The Montreal Canadiens former first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky is gearing up for his second NHL season. The forward had his rookie campaign limited to only 39 games due to injury. Now fully healthy, Slafkovsky is looking to have a much more successful sophomore year. But what can we expect from him this year? Furthermore, what would be considered a successful season for Juraj Slafkovsky?
Juraj Slafkovsky’s Second Season
Reflecting on Rookie Season
Slafkovsky’s rookie season was a disappointing one all around. He managed only four goals and six assists in 39 games. His lack of production was a huge concern for many fans. However, we have seen many first overall picks immediately struggle in recent years such as Alexis Lafreniere and Jack Hughes. In Hughes’ case, there was no cause for concern. Many other comparables for Slafkovsky such as Joe Thornton, Mikko Rantanen, and Leon Draisaitl also struggled before breaking out into superstars. Slafkovsky is only 19 years old and still growing into his massive frame and learning to use his size as he gets stronger. So it’s still way too early to label him a bust. However, Slafkovsky’s rookie season will still be chalked up as a disappointment. Especially after it was cut short due to injury.
Expectations for Year Two
This year is Slafkovsky’s sophomore year and expectations are much higher for him this season. Especially being a first-overall pick in an enormous hockey market like Montreal. The expectation is that he will be playing top-six minutes with skilled linemates such as Kirby Dach, Alex Newhook, or Sean Monahan. This opportunity over a full season should allow him to flourish and build upon his pace of production from last season. Many fans have been disappointed in what they’ve seen out of Slaf through the start of training camp and the preseason. Especially after the claims of the rigorous training regimens he has undergone in the offseason.
But Wednesday night at the Bell Centre when the Habs played host to the Ottawa Senators, we saw a glimpse of Juraj Slafkovsky’s potential. He potted a goal in the first period, burying a loose puck in front of the net. He also had a great chance when he came across the blue line and used his acceleration speed to blow past the defender and get a great chance on Joonas Korpisalo. All around, Slafkovsky seemed more engaged and less accepting of being a bystander in the play but instead, he was involved and driving the play himself. He was using his speed and his size to his advantage and winning puck battles all over the ice. This type of improved play is what we can hope to expect from Slafkovsky in his second season.
Measuring Success of Juraj Slafkovsky’s Second NHL season
Slafkovsky’s success this season will be measured not solely on his point production. It will be evaluated on the level at which his pace of play improves. Slafkovsky’s game has lots of room to grow, but if we see more games like Wednesday nights than we do the Monday night tilt versus the Devils, then it will be a successful season for Slaf. The points will come but getting top-line minutes and quality play on a consistent basis is what’s most important. If we see this, he could get around the 40-45 point mark this season. That would be a solid pace for the 19-year-old forward and would prime him for a breakout campaign in year three.
It’s hard to know what the future holds for Juraj Slafkovsky this season. However, fans need to look past the point totals and focus on Slafkovsky’s play. Consistency is key for him this year, as is seeing a consistent steady improvement while getting top minutes. This will mark a successful sophomore season for Juraj Slafkovsky.
Main photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports