Stu Cowan: All eyes are on Juraj Slafkovsky at Canadiens rookie camp


“For an 18-year-old player to be that tall is a very rare breed,” said Habs Josh Anderson, who is the same height as the Slovak teenager.

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Cole Caufield was surprised by Juraj Slafkovsky’s height when they first met.

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“I think everyone was,” the 5-foot-7 Caufield said during the Canadiens golf tournament on Monday in Laval-sur-le-Lac.

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Josh Anderson was also surprised when he first met Slafkovsky, who was selected by the Canadiens with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft this year.

“The first day I saw him, for an 18-year-old that size, he’s a very rare breed,” said Anderson, 28, who is 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds. “And how thick it is too. Not only its size, but its size. »

Slafkovsky was also 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds when he showed up for the Canadiens’ evaluation camp in July. As he continues to grow, the Canadiens may need to update those measures after Wednesday’s physical and medical tests at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard as the team’s rookie camp opened.

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There was no media availability on Wednesday as players also prepared to travel to Buffalo for the Prospects Challenge, which will feature rookie teams from the Sabres, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators Ottawa and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canadiens rookies will play their first game against the Sabers on Thursday at 7 p.m. They will then face the Devils on Friday and complete the Prospects Challenge against the Senators on Sunday.

Eighteen of the 28 players invited to camp were drafted by the Canadiens, including six this year. The main focus will be on Slafkovsky – as it will when the main training camp opens next Wednesday.

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“Coming to skate with him this summer, you can see he uses his size really well on the ice, protects the pucks,” Anderson said of the 18-year-old Slovak. “He has hands for a big boy. The future is therefore bright for him. I can’t wait to see what he does at (training) camp and what he does this year.

Height isn’t the only thing Canadians liked about Slafkovsky when deciding to take him with the first pick. He had a strong showing at this year’s World Championship, posting 3-6-9 totals in eight games, and was also named Olympics MVP after scoring seven goals in seven games as Slovakia won a bronze medal.

Nick Bobrov, co-director of amateur scouting for the Canadiens, noted that Slafkovsky has the mix of talent and mental resilience needed to succeed in Montreal.

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“You have to have confidence – there’s no doubt about it – especially in the market we’re in today,” Anderson said. “For (Slafkovsky), I think he just has to be himself. He didn’t get to that position, not being confident. I think he’s going to have a really good side and I’m looking forward to it. to see what it can bring.

The day before the NHL Draft, Slafkovsky was asked why the Canadiens should take him with the first pick.

I can play with these two guys (Nick Suzuki and Caufield) and I think it can be a nice good line that can make results at the end of the day,” Slafkovsky said. “I think it’s important for Montreal.

It would be a surprise if Slafkovsky didn’t start the season with the Canadiens and possibly on a line on the left wing with Suzuki and Caufield. For those worried it could be a mistake after what happened with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, there is a big difference. Slafkovsky is already the size of a man, while Kotkaniemi was still growing in his body as an 18-year-old NHL rookie.

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I expect the Canadiens to keep Slafkovsky for nine games before deciding if he’s ready for the NHL and if they’re ready to burn the first year of his entry-level contract, or if he would better to play for Laval in the AHL. Rocket. This season will be all about development for the Canadiens without the pressure of having to win games. If Slafkovsky shows he’s ready to play in the NHL, there’s no reason not to keep him.

“One of the first things everyone knows is that he’s huge, but he’s a good player,” Caufield said when asked about the possibility of having Slafkovsky as a sidekick. threesome. “He’s smart and he’ll be a great addition to the team.

“I just arrived last week,” Caufield added. “I know he was out of town for a few days, but I got to meet him for a bit. Good boy and he will be a great addition to the team.

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Suzuki spent the summer in Montreal and had more time with Slafkovsky.

“He’s a great guy…he’s great fun to be around,” Suzuki said last month while attending the NHL’s annual BioSteel camp. “On the ice, he’s a lot bigger than I imagined. I think he’s doing the right things. He’s been working very hard, so he’s going to come to camp pretty ready and we’ll see how it goes for the lines.

It will be interesting to follow the development of this growing boy.

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