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Canadiens Approaching Crucial Deadline For Slafkovsky’s Future

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Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky

When the Montreal Canadiens announced their lines ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup against the Nashville Predators, first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky was in a familiar position: the fourth line.

In total, Slafkovsky has faced 13 different line combinations this season and has spent the most amount of time alongside Jake Evans (1G, 6A) and Michael Pezzetta (2G, 1A), the duo which greeted him on the fourth line against the Predators.

Predictably, the trio failed to produce much offence, although they did play fairly well, at least relative to their teammates. They controlled more than 70 percent of the shots and were expected to control over 90 percent of the goals, but seeing as they played a little over 5 minutes together at 5v5, the opportunities to help the team were few and far between.

But despite the uptick in underlying numbers, it has become clear that playing Slafkovsky on the fourth line is not conducive to helping his development.

To get a better idea of his results with various teammates, we can take a look at the numbers from the combinations involving Slafkovsky that were kept together for more than 20 minutes.

As evidenced below, for the most part, lines featuring Slafkovsky have struggled to control the shots (CF%), the high-danger chances (HDCF%), and the expected goals (xGF%).

Canadiens Slafkovsky teammates

Owing to a recent drop in confidence, and consequently, his overall level of play, the only combination that seems to suggest some sustainability at 5v5 is when Slafkovsky is played alongside Josh Anderson and Jake Evans.

Important Deadline

The lack of chemistry with the aforementioned line combinations leads us to an important question.

What’s the best approach regarding Slafkovsky’s development in the second half of the season, for both the player and the Canadiens?

Unlike Joel Armia, Mike Hoffman, and Anderson, it seems Slafkovsky is unlikely to receive an audition on the top line, which leaves very few options for St-Louis, especially since Sean Monahan, one of the few players in the lineup that can drive the play and create space for his linemates in the neutral and offensive zone, is currently injured.

TSN analyst Darren Dreger suggests Slafkovsky would be better off in the AHL for the time being, stating that it’s a better environment with a focus on development.

Laval’s struggles aside, it’s safe to assume Laval Rocket head coach Jean-Francois Houle could provide Slafkovsky with a healthy dose of ice time, not to mention prime minutes on the first power play unit.

But there’s also another important factor to consider.

If Slafkovsky remains on the Canadiens roster for the next two games, he will be one year closer to being a UFA, seeing as 40 games count as an accrued season in the NHL.

Technically, Slafkovsky only has 33 games under his belt, but the time he spent on the roster while injured and suspended also count toward the 40-game limit.

Group 3 UFA

As per Puck Pedia:

This is the most common type of UFA. A player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) if their current contract ends after either 7 Accrued Seasons or they are 27 or older as of June 30.

An Accrued Season is defined as a year in which a skater is on an NHL roster for at least 40 games (30 games for Goalies). If a player is on the NHL team’s roster but injured, the team’s games count towards the 40-game minimum.

There is a decision to be made by Kent Hughes and Co., but given the impending deadline and Slafkovsky’s current usage, it should not be a difficult decision by any means. There’s little to no value in keeping Slafkovsky in the NHL if it’ll lead to the Slovak forward becoming an unrestricted free agent a year sooner than expected.

Unless the Canadiens somehow manage to find a better use for Slafkovsky in the NHL, all signs point to a confidence-boosting assignment with the Laval Rocket shortly.


All Statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick.

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habbernack

This is not the way to manage your 1 st rd pick. Makes me think of KK

Justmyopinion

It is somewhat scary looking back at it. We thought that KK was possibly the next centre to lead the Habs back. We now know he’s possibly 3/4 line forward material and being overpaid as well. Management needs to look at its scouting system if that happens again as we need our 1st rounders to click but scouting is partially analysis, luck and voodoo.

Tyrone

If management didn’t care about burning the first year of his ELC where he’ll be the cheapest we’re ever going to get him, then I don’t see them worrying about him getting past the 40 game mark and a year closer to FA. He should have been in the AHL (with Mesar too!) all season. He hasn’t been, so I don’t see them sending him down now. And when you consider how poorly things are going in Laval this year, I can see management thinking he might as well be experiencing losing at the NHL level where we can directly control him the most if he’s just going to experience the same amount of losing in the AHL anyway. I think he’s here to stay. They just need to put him on the 1st or 2nd line and experience the bumps of development there. So what if we keep losing? It’ll get us close to Bedard.

Dave

But all the young D will be going down too. Could stabilize the team for a playoff push.

Justmyopinion

We don’t have enough replacement defense men to replace 5 D..I don’t think the D overall is the cause of our recent demise. We aren’t as strong at centre as we think we are..notice our fall started with Monahan out of the lineup? Suzuki and Caulfield are the only true scoring threats with Anderson sometimes. That’s it. Combined with lousy PP and PK and here we are. This allows other clubs to focus on Suzuki’s line and we lose more often

Train

They should have sent him to Laval from day one. Just because a guy is a number one pick doesn’t necessarily means he’s automatically ready for the NHL. Look at Lafreniere.

Dave

Just about every first overall pick that was a forward, directly went to the nhl. Joe Thornton’s rookie stats weren’t good at all.

Laffy and Slaf have to learn and take their bumps just as most rookies do. It is a long season and they should have had him play half the season in the AHL, especially if the 40 game mark really matters. I’m not worried about the ufa thing as we will sign him to a long term contract if he earns it.

Justmyopinion

Agreed. And let’s hope we don’t do another Drouin and trade for Lafreniere unless it’s Drouin for Lafreniere.

Justmyopinion

I agree. I think it’s time to send him to Laval and lots of minutes under different conditions. Yes, Laval isn’t the ideal choice but riding the pine with the Habs isn’t making him better. Slavofsky needs lots of time playing and you’ll get that in Laval. You’re not going to get it with the current Habs. 3 years down the road, we’ll see if we have a decent winger or another KK..It’ll be interesting to compare Wright and Cooley at that time as well

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