Ask any true hockey fan who will go No. 1 in this year’s draft and 99% of them will mention Shane Wright. As they should. Wright has been the consensus No. 1 overall pick for around two years now, and it’s hard to imagine the Canadiens going in any other direction once it’s time for them to make their selection.
But then there’s the other 1% of hockey fans who believe a different prospect should go No. 1 overall. And many of those fans probably believe it should be Slovak sensation Juraj Slafkovský having his name called first.
BSH 2022 Community Draft Board, No. 2: Juraj Slafkovský
Team: TPS (Liiga)
Statistics: 5 G, 5 A, in 31 GP
No. 1 (EU skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 5 by McKenzie/TSN (midseason)
No. 4 by Dobber Prospects (April)
No. 8 by Wheeler/The Athletic (midseason)
What’s there to like?
There’s a whole lot to like. Over the last several months, Slafkovský has become one of the top risers of this year’s crop of prospects, and much of this is thanks to his play at the Beijing Olympics in February. Slafkovský was the youngest athlete participating in the men’s hockey tournament in Beijing, and he not only met expectations as a top draft-eligible prospect, but he smashed them into a million pieces.
Slafkovský, who didn’t legally become an adult until March 30, scored seven goals in as many games for Slovakia, which tied the Olympic record for points in a single tournament by a player under 18. With a mouth full of braces and a still very youthful hue, Slafkovský was far and away the best player on that Slovak squad, and without him, Slovakia doesn’t win its first Olympic hockey medal since becoming an independent nation.
It’s funny, because Slovakia head coach Craig Ramsay was unsure of Slafkovský’s scoring abilities before the Olympics began. And then Slafkovský went out, outscored everyone and was named MVP of the tournament.
“What we thought going into this tournament was, ‘Could he just score a goal?’ He did it in spades,” said Ramsay. “It was quite a performance.”
Even though Slafkovský was the youngest player of the men’s tournament, he didn’t play like it at all. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds, Slafkovský is an imposing forward who does an exceptional job of using his body to shield the puck and outmuscle defenders along the boards. He routinely overpowered grown men at the Olympics, and when he wasn’t using his large frame and long reach to beat opposing players physically, he was firing precise lasers past goalies like a Rocket Richard candidate. His performance in Beijing was truly astounding.
He’s impressed on more occasions than just the Olympics, though. He’s also been a solid piece of Liiga’s TPS squad, finishing the regular season with 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in 31 games. In the playoffs, he logged seven points (2 G, 5 A) in 18 games. It’s been a hugely productive year for a player so young, and it most certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.
What’s not to like?
No hockey player is perfect, and that holds true for Slafkovský. That said, though, he doesn’t have many flaws in his game. One could argue that his lack of consistent point production for TPS is worrisome, but when playing against men as a teenager, inconsistent production is quite common. His two-way play is decent, but not incredible. And while his skating is certainly good, he doesn’t have the type of speed that can terrify opposing squads. But those critiques are nitpicking.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
Slafkovský would fit with the Flyers like a glove. If there’s one thing the Flyers need, it’s high-end skill. And if there’s one thing the Flyers love, it’s size and physicality. Slafkovský checks all of those boxes. He may even be ready to play in the NHL as soon as next season given what he’s displayed against pro players on the international stage, and it’s no secret that the Flyers could use an injection of young talent on the roster as soon as possible.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
Probably not, unfortunately. Slafkovský was once considered an option for teams in the top 10, but after the year he’s had, it’s hard to imagine him sliding to the Flyers at No. 5 overall. It wouldn’t even be all that shocking to see him go No. 2 overall to the Devils. If he’s still on the board when the Flyers make their selection, it’ll be a small miracle.
Who should be no. 3 on the 2022 BSH Community Draft Board?
This poll is closed