

There’s an adage that says if you want a player to become like one of his teammates, you should place them side by side to allow them to learn directly from the source.

Results

Despite the relatively difficult assignments, Slafkovsky has produced healthy results.

On the defensive side of things, relative to his teammates, Slafkovsky ranks among the best players in terms of mitigating scoring chances and expected goals against. Only Jonathan Kovacevic has made a great impact through the first 12 games of the season.

His offensive game is another matter.

With 3 goals in 9 games, Slafkovsky has enjoyed a fair amount of success in the offensive zone, but it is probably not sustainable.

He’s only taken 9 shots in total this year, 7 of which came at 5v5. It’s unreasonable to expect him to keep scoring on 33 percent of his shots.

When he’s on the ice, the Canadiens generally don’t shoot much, but they also allow much fewer shots, which connotes Slafkovsky’s defensive game shouldn’t be underestimated.

He has struggled to control high-danger chances, but if you take a look at the Canadiens’ lineup, every single player has struggled in that regard.

There has been a lot of progress made in the small details of his game, especially in the offensive zone.

His decision-making still needs to be improved, but he’s using his natural talent and size to his advantage a lot more often than he did in the first few games of the year.

This progress has allowed Slafkovsky to spend more time in the offensive zone, and improve his decision-making while he’s being pressured, exactly what the doctor ordered for the youngest player currently in the NHL.

Decision Time

The question remains, is his solid, yet unspectacular play enough to keep him in the NHL?

Martin St-Louis has taken a slow and steady approach when it comes to immersing Slafkovsky in the icy waters of the NHL, a logical approach that generally benefits most rookies.

But again, the goal is not to develop Slafkovsky as a dominant presence in the fourth line. The goal is to develop a player that can make a significant impact in the top six for the foreseeable future, which points to a need for more ice time.

Giving an 18-year-old too many responsibilities is a risk, but given Slafkovsky has performed admirably in his limited role, burning an entire year of his contract would necessitate an uptick in ice time to justify the decision.

The same can be said about his power-play usage, where Slafkovsky has demonstrated that a little more open ice and time give him the perfect opportunity to play a more carefree brand of hockey, and thus, have a little more fun on the ice, which is an important aspect to developing any young player in the NHL.

Logic dictates Slafkovsky would get more minutes by playing in the AHL with the Laval Rocket, and it would also mean his entry-level contract would slide, thus helping the Canadiens in their long-term plans.

But logic also dictates that his results in the NHL point to a player that is ready for more minutes in that very league, rather than depending on a demotion versus a lower level of competition, where his decision-making will not be tested against the very best in the world.

It’s not a cut-and-dry situation, and the Rocket could definitely use Slafkovsky’s help seeing as they’re off to a difficult start to the season, but all signs point to Slafkovsky earning an extended audition in the NHL.

The only important caveat is the extended NHL audition must be paired with an uptick in usage. Not a dramatic increase, but an increase nonetheless.

The minutes will be difficult to find, seeing as the Canadiens are already in a roster logjam, but it’s reasonable to expect Slafkovsky’s development should be given priority over aging assets that will have no long-term impact on the franchise, except perhaps turning into a mid-round pick at the deadline.

If the Canadiens cannot earmark ice time for Slafkovsky, Laval should be well-positioned to offer up the minutes he desperately needs to continue his development.

(All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)

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David Armstrong

Try him with Gally. Hard working, passionate and responsible two ways. Gally isn’t afraid to use his body or go to the dirty spots. He is a shot generating machine too and a veteran.

habbernack

I would make the Dvorak the 3rd line and make Monahab and Slaf with Armia for a 2nd line. IMO Armia has good puck skills. Lines have to evolve together I think they’re all good with the puck. Monahab had Gaudreau and Tzachuk as linemates if I’m correct so IMO Slaf, Mona and ? would make a scoring 2nd line. I like Armia on RW.

Last edited 29 days ago by habbernack
Billy739

Monahan cant Babysit its already been tried.
Every Line’s had their turn carrying Slafkovsky
Issue is he misreads the tempo of the play so often
The speed of the game especially defensively is so very weak

Once he nails that timing /rhythm that define’s Small ice apart from Big Ice then the sky’s the limit as far as Slafkovsky. But until the point He’s dead last on the team in almost every regard and shows as his Average Ice time. Unless the game has 2 Power Play’s then Slafkovsky is only averaging 8-10 minutes a game as per the NHL

MSL keeps using him less keeping him around for Power Play basically and 4-4. Where his size and skill comes in handy. But if we’re conitinuing to keep all our pending UFA’s for the next 2 years until their respective TDL’s then Slafkovsky has to got to the AHL or be hurt by poor development choices.

He can be helped but we’d need to move out players.
For me Hoffman to DAL for Faksa in a deal makes sense
Salfkovsky-Faksa-Armia gives him 2 defensive forwards with high possesion numbers who cycle pucks and create space. Faksa’s a great playmaker giving him 2 different types of Goal Scorer’s 6’3 and 6’4 to play with will make their jobs easier .

We saw it was Armia-Staal-Perry when a line that size is constantly wearing you down you lose a step often which is why MTL did the best short handed in their SCF run(likely why they made it out of round 1). I just think that Trio could work for us short term atleast until Mesar shows up but Insert Pezzetta to Faksa and Armia its still scary just for different reasons now lol

Billy739

Right but wrong about Internal Solution

Caufield-Suzuki-Dach(Legit #1 for the first time in decades)
Its the only players he’s not played with regularly at this point.
Unlike this site i’ll back it up with proof http://www.cs.unb.ca/~mwf/habs/forw_20JS.html

With Anderson out you try him top 6 with Dvorak and Gally .
But honestly i’d be looking at a trying to make a trade for someone who can help Slafkovsky Adjust and Filip Zadina’s being shopped still. While not the same language its similar as its both based of the same Writen Czech foundation. Its like how Portuegese and Spanish are different but if you speak one you likely understand a lot of the other.

Short Term i think Slafkovsky-Zadina could be great
But when Mesar comes to the NHL next year they could be a legit 2nd line long term.
Another option more likely to work short term anyways is Thomas Tatar’s return.
Tatar being one of the few Pro Slovaks someone who Slafkovsky looked up to worked with KK and his Pori,Finland fellow native Joel Armia in the first 2 years.

Personaly i like Tatar as we know what we get with him but it will cost us so pass.
I’d go with Zadina as while it will cost more then Tatar its worth it for a young top 10 draft pick who’s an RFA on a good contract with term. If we can land him at the cost of a 2nd round pick and a Kappanen who’s off to a great start in Liiga and set to play for for Finland at the WJ U-20 tournament for the 2nd time looking to avenge a Silver Finish by taking Gold. That i’d do but not for a 1st unless it one from the TDL we get from a contender for one of our pending UFA’s that will likely be 28th-32nd OA

Jon

Without a doubt he should be in the AHL for the balance of the season. We all love the kid and can see his obvious potential but he needs a ton of minutes and has to play all situations. We’re not going anywhere anyhow this year so it’s definitely the right move.

Dave


Hilarious pic of Slaf that you used before this article. 😂

Last edited 28 days ago by Dave

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