Now that the Montreal Canadiens have passed the one-third mark of the season, we’re starting to get a better idea of Juraj Slafkovsky’s projected point totals.
Most notably, ever since Slafkovsky was moved up from the fourth line, he’s unsurprisingly started to produce at a much higher level. To give you an idea of how the increased responsibility has impacted Slafkovsky, we can simply take a look at his points per 60.
Before the promotion, Slafkovsky was producing 1.43 points per 60 at 5v5.
Now that he’s no longer toiling away on the fourth line, his production has jumped to 2.59 points per 60, which is the third-highest production rate on the team in that time frame.
Slafkovsky's patience, Anderson's determination to get to the net… this is just a great hockey play. 💪
— NHL (@NHL) December 13, 2022
It’s also done wonders for his underlying numbers, which have seen a significant uptick.
His shot share has jumped from 46.7 percent, good for 17th on the team, all the way to 57.7 percent, which is 3rd among Canadiens players. He’s also done a much better job controlling scoring chances, going from just 44.6 percent to an impressive 52.3 percent.
But even if Slafkovsky wasn’t put in a position conducive to scoring throughout his first 17 NHL games, his production remains fairly impressive.
If we compare it to other 18-year-old rookies that were drafted first overall, Slafkovsky’s 1.77 points per 60 at 5v5 is higher than Alexis Lafrenière’s 1.75 P/60, as well as Jack Hughes’ 0.95 P/60.
He’s still producing at a slightly lower rate than Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s rookie season, which saw the Finnish centre earning 1.95 P/60.
But it’s also worth noting Kotkaniemi, as well as Lafreniere and Hughes, received about 15 percent more ice time than Slafkovsky in their rookie year, which certainly helped when it came to their confidence.
Un jeu brillant de Juraj Slafkovsky qui est passé inaperçu hier soir quand le match était 1-1 en 3e période : il a poussé Johnathan Kovacevic avec son bâton pour lui donner la petite poussée nécessaire afin d'intercepter la passe du 2 contre 0 👌🔵⚪️🔴👌 pic.twitter.com/7ExqV7j06c
— TVA Sports (@TVASports) December 13, 2022
Kotkaniemi, in particular, serves as a warning beacon when it comes to the importance of maintaining stability and confidence for young players in the NHL.
A very successful rookie campaign was followed by inconsistent usage and complete erasure of all the confidence built in his first year in the league.
Slafkovsky’s uptick in minutes must be maintained if he’s to build an identity in the NHL, regardless of the injury status of other players in the lineup. Furthermore, if he’s to emulate some of the talented players on the roster, there’s no better way to study than playing alongside them.
Now that he’s found his scoring rhythm in the top six, not only will he likely stay in Montreal rather than representing Slovakia at the World Junior Championship, but he’s provided ample evidence that the promotion was a wise decision.
The Canadiens wanted to see progress, and that’s exactly what Slafkovsky has provided.
Going forward, it’s only fair to ensure he’s in the right situation to take the next step.
(All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)