Welcome to Hockey Wilderness’ coverage of the 2022 NHL Draft. We will not act like experts, nor will we act like we have watched hours of footage of these players. So instead, we have opted to rely on the opinion of people who have, and have compiled plenty of information from different publications regarding these prospects. Note: This is not a ranking, but just going down a list of interesting draft-eligible dudes without any order in mind.
Juraj Slafkovsky has played a lot of hockey since August 2021, and in a lot of different situations, and pretty consistently improved with each challenge set to him. Since August, we have seen him dominate at the Ivan Hlinki Under-18 tournament, 11 games with the TPS Turku junior team in Finland, he was named MVP of the Olympic tournament where he represented Slovakia, he played 31 regular season games for TPS in Liiga, 18 playoff games, and 4 championship games. In most draft projects last fall, he was often projected as a top 10 pick, but I think it’s fair to say his stock has only risen in the past year.
He’s played against his peers where he was able to largely body other players, due to his size at 17 years old (now 18), but he’s also played against European men where he had to learn how to protect the puck with skill rather than relying only on his size. He’s skilled and big, there’s hardly a team out there that isn’t looking for that.
Most lists I’ve seen in the last few months have seen him between 3 and 10, but Corey Pronman dropped his own personal top 127 prospects ranking today and put Slafkovsky at #1, and it’s safe to assume we’ll see a few more scouts as high on him in the weeks leading up to the draft, they’re betting on his upside. The question mark around Slafkovsky is whether he’ll maximize all his assets at the NHL level. Draft prospects like Shane Wright have a very high floor, but Slafkovsky has moments of dynamism that are a thrill to watch and he could turn into a star.
#1 (EU skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
#5 by McKenzie/TSN (midseason)
#4 by Dobber Prospects (April)
#5 by EliteProspects
What Scouts Are Saying
“The expectation with a player like him is that he’s going to use his 225-pound frame to play a heavy, power-forward style game. But Slafkovsky offers uncharacteristic finesse. He kind of reminds me of 2021 draftee Simon Edvinsson in that way, because we’re just not used to seeing players as long as those two do what they do as puckhandlers.
Slafkovsky has tremendous hands for his size and regularly pulls pucks through his feet in tight to his body to beat defenders. He’s also got a rangy, fluid stride, which makes him a surprisingly dangerous rush player — and impressive confidence with the puck on his stick, which enables him to hang onto it (sometimes to a fault). The team that drafts him will be betting on his upside, which grades at or near the very top of this class.” — Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
“Slafkovsky’s biggest strengths are his puck handling and puck protection abilities, but he brings more to the table than just that. He is adept at creating chances for his teammates but can also do damage with his quick wrist shot. He has shown improvement across the board but shooting from tight spaces under pressure is probably the one skill that he has developed the most this season, making him a more versatile offensive threat. His skating isn’t exactly a strength but for an 18-year-old of his size, it isn’t overly concerning as his posture is pretty good and his feet are relatively quick. His production in Liiga has been modest for most of the season but he has stayed hot following the Olympics with more than half of his total point production on the campaign coming in the final six games of the regular season.
On top of his offensive toolkit, Slafkovsky’s physical maturity and European pro experience could help make his adjustment to the NHL a seamless one. Players that feature his combination of skill and power are rare these days and Slafkovksy will draw plenty of interest near the top of the draft.”— Eetu Siltanen, Dobber Prospects
“Slafkovsky has all the assets you’re looking for in a top NHL forward. He’s a 6-foot-4 winger who can beat opponents with speed and skill. He possesses outstanding puck skills and can put pucks through legs and sticks at a very high rate. Slafkovsky can use finesse, or power and quickness to get around defenders. Slafkovsky can also set up and finish plays well. Physically, he won’t run over guys but his compete is good enough. He projects as a top-line winger with the potential to pop and become a true star in the NHL.” — Corey Pronman, The Athletic
Would They Fit In With The Wild?
I mean, yeah? The Minnesota Wild certainly have got some wingers that won’t be here forever (Fiala, Zuccarello, even Greenway a few years down the line, etc. I know, I don’t want to think about it either.) And there aren’t many teams in the league that would turn their noses up at a skilled player with his size.
Could The Wild Get Them?
Lol, the answer will likely be no for a bit. There will be some trade magic for Kevin Fiala that may or may not include a higher-ish draft pick – high enough to get any of the guys we’ll mention in the next few days? I wouldn’t bet on it.
A Minnesota Relation
Am I crazy to say the Big Rig? Slafkovsky is trending towards being a more skilled/more mobile player than Jordan Greenway, but there was certainly a long while that Greenway had that vision for himself. I would argue it wasn’t until more recently that we’ve seen him settle comfortably into his role on the Wild’s third-line. (Make no mistake about that though, I am not underselling the importance of the GREEF line, it is potentially the best checking line in the NHL right now, I’m just not sure if that would be where Slafkovsky would slot in. Comps are tricky.)