Slafkovsky feels he can do better than he showed on day 1


BROSSARD, Que.- It’s just after 10 a.m. at the Montreal Canadiens south coast practice facility and Adam Douglas, who oversees the team’s sports science and performance division, is sitting in the press room, waiting for a collection of prospects to join to add him.

He watches the ice, where the second group of the day hangs on every word that comes out of the mouth of hockey development director Adam Nicholas.

“What do you think of him?” I ask.

“He’s fantastic,” Douglas responds. “Adam and I talk every day, and we think about things the same way, and we really build something to win. Everything we do is focused on winning and giving ourselves more chips at the table.”

There is no greater visual representation of this than seeing 12 development coaches on the ice with Nicholas.

Power in numbers.

The visual itself underlines how much the Canadiens have done in such a short time to address what was their biggest weakness in over a decade. Since Jeff Gorton came on board as Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations in November, and since he hired Kent Hughes as General Manager in February, the development department has become, well, a real department.

And it’s one thing to have Douglas and Nicholas there, and another to have Chris Boucher oversee the analytics in the front office, and another to rely on good people who were already there – Francis Bouillon, Rob Ramage and the AHL coaching staff.

But can you imagine what it was like for Canadiens candidates to step onto the ice for their first training session with the team and be greeted by the world’s greatest female hockey player in Marie-Philip Poulin and a former Stanley Cup-winning superstar in Vincent Lecavalier ? To let those icons share insights and instructions?

“That was unbelievable,” said Lane Hutson, who at 62 . was takennd general at the Bell Center last Friday.

Douglas watched Hutson and the other players ramp up the intensity. He fixated on the work being done 60 feet below.

“We’re building something here — everyone is working together and on the same page, and it’s exciting,” he said. “We are building plans for our players and we are moving in the right direction and in the same direction. Good to finally have everyone together.”

The time is now.

There were 11 players lined up for the Canadiens last week. They were added to a handful of good prospects the team had acquired before the trade deadline and to another group of players who had started their professional development in a much less robust system, and the success of the rebuilding of the team will depend on all their progress.

The process is becoming increasingly important this week.

All eyes on Juraj Slafkovsky

The first overall pick in 2022 took his first steps as a Canadien as management and coaching staff watched – and with hundreds of fans around the glass watching.

Slafkovsky, who is six feet tall and 227 pounds, stood out. Like his skill.

But the boy was not happy with himself afterwards.

“I don’t think things went well for me,” Slafkovsky said, “but I’m sure it will get better tomorrow and Wednesday.

“It was a little harder to start – still a little tired of (going first overall and the excitement that followed), and I got all new gear. It was tough,” he added. “But that’s no excuse. I have to get much better.”

When I spoke to Nick Bobrov, co-director of Canadiens’ amateur scouting after the Draft, he talked about how they challenged Slafkovsky and pick his game.

Bobrov said the Slovak took it all in, calmly said what he agreed and disagreed with, and was really impressed with the process.

I asked if Slafkovsky was sincere in his answers or maybe he was just telling the Canadiens what they wanted to hear.

I’m paraphrasing, but Bobrov said, ‘That’s not who he is. He doesn’t have that in him.”

That’s where you see the appeal of the Canadiens.

They see an honest, realistic and driven player. And Slafkovsky gave us a glimpse of that by judging himself as he did on Day 1 of the development camp.

Sean Farrell stands out

The 20-year-old, who scored 10 goals and 28 points in his first season at Harvard after torching the USHL by 101 points in 53 games in 2020/21, looked like the best player on the ice on Monday.

The skill is so obvious. The smart ones too.

And it was impossible not to be impressed by the maturity Farrell displayed by declaring after training that he remains determined to return to Harvard in the fall.

It doesn’t matter if he scored three goals and six points in the Beijing Olympics or if he still had six points in ten games at the world championships. Farrell still feels there is enough for him to continue learning at the college level.

