Juraj Slafkovsky gives me the vapors.
For reasons we’ll get into, Slafkovsky has the potential to be the best player that comes out of this draft. He may even have a higher ceiling than Shane Wright.
So, why then is Wright the consensus projected 1st overall pick?
Well, Wright is an NHL player right now who has a probable minimum floor of 40-50 point third line center while having a ceiling of franchise center. Not too shabby. Whereas Slafkovsky has a potential ceiling of peak John LeClair or Todd Bertuzzi (minus the sucker punching) power forward who scores 40+ goals a year potential.
That being said, Wright, again a much safer bet because barring injury or him becoming the next Nolan Patrick/Alexandre Daigle/Patrick Stefan, he will be an effective NHL player for a foreseeable amount of time. Conversely, if Slafkovsky is not a top-6 winger, then the amount of time he spends in the NHL becomes much more uncertain.
Before we start the deep dive into Slafkovsky’s abundant skill, let’s start with an unofficial pronunciation of his name:
Juraj (your-eye) Slafkovsky (slaff-kov-skee)
It’s a name that we’re going to hear a lot and say a lot so the very least we can do is make an effort to say his name right.
With that established, let’s check out the skills:
The absolute first thing that you notice about Slafkovsky is that he is a big beefy boy. He just turned 18 in March and is listed at 6’4” 218lbs. He uses his obvious size advantage to protect the puck and creates instant matchup problems for defenses once he parks his big rig in front of the net. Slafkovsky is particularly effective along the wall as he seldom loses a board battle. His board play is actually quite remarkable as his ability to box out players with size, strength, and reach could develop into “Jagr-ass” effective levels.
Slafkovksy’s other skills are not as obvious. His shot is pretty good and certainly NHL ready but certainly not the reason he’s a top-3 prospect. He does, however, have sneaky good hands which you can see by getting shots off quickly in front of the net, and he’s also a better playmaker than his size of player would suggest.
The biggest criticism of Slafkovsky is his skating, But as we’ll see in the next series of videos, his skating really isn’t that bad. Additionally, his game could use some structure as there are definite instances of him being out of position but this will improve with seasoning and NHL coaching.
The skating will probably get better. “Bad boots” is a common thing for prospects but what separates Slafkovsky from Matthew Strome is that Slafkovsky is more than likely not done growing yet. As we just saw, Slafkovsky has what I call a “Juggernaut” skating stride in that he’s massive and can’t be stopped once he gets going. As Slafkovsky’s 18 year old limbs, feet, and brain finish developing, his coordination/balance will improve and he will be even bigger and stronger once he physically matures. Point being is that he will not be mistaken for McDavid any time soon, but I wouldn’t worry about the skating.
I especially wouldn’t be concerned about the skating when Slafkovsky can do things like this:
Then there is this shift. Shifts like this is why I believe that Slafkovsky has a higher ceiling than anyone in this draft:
This is 5 tool player stuff. Slafkovsky exhibits size, strength, compete, intelligence, and skill in this shift. Every time I watch him he reminds me more of a modern day Todd Bertuzzi. More contemporary comparables would be a less skilled Mikko Rantanen or what Tage Thompson has currently turned into. Even though aesthetics shouldn’t matter that much, Slafkovsky’s game looks like it would be perfect fit for the Orange and Black.
Is Slafkovsky NHL ready?
Probably. However, it will not hurt his development by playing another year with TPS in the Finnish Liiga against men while he: A) continues to physically grow; and B) can fine tune skating and positional mechanics. Slafkovksy should have a long NHL career and there is no rush to rush him especially if you’re the Flyers who should be (stealth) tanking for next year.