Free washing machine | Shane Wright or Juraj Slavkovsky?

In June 2004, the Washington Capitals selected winger Alex Ovechkin as their first overall pick. At No. 2, the Pittsburgh Penguins would turn to center Evgeni Malkin at No. 2.

Posted at 10:15 am

Mathias Brunett

Mathias Brunett

Ovechkin could join Wayne Gretzky as the all-time leading scorer and helped give Washington a Cup.

Malkin became one of the best centers of his generation with 1,146 points in just 981 games, three Stanley Cups, two scoring championships, a Hart Trophy (MVP) and a Conn-Smythe Trophy (given to the quintessential player of the series) .

Four years later, center Steven Stamkos was drafted first overall by the Lightning and defenseman Drew Doughty second by the Los Angeles Kings. Stamkos is nearing the 500-goal mark and trying to win a third straight Stanley Cup. Doughty won two Stanley Cups in Los Angeles and was a Norris Trophy (best defenseman) finalist three times. He won one.

John Tavares is the top scorer of the 2009 crop with almost 400 goals, Victor Hedman, chosen after him in second place, already has a place in the Hall of Fame.

The Buffalo Sabers and Carolina Hurricanes seem very happy with their respective picks, Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov.

And yet, we are now witnessing a highly polarized debate over the identity of the Canadian’s first choice, just over a month before the July 7 draft.

Instead of promoting two excellent young hockey players, center Shane Wright and winger Juraj Slafkovsky, in all likelihood the two main contenders for the number one title, many fans seem to want to take a sharp side. What if we didn’t just see them as two great options, each with their own strengths and weaknesses?


Photo taken from the International Ice Hockey Federation website

Juraj Slavkovsky

But apart from a cuvée with Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby, there are never any safe options. We can minimize the risks, but absolutely safe options?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was considered safe in 2011. He has developed into a very good center in Edmonton. But not the best of the cuvee from him.

Nico Hischier was also a safe choice in 2017. And at 23 years old, he has just had a splendid season in New Jersey with 60 points in 70 games, while also being brilliant defensively. In hindsight, the Devils probably would have gone with defenseman Cale Makar, but we can’t fault him. Especially since Makar was not a safe option. His cap was huge, but he was playing in the Alberta Junior A League hoping to join the NCAA and was ranked only 10th by NHL Central Scouting, behind Nolan Patrick, Cody Glass, Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, Michael Rasmussen, Owen Tippett, Eli Tolvanen.

Kent Hughes and the Canadian find themselves in a somewhat similar dilemma this year. Shane Wright is a pretty safe pick. Earning standout status at age 15 in the Ontario Junior League, he’s a complete center who still put up 94 points in 63 games this season at Kingston.

Statistically, he went from an average of 1.14 points per game to 1.49. It is an important jump, but of two years, between 15/16 years old and 17/18 years old due to the season lost due to the pandemic. And it’s hard to accurately gauge the impact of this lost season on his development.

He was already big at 6-foot-179 in his first season in the youth ranks. He is now 6 foot 1 and weighs 191 pounds. This factor will also be taken into account.

Wright has good qualities. He is a great leader. His hockey IQ is very high. He is responsible defensively. He has an excellent shot and his skate is above average.

But some scouts will criticize him for his lack of commitment at times (his U-18 World Championship final against Russia caught the imagination of some scouts) and he hasn’t been consequential in the Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs recently.

In his defence, the Kingston Frontenacs’ transition game left a lot to be desired and he often had to take over the job from defenses too weak to do so effectively.

The question Kent Hughes and the Canadians are probably asking themselves right now: what will Shane Wright’s ceiling be? Will he be a Nugent-Hopkins or a Nico Hischier, or can he aspire to a career like Nathan MacKinnon? Nobody really knows.

But if we want to play it safe and get a second center in the NHL in the worst case scenario, even if it means losing a better one, Shane Wright will be the CH pick.

Juraj Slafkovsky has always been considered one of the good candidates for this season, but his rating has risen even more since the Olympics, where he scored seven goals in as many games. But the caliber was weak in these Games, starved of NHL players.

His nine points from eight games earned at the World Championship are more revealing. His detractors argue that he did not produce against Finland and Canada, but against Italy, France and Kazakhstan. And the statistics support them.

But watching him closely in those games against Finland and Canada, one notices a 6-foot-4, 220-pound winger who has multiplied scoring opportunities (five shots against Canada and four against Finland), a winger who , despite converting 18 since April, won most of his battles along the ramp, never hesitating to charge into the opposing net and take advantage of his very good shot.

He’s not afraid to carry the puck, it’s his trademark, and he attacks the opposing zone from both the center and the sides.

Slafkovsky constantly faced the defensive pairings of Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell (of the Dallas Stars) against Finland and Thomas Chabot and Zach Whitecloud against Canada.

And although the tournament could have entered the legs of an 18-year-old after several very competitive matches, coach Craig Ramsay, who saw snow, did not hesitate to use it for more than 20 minutes during the last match, in the quarterfinals. final, against Finland, the team’s second most used player, all positions combined.

Generally, 18-year-old players are not consequential in the World Championships. Even Leon Draisaitl didn’t dominate in 2014 (careful, we’re not comparing the two players here!). And contrary to appearances, Kaapo Kakko performed in this championship in his draft year, but offered an inconclusive game overall (1 goal in his last 8 games, 11 minutes of use in the final).

But Slafkovsky also raises questions. He was ordinary in the Finnish Liiga this winter. Not just statistically (only ten points, including five goals, in 31 games), but he often seemed lost on the ice.

He sometimes tends to make poor decisions with the puck, like trying to beat two defenses instead of looking for open space for his teammates. But his flaws are less obvious with Craig Ramsay.

In defense he is not a big factor due to his winger position, but he does not do damage either and can effectively clear the puck from his zone due to his physical strength on the ramps.

Slavkovsky is a special beast. He is not afraid of anyone and although he was the youngest in his club, he demanded the puck and wanted to make a difference in the crucial moments of the World Cup. It is said that he got up in the locker room after Slovakia’s rather difficult first half during the tournament and rallied the troops.

But who is the real Juraj Slavkovsky? The World Cup or the Liiga? And what is Shane Wright’s ceiling?

That is why Canadians will give themselves until the end of the process to study the main candidates from all angles. It’s only logical to expect Kent Hughes to confirm this course of action when he meets with the media in Buffalo on Tuesday.

Winnipeg’s eyes on the Rangers

Winnipeg Jets fans are hoping for a New York Rangers victory in Game 7 of their series against the Hurricanes. If New York wins a second round, the 2022 second-round pick offered by Andrew Copp at the trade deadline becomes a first-round pick. On the other hand, since the Rangers would have reached four aces, he would be between 29me and 32me range. New York also gave up another second-round pick in 2022 (obtained in the Pavel Buchnevich trade) and a fifth-round pick in 2023.

New York certainly doesn’t regret the trade. Andrew Copp, 27, 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, is an underrated small forward. He is worth his weight in gold in the playoffs with 10 points in 13 games in a second row completed by Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin. Offering a conditional second-round pick for a rental player allows the buying team the best of both worlds. He loses a first-round pick only if he’s successful, and reaching the conference finals pushes that pick past range.

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