Although he was chosen first overall in the 2022 National Hockey League (NHL) draft, Juraj Slafkovsky will have to prove himself to land a position with the Montreal Canadiens, like all the other young players in the organization. .
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That's what CH vice-president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton said on Wednesday during an episode of The Bob McCown Podcast. The former general manager does not have to look far to prove his point. In 2021-2022, Owen Power chose to finish his university career before joining the Buffalo Sabers.
There is no hurry in the case of the Slovak striker, who could also play in the NHL, the American League, in Europe or even in the junior ranks of the Canadian Hockey League, if the organization deems it necessary.
“Owen Power was picked first overall and returned with [the University of] Michigan. We will make the best decision for him. I would like to believe that he will be ready, we will give him every chance, but if he is not ready, we can react,” explained Gorton.
The hockey man doesn't put his finger in his eye; Slafkovsky has qualities that can help the Canadian next season and he could learn very quickly.
“Slafkovsky has a profile that is very difficult to find with his size, his power and his skating. When you look at him, you think he is a big guy, but when you see his face, you would think he is 16 years old. There is a lot of room for improvement,” he acknowledged.
The 18-year-old left winger is undoubtedly part of the solution for the Habs. Could the reconstruction, after a season of misery, go faster than expected? Gorton thinks so.
“We try to see the positive. We got the first choice, we were able to do some deals and add some young players. I think we are starting to turn the corner of the wall, ”he said, adding that he would like to make Montreal a popular destination for free agents.
“When I was in New York, there were always players who wanted to come to New York. In Boston, we also had people who wanted to come. This is what we must do. We have to create that environment,” argued Gorton.
The presence of a promising player like Slafkovsky can certainly weigh in the balance.
Wright not ill-intentioned
Gorton, general manager Kent Hughes and the rest of the staff of the Canadian, will have kept secret the identity of the first choice in total, until they come on the stage of the Bell Center. The selection of the Slovak caused some surprise among the supporters, but never as much as Shane Wright, who was approached by many to put on the blue-white-red uniform.
Finally chosen by the Seattle Kraken with the fourth round of talk, the young center player seemed to direct a rather evocative look of his displeasure towards the table of the Canadian. Gorton thinks that if that glance was really aimed at them, it wasn't filled with bad intentions.
“We spent quite a bit of time with Shane. He is an amazing young man, we got to know him. We watched him from every angle, we asked him a lot of tough questions, we made video, we went to dinner with him,” said Gorton, who says he gets nothing but good things from Wright.