Cole Coffield was surprised by how old Juraj Slavkowski was the first time they met.
“I think everyone was,” said Coffield, 5-foot-7 Canadian Golf Championships on Monday at Laval-sur-le-Lac.
Josh Anderson was also surprised when he first met Slavkowski, who was picked by the Canadians with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.
“The first day I actually saw him, for an 18-year-old this size is a very rare breed,” said Anderson, 28, who is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds. “And how thick it is also. Not only is it tall, but how thick it is.”
Slafkovsky was also 6-foot-3, 227 pounds when he was working at Canadians development camp in July. The Canadians measured Slafkovsky again on Wednesday on the first day of rookie camp at Brossard and he was 6-foot-3, 238 pounds.
There was no media available on Wednesday as the players were also preparing to fly to Buffalo for the Horizons Challenge, which will feature junior teams from the Sabers, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canadian rookies play their first game against the Sabers on Thursday at 7 p.m., then the Devils play on Friday and conclude the Horizons Challenge against the Senators on Sunday.
Eighteen of the 28 players invited to the camp have been recruited by the Canadians, including six this year. Most of the focus will be on Slafkovsky – as will be when the main training camp opens next Wednesday.
“Skating with him this summer, you can see that he uses his size well on the snow, and protects his pucks,” Anderson said of the 18-year-old Slovakian. “He’s got the hand of a big boy. So the future is bright for him. I’m excited to see what he’s doing in (training) camp and what he’s doing this year.”
Size isn’t the only thing the Canadians loved about Slafkovsky when they decided to take him with the No. 1 pick. He had a solid performance at this year’s World Championships, scoring 3-6-9 in eight matches, and was also named MVP at the Olympics after scoring seven goals In seven matches, Slovakia won a bronze medal.
Nick Bobrov, co-director of the Amateur Scouts of Canadians, noted that Slafkovsky has the combination of talent and mental flexibility required to succeed in Montreal.
“You have to have confidence – there is no doubt about that – especially in the market we are in today,” Anderson said. “For (Slavkovsky), I think he just has to be himself. He didn’t get to that position and he’s not confident. I think he’s going to have a really good camp and I’m excited to see what he can achieve.”
The day before the NHL Draft, Slavkovsky was asked why Canadians should take him as the first choice.
“I can play with these two guys (Nick Suzuki and Caufield) and I think it could be beautiful Good It can deliver results at the end of the day,” Slavkowski said. “I think that’s important for Montreal.“
It would be a surprise if Slafkovsky does not start the season with the Canadiens and is very likely to be on the left wing streak with Suzuki and Caufield. For those concerned, this may be a mistake after what happened with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, there is a huge difference. Slafkovsky is already the size of a man, while Kotkaniemi was still growing in body as an 18-year-old NHL rookie.
I expect the Canadians to hold Slafkovsky for nine games before deciding if he’s NHL ready and ready to burn off the first year of his base contract, or if he’s better off playing with AHL’s Laval Rocket. This season it will be all about developing Canadians without the pressure of winning matches. 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,” Coffield said when asked about the possibility of Slavkovsky being a teammate. “He is smart and would be a great addition to the team.
“I came here last week,” Coffield added. “I know he’s been out of town for a few days, but I’ve met him for a bit. He’s a good kid and he’d be a great addition to the team.”
Suzuki spent the summer in Montreal and had more time with Slavkovsky.
“He’s a great guy…a pleasure to be around,” Suzuki said last month while participating in the annual BioSteel NHL Camp. “On the ice, he’s a lot bigger than I could have imagined. I think he’s doing the right things. He’s working really hard, so he’s coming to camp ready and we’ll see how that takes shape with the lines.”
It will be interesting to watch as this growing boy develops.
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