“I think for me I just want to try to be a leader and be a kind of man they can lean on to win our league, win the Beanpot and hopefully compete for a national championship,” he said.

There were more than a few people at the Canadiens buyers who, judging by what they saw on the ice Monday, believe Farrell will achieve that.

His colleagues were also impressed.

“Aside from the big man, he really caught my eye,” said Hutson, who competed against Farrell in the USHL and admires his skill and sense of hockey.

Oh, and going back to the question above about what it must have felt like for players to be on the ice with Poulin and Lecavalier, Farrell was stunned.

“It’s great,” he said. “Those two are such legends in the game of hockey and just being able to be them and Marty St. Louis in this camp is really special.”

Canadiens walk the walk on Respect Initiative

Go back a bit to the year when the Canadiens damaged their brand by choosing Logan Mailloux 31st general in the draft after the prospect relinquished himself when it was discovered he had been charged in Sweden for distributing a photo of a sexual encounter.

On July 1, 2021, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said: “I have no doubt that we have disappointed many of our fans. But I also have no doubt that we have disappointed many people who may not be our fans, who have been affected by this kind of things have been affected. And this is where the Montreal Canadiens should be better. And I take full responsibility for that, and we will get better.”

He said the Canadiens would engage local experts and create a comprehensive plan to raise awareness and educate people about respect and consent, and pledged to use the Canadiens’ platform and resources to “make a decision that hurts many people.” does into a decision that will make meaningful and impactful change.”

Molson assigned Genevieve Paquette (director of community engagement for the Canadiens Foundation) to lead a task force dedicated specifically to these initiatives.

On Monday, Paquette invited Sheldon Kennedy, of the Respect Group, to address Mailloux and the rest of Montreal’s prospects at the development camp.

Kennedy doesn’t do this on all NHL teams. It is not part of his group’s association with the NHL.

But he said he was impressed by the Canadiens’ commitment to become leaders in changing hockey culture, to advance themselves, and he was happy to do so.

Kennedy said, “They’re walking the walk.”

“I’m here because I see leadership and I see an organization that wants to be the best it can be in this space,” he added.

Kennedy was not the only one in attendance. He was joined by Bruno Gervais – the former NHLer who works at Respect Group – and another guy who works specifically with victims of sexual abuse.

The players receive basic training on respect, consent, foul language and behaviour, and what is and is not acceptable in daily practice. Paquette told us that the training was interactive and required their participation.

“They need to know how serious this stuff is, and it’s not just listening that we learn,” she said.

The Canadiens are among the teams in Canada that undergo training prescribed by the NHL on all of these issues. The managers, coaches and players all receive it.

But going further and involving Kennedy and Gervais (among others) was an important step that shows how serious they are about changing their own culture. And there’s a good chance – even if their brand was damaged by last year’s actions – they’ll inspire others to do the same.

That’s some progress, but it’s still progress.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know needs support, those in Canada can find province-specific centers, crisis lines and services here† A list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones is available for readers in America here

TIDBITS

– Slafkovsky did not choose the No. 60 he wore on Monday. It was assigned to him and he said he will change it if he can if he makes the Canadiens one day.

– Defender Corey Schueneman is back at Montreal on a two-way contract worth $750,000 in the NHL and $275,000 in the AHL.

– Fourth-line grinder Michael Pezzetta went from the man no one thought he would ever play in the NHL to a man who got a one-way deal from the Canadiens on Monday. He’s guaranteed $750,000 wherever he plays, and that’s a great reward for what he brought to the team last season. Well deserved.

– Qualifying offers were extended to limited free agents Kirby Dach, Nate Schnarr, Joel Teasdale, Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. The team dropped Josh Brook, Kale Clague and Rem Pitlick from the list, allowing all three players to become unrestricted free agents next Wednesday.

At Pitlick, this is why the skilled winger, who scored nine goals and 26 points in 46 games with the Canadiens last season, was not offered an offer.

– Finally, the Canadiens will not buy out contracts before the window to do so closes.

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