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Canadiens Just take Juraj Slafkovsky With Leading Choose in NHL Draft

By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Author

MONTREAL (AP) — Juraj Slafkovsky waited and wondered if the Montreal Canadiens would consider him with the initial pick in the NHL draft.

When the instant arrived, he did not even listen to general manager Kent Hughes connect with his identify. Shock confused the huge, charismatic winger as before long as he listened to Hughes say, “From the Slovakian national workforce.

“I did not even pay attention anymore,” he stated. “I was like shaking and I had goosebumps.”

Months right after foremost Slovakia to its initially Olympic gold medal and staying named tournament MVP, Slafkovsky designed more historical past by becoming the first participant from the nation to be taken No. 1. Minutes later on, countryman and Beijing Video games teammate Simon Nemec went second to the New Jersey Devils.

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Slafkovsky and Nemec turned the maximum-drafted gamers from Slovakia, 22 yrs after Marian Gaborik went third to Minnesota in 2000.

“I misplaced the words,” Nemec said. “We were being youngsters when we aspiration about NHL draft.”

Nemec was all smiles later when he and Slafkovsky embraced Filip Mesar, the third Slovak taken in the 1st spherical, also by Montreal at No. 27. It is really the initially time Slovakia has experienced 3 gamers taken in the the 1st round, which also matched a record with 16 potential customers born outside the house of North The us being chosen.

The group at Bell Centre was fired up for the league’s 1st in-person draft given that 2019, booing Commissioner Gary Bettman every single time he stepped up to the microphone — until eventually he reported he had a trade to announce. There were some oohs and ahhs when Shane Wright, very long projected to be the best decide on in this draft even ahead of the Canadiens received the draft lottery, was not taken in the top a few.

The Arizona Coyotes created forward Logan Cooley the maximum-drafted player from Pittsburgh when they took him third. Wright’s tumble, reminiscent of Seth Jones in 2013 — the final draft with this level of uncertainty about the top decide on — finished when the Seattle Kraken took him fourth.

Wright reported he’d have a chip on his shoulder and engage in with “a little extra fire” after acquiring handed over by 3 teams at the top rated of the draft.

The Canadiens retained everyone guessing in saying they ended up taking into consideration Slafkovsky, Wright and Cooley in advance of the draft. And just after answering that problem by choosing the 6-foot-4 winger, Montreal created a different splash by finishing a trade.

The Canadiens traded defenseman Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders for the 13th decide on and moved that assortment and the 66th to the Chicago Blackhawks for youthful ahead Kirby Dach.

It was the second dismantling go manufactured Thursday by the Blackhawks, who also traded high-scoring winger Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for a few picks.

Slafkovsky, who has drawn comparisons to late Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies and plays a bit like a youthful Jaromir Jagr, reported he told the Canadiens on Thursday early morning to get him. Self-confident as that sounded, Slafkovsky acknowledged he didn’t expect it to basically happen.

“It was a really huge shock for me,” Slafkovsky reported. “We experienced meetings but we never get to know just about anything at all from that assembly. I however could just guess when I was waiting for this. But now it’s fact.”

Slafkovsky, who turned 18 in March, is among the the most NHL-completely ready players in the draft after playing in opposition to grown gentlemen in Finland this past year and impressing at the Olympics with seven ambitions in 7 games. The youngest player in the tournament was the biggest explanation Slovakia gained an Olympic bronze medal for the to start with time.

Chuck Fletcher, whose Philadelphia Flyers picked ahead Cutter Gauthier fifth, claimed Wednesday he envisioned a great deal of trades at the draft. Other GMs close to the league did not want for the draft to start out to start working.

The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche acquired items started out by acquiring goaltender Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers for a 3rd- and a fifth-spherical decide on in this draft and a 3rd-rounder up coming 12 months. Then Chicago sent DeBrincat to Ottawa for the seventh and 39th picks and a third-rounder in 2024.

Bettman opened the draft in French by expressing, “Bon soir, Montreal.” When enthusiasts booed him as is tradition, he mentioned: “Thank you for that welcome. It is a return to normalcy.”

It’s also the very first time the host workforce picked first considering the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1985 when they acquired Wendell Clark. The Leafs bought the loudest boos for the duration of roll get in touch with, with some in the crowd chanting, “’67!” in reference to the very last calendar year Toronto won the Stanley Cup.

Latest fatalities in hockey have been also acknowledged before the Canadiens went on the clock. Bettman questioned those on the draft flooring and in the stands to hold a moment of silence for retired defenseman Bryan Marchment, who died at age 53 Wednesday in Montreal exactly where he was attending the draft as a scout for the San Jose Sharks.

Small children of late Corridor of Famers Dude Lafleur and Mike Bossy also dealt with the group, alongside with Canadiens mentor Martin St. Louis, who was serenaded by chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole!” Famously undrafted before owning a Corridor of Fame profession, St. Louis joked: “It took me 45 decades to at last be at my to start with draft. It was truly worth the wait around.”

The reverse stress now belongs to Slafkovsky, who could before long play alongside major Montreal forwards Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. That could be the strategy for Hughes and St. Louis, who did their research on Slafkovsky before selecting him.

“They knew me quite perfectly,” he claimed. “They realized just about every thing, how I engage in, what I do where on the ice, so I believe it’s a definitely fantastic business and the critical matter is they know what they want and I know what I want. It’s just excellent for me that they picked me.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

Far more AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sporting activities

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