The debate has raged for several days and could resume soon: should Juraj Slavkovski be sold to Laval for development?
If the answer to the question is definitely yes, then it is clear that the decision has already been made. But in reality, Juraj Slavkovski can still improve by playing in the NHL as long as he does so with confidence, and that is key in the eyes of the Canadiens leaders.
Against the Winnipeg Jets on October 28, Juraj Slavkovski had a game that could only be described as troubling. His decision making was in doubt and the puck was a real hot potato on his plate.
The type of game that can impact a young player’s mind and that’s exactly what happened in the next two games.
Although there was an improvement in his play, his body language on the ice indicated that he was frustrated with returning to the bench and that his confidence level was at an all-time low.
A worrying situation because when a player jumps on the ice with the fear of making a mistake, it is impossible for him to improve, leading to a negative spiral that must be curbed quickly.
Instead of putting Juraj Slavkovski on the fourth line on Saturday against the Blues, Martin St. Louis presented him with a big challenge: playing with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, and thus facing the opposition’s best players.
Without saying he was perfect, he scored a goal, took four shots (highest in a game this season) and most importantly played with confidence. He clearly felt good on the ice and now he has to make sure his level is consistent from game to game – the biggest challenge for a player, especially when he is 19 years old.
So the young Slovak player bought time by playing this way against the Blues. But one game does not make a season and it is clear that his performance will be closely monitored.
The best decision
If we see that he is still playing matches similar to his last three matches, before the meeting in St. Louis, then the decision to send him to the American League will be in his favor and it is clear that Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes will make the best decision for his development.
Furthermore, if he hadn’t been injured last season, there’s nothing to say he couldn’t have been let go at some point so he could touch more of the ball.
The goal of having him start last season in Montreal was to allow him to internalize the concepts that Martin St. Louis imposes on his players.
But it was very likely that he would still spend time with Rocket so he could continue to integrate into the North American game, while gaining more confidence in his game.
Unfortunately, a knee injury at MSG on a Sunday in January thwarted those plans.
The ball is in his court
Now Juraj Slavkovskiy must prove he can continue improving in the NHL. It’s an unforgiving league, because the best players in the world play there.
He’s the one who will decide whether he can stay in the NHL or not, by the way he carries himself on the ice. We are at a crossroads in his case.
It’s impossible to hide, especially in a city like Montreal where Canadians represent the true religion. This brings with it a set of additional pressures, but that is the reality that all players here face.
This will not change, I would even say it is for good reason. Furthermore, if there’s anyone who can weather the storm, it’s him, which is exactly why the Canadiens drafted him first overall in June 2022.
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