He has been waiting for almost 30 years for the coveted success – winning the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens, a famous hockey brand, is to be joined by Kent Hughes (52).
Photo: TASR, Martin Baumann
Slovak fans and in the foreground Juraj Slafkovský.
The general manager of a leading Canadian club is not missing at the world championships in Finland, where he and his colleagues are watching for potential reinforcements.
He also turned his attention to Juraj Slafkovsky, who is one of the biggest hopes of the July NHL draft. The Canadiens will be the first to choose their talents and they can turn the Slovak forward into a draft unit.
How did you receive the news about the draft lottery?
We are excited. The selection of young talents will take place in Montreal, we are meeting expectations. Especially after the season that didn’t work out for us. We have the opportunity to choose a young player who will be an important part of our organization. I believe that we will build the future of the team on it.
Is the Canadian club under public pressure to choose a home player?
Not. We don’t care where the young hockey player comes from. We care about quality, not the country of origin. We will choose the player we think will be most suitable for our club.
Will the Canadiens choose between Shan Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky?
I would not like to put our choice player against player. We follow several adepts. When the time comes, we evaluate their pros and cons and then decide.
What are the advantages of Slafkovský?
He is a tall, strong striker with good skating and quality club technique. He has a successful Olympic tournament and that is why we came to see it in Helsinki. We liked how he played in the opening match of the Slovaks at the championship against France.
Is he ready to play in profile from next season now?
We will see. Compared to other players from the current draft year, he has the advantage that he played part of last season in the men’s competition. If he does not have the skills and qualities to start among seniors, they will leave him in junior in Turku. However, the NHL is a different level. He has to convince the competent ones that he has it.
What should he improve on?
I won’t tell you. A young hockey player is not a finished player. He has to work on himself every day, not to slow down in his efforts. Then he can become a potential star in the NHL.
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If he played badly in the match you came to see him, would that discourage you?
Not. I don’t know the player who would make every duel one hundred percent. We think and make decisions in a broader context.
Are you also watching Simon Nemc?
Yes. As I said, we are all interested in quality players. The German plays with sight, moves the puck well. We like him, he’s a talented defender with a promising future.
Isn’t it a disadvantage for him that he only plays in the Slovak league?
I do not think so. A quality player can improve in any competition. Each league has specifics. If a player works hard on himself, it doesn’t matter what the game environment is.
Does the general manager feel pressured to pick the right player in the draft?
Yes, especially if his club chooses first place. It is not important to reach for the most prominent talent at the moment, but for the best hockey player for the future. Draft is not rocket science.
We watch the adepts live, on videos, we collect information. The World Cup is not the only event we are interested in. The playoffs are currently taking place in the WHL or OHL junior competitions. When all the leagues are over, we will put our heads together and in July we will try to make the right decision.
Is the final verdict on you?
No, definitely the head of our scouts. He has the greatest overview of the situation and, in this regard, our confidence.
The number of hockey players in the Tatras is declining. Nevertheless, Slovak hockey still has a good reputation in Canada?
I think yes. It is a cycle, an exchange of generations. There were years when they “went” in the draft in a big hockey player from Sweden or Finland. Then there were mainly young Canadians in the course. You will find good players all over the world.
When you say Slovakia, which player will come to your mind first?
Miroslav Satan. We met him here in Helsinki, now he heads your hockey. He was a great player, I watched him for a long time.
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Which of the Slovaks would you choose for the team?
(smile) Wait, I’ll ask my colleagues… (turns to Canadian legend Vincent Lecavalier, Canadiens management adviser) Vincent says Marian Hoss. I would take Zdena Char. He is a unique player.
I worked in Boston as a junior team coach and represented Patrick Bergeron as an agent. I’ve seen a lot of Bruins matches. Chara has an admirable work ethic. He is a leader and role model for young hockey players.
Will there be better times to flash in Montreal after the draft?
One player, no matter how good, doesn’t make the whole team. I have been in the Canadiens for a relatively short time, arriving in mid-January. The 2020/21 season was successful, the club made it to the final battles for the Stanley Cup.
We did not succeed this year, but I believe that if we eliminate the shortcomings and work on our strengths, we can reach the top again. Montreal is a hockey city, the fans deserve it.