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Canadiens Direction On Juraj Slafkovsky Becoming Evident



Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky

With the World Junior Championship on the horizon, not to mention the upcoming holiday roster freeze, the Canadiens are quickly approaching a soft deadline when it comes to first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky.

The World Junior Championship takes place from Dec.26 to Jan.5 in Halifax and Moncton, whereas the roster freeze kicks in on Dec.19, which means if the Canadiens want to make a trade, place someone on waivers, or assign them to the AHL, they must take the decision before the freeze.

In previous weeks, the overwhelming consensus among Canadiens fans was that sending Slafkovsky to the World Junior Championship would ensure he could face a lowered quality of competition, not to mention an uptick in ice time against players his age. This usage would likely lead to a much-needed boost to his confidence.

But the logic behind that statement was based on Slafkovsky’s usage in the first two months of the season, which was sporadic, to say the least.

New Information To Consider

Every since the Canadiens suffered a string of injuries to players such as Mike Hoffman, Brendan Gallagher, Sean Monahan, and others, Slafkovsky has enjoyed an uptick in ice time, and, shockingly, a significant increase in production.

With three points in his last four games, it’s clear Slafkovsky’s usage has finally reached the point where he’s being given roles that are conducive to producing good results.

In other words, he’s playing with better linemates, and most importantly, his minutes have increased since he was removed from the fourth line.

Making The Call

There are two things to consider when re-evaluating his ideal usage this month.

Firstly, if his ice time continues to hover around the 14-minute mark, it stands to reason the experience he’s gaining in the NHL is as good, if not better than what the WJC could provide.

Secondly, if his underlying numbers point to a much-improved player, it also stands to reason Slafkovsky should stay in the NHL, as to continue building upon the momentum he’s created in the last few games.

As evidenced by the 5v5 numbers, Slafkovsky hasn’t just improved his underlying numbers since being used in the top six, he’s left his relatively disappointing numbers from the start of the season behind.

Canadiens rookie slafkovsky

He’s seen significant improvements across the board, including shot share (CF%), scoring chances (SCF%), expected goal share (xGF%) or goal share (GF%).

He did have a slight downtick in high-danger scoring chances (HDCF%), but we can overlook a tiny drop in one statistical category given the rest of the encouraging results.

The sample size is still small, and the Canadiens will need to keep feeding him a healthy amount of minutes but as it stands, due to the bevy of injuries on the team, as well as Slafkovsky’s recent strong play, there’s merit to arguing the youngest player in the league should stay in Montreal over the holiday season.

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

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