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Canadiens Analysis

Canadiens Analysis: How Slafkovsky Improved His Overall Play



Montreal canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky

With all the recent talk about who the Montreal Canadiens should target at the upcoming NHL Draft, let us look at the development of the Canadiens’ highest draft pick since 1980, Juraj Slafkovsky.

What started as a slow and concerning season ended in a red-hot run, with fans elated about the future.

Although point production is a great indicator of future success, today we will dive into the subtleties of his game that helped the 2022 first-overall pick take a massive jump forward in his development.

(Editor’s Note: I would like everyone to give a warm welcome to our newest analyst on Montreal Hockey Now, Cam Weitzman.  He will bring a unique viewpoint to the site, using his hockey background to offer important insight on key subjects.)

Juraj Slalfkovsky’s Defensive Prowess

Slafkovsky’s defensive play improved immensely throughout the season.

A good sign that someone is playing well defensively is when head coach Martin St-Louis trusts them to protect a lead during the dying moments of a game. One notable instance was during a December game against the New York Islanders, where the Canadiens held a one-goal lead, and St. Louis went with a forward line of Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki, and Christian Dvorak in the last minute of the contest.

Not only were the trio able to maintain the lead, but with the help of Slafkovsky’s defensive play, they managed to put the game out of reach, thanks to an empty-net goal.

Why was Slafkovsky given this trust?

A big part of being able to defend effectively is the ability to break the puck out of the defensive zone, something Slafkovsky has done with more confidence as he gains experience in the NHL.

The hardest part of being a winger is receiving a pass on the half-wall and, within a split-second decision, needing to make the right play to get the puck out of the zone.

A task that seems simple is much more difficult when the opposing team is bearing down on you. One wrong decision with the puck can lead to a goal against.

Throughout the season, Slafkovsky’s poise and smart decision-making were on display. Whether it was making cross-ice passes to his defenseman or guiding a pass to Nick Suzuki to break the puck out of the zone, he took big strides in advancing the puck to the next zone. Not only does this help keep the puck out of his own zone, but it also leads to scoring chances for the Canadiens.


Slafkovsky’s Growth In The Offensive Zone

Now to the offensive zone, where Juraj Slafkovsky has learned he can be a force on the forecheck.

Instead of making the extra move and turning the puck over at the opposing team’s blue line, Slafkovsky has learned to use his body by dumping pucks and focusing on quick retrievals.

No defenceman likes seeing a six-foot-three, two-hundred-thirty-pound forward trucking into the zone, breathing down their back, which is something the young Slovak has started to understand.

He also improved his decision-making after retrieving these pucks. From February 1st until the end of the season, Slafkovsky averaged 0.91 points per game, and a big part of that was making the right play in the offensive zone after hunting down the puck.

Juraj Slafkovsky’s Confidence Factor

None of this progression would be possible without building confidence.

Even for a guy with Slafkovsky’s personality and self-belief, entering the NHL at eighteen is no easy task. Building that confidence, however, can lead to success on and off the ice.

As the season went on and Slafkovsky’s development became more and more evident, so did his confidence. There were many moments when he would do something exceptionally impressive, just like this between-the-legs pass in the offensive zone.

It’s important to remember there will be some more growing pains.

Such is life when you develop in the NHL.

But given that the improvements in Slafkovsky’s game were numerous this season, there’s more than enough evidence to suggest Habs fans are right to be excited about what comes next for the youngest player in the lineup.

And it’s not a matter of simply waiting for more improvements next season. His current trajectory should lead to improved play throughout the better part of the next decade.

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Harley M

Congrats to Cam on joining the team! Seems like he notices the little things that I miss when watching the games. Looking forward to reading his articles in the future!


Welcome Cam.

All of last season and early this campaign, Slavkovsky looked lost, particularly in our zone. He didn’t process the game fast enough to make good decisions. It took a lot of reps for him to see it the way others do as he wasn’t used to the pace or smaller rinks, a double whammy!! Nick told Marty he wanted him on his line at a time he was sliding down the lineup. Coaching staff constantly worked and communicated with him and then he broke through. The old adage that offense originates in your own zone appears well suited for him. Once he started making proper decisions based on evaluating things in real time, he went off.

Future is very bright for that young man. He is the poster boy for this generation of Power Forward. His stride, passes , his forecheck and boardwork (in both zones) plus his shot all exude power. I do think he will end up the clear best player from his draft class.


Since I wrote my love letter about Slafkovsky, I’ve discovered he’s been less than a gentleman, ripping new ones on everyone and everything in his path at the world hockey championships. I’m not thrilled to hear him call out the refs for what he determines was their error in a profanity laced tirade involving their mothers. You’re representing your country young man, do it with class, vigor and honor and do not bring shame upon your name or your nations. I hope he has people around him that will provide him with wise counsel as it appears he needs it from the video clips I’ve seen. His nation rented a hotel right by the rink and he disagrees with the choice and has gone public about it. The bed may not suit him but why make a spectacle ? Talk to the team manager, request a new mattress or whatever but putting yourself first is NOT leadership , it’s the opposite. I’m disappointed in how he is handling himself. Nobody is perfect, he’s young and hopefully he will learn how to conduct himself to represent his team professionally on and off the ice.