Hey there! It’s been awhile. We’ve been setting up our offseason content, and as the NHL season officially winds to a close we are ready to talk about some draft prospects ahead of the Entry Draft in July! We’ll be talking individual players, as well as some cheat sheets to understand the more esoteric parts of hockey’s junior systems, and more! Let’s start with some suitors for the 4th overall pick!
How important is sample size?
If it doesn’t matter to you, then Juraj Slafkovský just might be the ideal player for the Kraken. What the Slovakian-born left winger might lack in sample size, he makes up for in actual size, standing 6’4” and nearly 220lbs. He played 31 games for TPS Turko of the SM-Liiga in 2021-22 and collected ten points (5G, 5A). Respectable totals for an 18-year-old rookie playing in a professional league, but maybe not the totals you’d expect from a Top-5 ranked prospect.
And then he went to the Olympics.
Slovakia had its greatest Olympic hockey performance ever in Beijing, capturing a bronze medal in what can only be called a stunning upset of team Sweden, and Slafkovský played a significant role. In seven appearances, he scored seven times, including the game winner and an insurance goal in the bronze medal game. They say great players are at their best in important moments, and everyone should agree that the biggest victory in Slovakian history qualifies as important.
It isn’t uncommon for young players to take a massive leap forward, following a growth spurt perhaps, or maybe some piece of coaching finally clicks, unlocking the next level of play. And that just might be the case for Slafkovský, because you know what he did at the World Hockey Championships in Finland just a few months after the Olympics? Continued lighting the lamp.
Slafkovský tallied nine points (3G, 6A) in his eight games at the WHC, and at this point there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down. If the native of Kosice, Slovakia is showing NHL general managers that he is capable of consistently producing at such a torrid pace, then he’s a top pick, and the Kraken would be lucky to see him on the board when their turn at the podium arrives.
Depending who you ask, Slafkovský is ranked somewhere between first(!) and seventh amongst the prospects eligible for the 2022 draft (pretty consistently first amongst European skaters). Certainly it seems as though he’s developed into a player with elite-level finish. There’s enough consensus out there about his potential that we can look past sample size, should he make it to the Kraken at fourth overall. And anyways, it’s growing as we speak.