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Stu Cowan: Shock from Juraj Slafkovsky as Canadiens make him No. 1 choose


“I used to be shaking and I had goosebumps,” 6-foot-4, 229-pound left-winger says. “Unbelievable second for me.”

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GM Kent Hughes saved Canadiens followers in suspense for 4 days about who he would take with the No. 1 general choose throughout Thursday evening’s NHL Draft at a packed Bell Centre.

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On Monday, Hughes stated he hadn’t determined if he would choose Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley. He additionally didn’t rule out the opportunity of buying and selling the No. 1 choose.

It set the stage for some nice drama as soon as the draft received began.

Wright actually appeared like the most well-liked participant with Canadiens followers. When Wright made his entrance to the Bell Centre on the purple carpet Thursday evening he was greeted with loud cheers. When Slafkovsky arrived there was a smattering of boos.

The suspense ended when Hughes took to the stage and introduced Slafkovsky was his alternative.

The 18-year-old is 6-foot-4 and 229 kilos and appears like he may play boxer Ivan Drago if there may be ever a remake of the Rocky film collection. Or possibly even Superman beside Lois Lane.

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The Canadiens are hoping he can flip into one thing like Superman on Skates.

If some Canadiens followers had been stunned by the choose, so was the left-winger from Slovakia.

“I believe I didn’t even hear my title referred to as,” Slafkovsky stated shortly after being drafted. “I simply heard Slovakian and I used to be like shocked and I didn’t even pay attention anymore. I used to be shaking and I had goosebumps. Unbelievable second for me.

“It’s an amazing feeling and it’s actually vital to me,” he added. “However, as nicely, I do know that it’s simply first step and it’s simply starting of my profession. I hope it can go good and I simply can’t wait to return to work and simply play for Montreal.”

Cooley ended up being picked third general by the Arizona Coyotes, whereas Wright went fourth to the Seattle Kraken. Cooley and Wright are each centres.

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Wright appeared just like the secure choose for Hughes since he had been thought-about the highest prospect for this yr’s NHL Draft since becoming a member of the Kingston Frontenacs three years in the past as a 15-year-old, coming into the OHL a yr early with exceptional-player standing. The 6-foot, 199-pounder was ranked No. 1 amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, whereas Slafkovsky was ranked No. 1 amongst worldwide gamers.

Whereas Wright may have supplied depth down the center with the Canadiens for years to come back, together with centre Nick Suzuki, Slafkovsky may now turn into an ideal match on the No. 1 line with Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

As with all draft picks — even the primary general — time will inform. However this was a gutsy choose by Hughes.

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Canadiens administration met with Slafkovsky Thursday morning and workforce proprietor/president Geoff Molson sat in on the assembly.

“I used to be shocked,” Slafkovsky stated about seeing Molson. “They stated that he needs to be part of the assembly, so I used to be additionally joyful for it that he was there. We didn’t discuss, however I believe it was good that he was a part of it.”

Slafkovsky stated he was “fairly stunned” how a lot Hughes and his administration workforce knew about him.

“They knew me very nicely,” he stated. “They knew virtually every part. How I play, what I do the place on the ice. I believe it’s a extremely good group and the vital factor is that they know what they need and I do know what I need. So it’s simply good for me that they picked me.”

Slafkovsky stated the assembly lasted 20-Half-hour, however he left not understanding if the Canadiens would choose him.

“They stated: ‘Good luck, we such as you,’” he stated.

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One other Slovakian, defenceman Simon Nemec, was chosen second general by the New Jersey Devils.

“I believe out of 5 million individuals (in Slovakia) a minimum of 4 (million) are up and they’re cheering for us,” Slafkovsky stated. “On the finish of the day, that’s vital. We’re from Slovakia and we signify the nation. I’m simply joyful that this occurred to us.

“It’s simply an unbelievable second for me, for my household, for everybody who helps me and for the entire Slovak nation,” he added. “We wanted one thing like this. It’s additionally a particular evening for me as a result of Simon Nemec was second. Nicely, I didn’t anticipate it.”

Neither did Wright, who was vocal about how a lot he needed to be picked No. 1 by the Canadiens.

“I simply targeted on myself extra,” Slafkovsky stated when requested about being drafted forward of Wright. “In fact, I’ve seen all of the rankings and he was No. 1. I simply tried to do my job as finest as I can and I’m joyful that I received this for it.”

As for the boos he heard from followers on the purple carpet whereas coming into the Bell Centre Thursday evening, Slafkovsky stated: “Hockey’s their ardour in addition to mine. Possibly a few of them didn’t like me, however I’ll do every part that I’ll play good for this workforce and that they are going to really possibly like me at some point.”

That’s what Hughes is banking on.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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