“With a young team, you look for consistency. » Martin St-Louis repeated this phrase several times a few hours before his team left for Buffalo.
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If there’s one player who feels like he’s running a little less lately, it’s Juraj Slafkovsky.
Used on the right wing of the first line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield in the last two games, Slafkovsky passed the test against the Seattle Kraken and the Los Angeles Kings.
The first pick of the 2022 draft didn’t put his name on the scoresheet, but he kept pace with his team’s two best forwards. He didn’t just follow the rhythm, he often dictated it.
Slafkovsky won a multitude of battles along the ramps by making good use of his big frame (6 feet 3 inches and 230 pounds). But there is one element that stands out even more: his vision of the game.
“I feel like he’s scanning the ice better and seeing his teammates even better,” Nick Suzuki said after the 4-0 loss to the Kings. Slaf has worked on his vision of the game during the offseason and it shows. He spots his teammates better and makes good passes.
More touches, more confidence
The CH did not make Slafkovsky its first overall pick in the 2022 auction because of his passing skills. He was above all described as a powerful winger capable of scoring several goals in the NHL.
Photo Martin Chevalier
According to a good old cliché, vision of the game remains an instinctive thing, a strength that cannot really be taught.
“It’s a bit of both,” replied Martin St-Louis when asked if vision of the game was more a question of instinct or teaching. “But at 19, I think it can still be learned a little bit. This is what I notice. For Slaf, his consistency has been good since the start of the year. He had better and worse matches. But for a 19-year-old player, I find that his consistency represents one of his strengths.
“What I like about Slaf is that in our concepts, he notices his points of reference,” continues St-Louis. He knows where his teammates are on the ice and where his opponents are. It recognizes whether it is team play zone coverage or player versus player. It’s very high, as he thinks. It’s no coincidence that he has more touches and is more confident.
“He is confident since he has a lot of touches. The more you touch, the more confidence you have. As your confidence increases, your execution increases. For a 19 year old, I’m very impressed.
In his last two games, Slafkovsky played 17:14 against the Kraken and 18:16 against the Kings. In addition to skating five-on-five with Suzuki and Caufield, he also found himself in the first wave on the power play.
For him, this is a golden opportunity. But it is also the challenge of having in your hands the best defenders of the opposing team and the most defensive trios. It was even more striking for the visit of the Kings. Slafkovsky made the majority of his appearances against Drew Doughty and Mikey Anderson and the Phillip Danault trio (Kevin Fiala-Danault-Trevor Moore).
Despite a poor end to the Habs’ game against the Kings, Slafkovsky, Suzuki and Caufield finished Thursday night with a positive Corsi (55.26%). So they spent more time playing five-on-five in enemy territory.