From the moment the Montreal Canadiens took Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the first overall pick at the draft earlier this month, there has been significant speculation on where Slafkovksy would be playing the 2022-23 season. Canadiens co-director of amateur scouting Nick Bobrov indicated in his post-draft media availability that Slafkovsky had “learned all he could” from playing in the Finnish Liiga, and when one looks at the first-year landing spots of previous number-one picks it doesn’t take long to see a trend. Typically, a number-one pick will make their team’s opening-night roster, and 2021 number-one pick Owen Power’s choice to begin 2021-22 with the University of Michigan was a rare break to that trend. So, with that history in mind, many have assumed that Slafkovsky would be playing for Montreal in October.
But it isn’t that simple. Slafkovsky’s so-so production in Liiga has left many wondering if a stint in the AHL or another lower league would be preferable for his development, and some have hoped that Slafkovsky could continue his string of strong performances for the Slovak national team at this summer’s upcoming World Junior Championships. It doesn’t look like that’ll be happening, though, and where Slafkovsky will be spending 2022-23 is becoming more and more clear. Today, Slafkovsky told Tomas Prokop of Dennik Sport that his “main goal” is to play in the NHL in the fall and that he would, as a result, not participate in the World Juniors. The Canadiens have room on the left wing next to their budding stars in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, so it’s likely that Juraj will spend the rest of the summer preparing to earn a shot on their line to open the season.
Now, for some other notes from across the NHL:
- St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko made headlines in the summer of 2021 when he reportedly requested a trade from the St. Louis Blues. At the time, Tarasenko’s health was still very much a contentious topic and it looked as though his NHL future was cloudy at best. After a 2021-22 resurgence that saw him author the most productive season of his career, Tarasenko looks to be in St. Louis to stay, despite recent rumblings. There were those who supposed that Tarasenko would be included in any of the Blues’ offers to the Calgary Flames for Matthew Tkachuk, but that wasn’t the case. According to Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest, the Blues never asked Tarasenko to waive his no-trade protection to be traded to the Flames. This report is likely an indication that the Blues have Tarasenko in their plans for next season, and his production could be increasingly important to their success thanks to the departure of David Perron.
- The WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings have a new head coach. The team announced today that Luke Pierce was named their fifth head coach in modern history. Pierce, 38, has been an assistant for the Oil Kings for three regular seasons, stretching from 2018-19 to 2021-22. Pierce has prior WHL head coaching experience, as he was the head coach of the then-Kootenay Ice for two seasons from 2015-16 through 2016-17. His time at the helm of the rebuilding Ice didn’t go well, and he had just 26 wins in 144 games. Pierce will be in a better spot in Edmonton, though, as they just won the WHL title and had an extremely successful 50-14-4 record in the 2021-22 regular season. He takes over for Brad Lauer, who left to become an assistant coach on Rick Bowness’ Winnipeg Jets staff.