Montreal selects Juraj Slafkovsky No. 1 in the NHL Draft

MONTREAL — The Canadiens selected winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick of the NHL Draft on Thursday night at their home arena, ma...


MONTREAL — The Canadiens selected winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick of the NHL Draft on Thursday night at their home arena, making him the first Slovakian player to be selected first overall.

While Shane Wright, a Canadian center, has long been considered the No. 1 pick, the Devils surprisingly selected Simon Nemec, a Slovakian defenseman and Slafkovsky’s Olympic teammate, at No. 2 after Wright was dropped.

In another upset, the Arizona Coyotes took Pittsburgh-area center Logan Cooley with the third pick before Wright’s slide ended with the Seattle Kraken at No. 4. Wright said that he would have a chip on his shoulder and would play with “a little more fire” after being passed by three teams.

Slafkovsky, who was named the most valuable player at the Beijing Olympics for leading the tournament with seven goals in seven games, began to think he could be selected first overall after meeting the Canadians in the NHL scouting meeting in Buffalo in June.

“I felt they were very interested,” said Slafkovsky, who was taken aback when Montreal general manager Kent Hughes announced his name. “When I heard ‘from Slovakia’, I said ‘Wow!’”

Slafkovsky and Nemec became the highest-drafted Slovakian players 22 years after Marian Gaborik was third to the Minnesota Wild in 2000.

The Canadiens weren’t done moving for the first time they’ve held the draft since 2009. They traded 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Islanders for the 13th pick. Then they moved that selection and the 66th pick to Chicago for 21-year-old forward Kirby Dach, who had 26 points in 70 games last season.

It was the second roster-dismantling move made Thursday by transitioning Chicago, which also traded winger Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for picks No. 7 and 39 this year and a third round in 2024. DeBrincat, 24, tied his career-high 41 goals last season.

The 6-foot-4 Slafkovsky, who drew Hockey Hall of Fame comparisons Clark Gillies and plays a bit like a young Jaromir Jagr, said he told the Canadiens on Thursday morning to take it.

Slafkovsky, who turned 18 in March, was among the most NHL-ready players available: he played against adult men in Finland last season and impressed at the Olympics. He was the youngest player in the tournament and the main reason Slovakia won bronze, their first Olympic medal in men’s hockey.

He could soon play alongside top Canadiens forwards Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who both scored more than 20 goals last season.

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, whose team picked forward Cutter Gauthier fifth, said Wednesday he expects a lot of trades in the draft. Other general managers did not wait for the draft to start negotiating.

The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche kicked off the trades by acquiring goaltender Alexandar Georgiev from the Rangers for a third- and fifth-round pick in this draft and a third-round pick next year. After the trade, Colorado didn’t have to worry too much about the draft itself, as it was left with just two picks — one each in the sixth and seventh rounds.

Then Chicago sent DeBrincat to Ottawa. Chicago used the No. 7 pick it acquired in the trade to select Kevin Korchinski, a Canadian defenseman.

In the draft, Chicago traded with Toronto, acquiring the No. 25 pick and veteran goaltender Petr Mrazek in exchange for the No. 38 pick. Chicago used the pick to get another defenseman, American right-hander Sam Rinzel.

San Jose made a move in the first draft for GM Mike Grierwho took over the role this week and became the first black GM in league history. The Sharks sent the No. 11 pick to Arizona for numbers 27, 34 and 45. Arizona selected forward Conor Geekie, brother of Seattle center Morgan Geekie.

After Slafkovsky and Nemec became the highest drafted players in Slovakia, Rutger McGroarty made Nebraska hockey history when he went 14th to the Winnipeg Jets. McGroarty, an Omaha-born forward, became the state’s highest-drafted player.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opened the first in-person draft since 2019 in French by saying, “Bon soir, Montreal.” When fans booed him, as tradition dictates, he said, “Thank you for the welcome. It’s a return to normal. »

It was also the first time the host team had picked No. 1 since the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Wendell Clark in 1985. With rival hosting Montreal, the Leafs received the loudest boos during the game. roll call, with some in the crowd chanting “’67!” in reference to the last year Toronto won the Stanley Cup.

Recent hockey deaths were also recognized before the Canadiens hit the clock. Bettman asked those in the draft and in the stands to observe a moment of silence for retired defenseman Bryan Marchment, who died Wednesday at age 53 in Montreal, where he was attending the draft as a scout for the Sharks. San José.

Hall of Famers children Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossyboth of whom died in April, also addressed the crowd.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Montreal selects Juraj Slafkovsky No. 1 in the NHL Draft
Montreal selects Juraj Slafkovsky No. 1 in the NHL Draft
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