The Montreal Canadians took Juraj Slafkovsky with the number. 1 selection in 2022 NHL draft

MONTREAL – Slovakia’s left-arm winger Juraj Slafkowski was voted No. 1 overall by the Montreal Canadians in the 2022 NHL entry draft on Thursday.

Kent Hughes, general manager of Canada, announced the first surprise selection from a packed house at his rink in Montreal. For the first time since 1985, the host city of the NHL Draft also made the first choice. The news of Slafkovsky’s election met with a visual shock – and some spontaneous joy – from the assembled fans.

The New Jersey Devils used a second pick over defender Simon Nemeck.

Slafkowski was at No. 1 on Hughes’ shortlist, along with Kingston Frontenac (OHL) center Shane Wright and Logan Cooley of the US National Development Program. Wright was considered the highest prospect of a draft, but Slavkowski’s position began to rise in recent weeks.

At 18, Slavkowski already has the strength size (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) to complement his ingenuity as a highly skilled offensive player. Slafkovsky developed his reputation as a tough, competitive skater with the TPS of the Finnish League; He scored five goals and conceded 10 points in 31 games last season.

Unlike some of his peers, Slafkovsky has experience playing with and against men internationally. He was just 17 years old when he was nominated for the Slovak Olympic team in 2022, and he performed better than expected. Slovakia led the Olympic field with seven goals in seven games and helped Slovakia win home bronze – the country’s first Olympic medal in ice hockey – and MVP honors in the competition.

Slavkowski is now the most selected Slovakian-born player in NHL history. Marion Gaboric (third overall in 2000) had previously held the post.

While Slafkowski personally enjoyed a year that made history, Wright made an expensive stumble last season.

The Covid-19 epidemic shut down OHL operations in 2020-21 without giving Wright and hundreds of others much of a chance to play competitively. Wright’s comeback in the OHL’s 2021-22 season was difficult as he scored just 22 points in his first 19 games. Wright’s performance picked up speed in the second half, as he finished with 32 goals and 94 points in 63 games, but some scouts felt he opened the door to dismiss him as the highest chance of consensus.

Slafkowski did just that. Now Canadians have potential top-line players to prepare for the future.

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