“From the Slovak national team …” Montreal Canadian general manager Kent Hughes said when he announced the No. 1 pick in the 2022 Upper Deck NHL draft at the Bell Center on Thursday.
Immediately, a high combination of cough and joy came. Home fans knew that meant that Canadians would choose George Slavkovsky, not center-back Shane Wright, the much-anticipated player.
Slavkovsky also understood this.
“I haven’t even heard his name,” he said. “I heard ‘Slovakia’.”
He saw his face on the big screen and got the walnuts. Soon after, he turned to bring down Blue, Blanc and Rouge under Canadian Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers – to take the torch from the failed hands, suddenly now to keep him high.
Asked if he was surprised, he said: “Shane was the number one guess [for years]So yes, of course. I’m really happy for that. “
[RELATED: Complete coverage of 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft]
Only that moment would have made the draft a reminder for Montreal. Hughes was hired on January 19, less than seven months later, although there was another surprise in the store.
Canadians traded defense traders Alexander Romanov And the No. 98 pick went to the New York Islands for the No. 13 pick, then the No. 13 pick and the No. 66 pick went to the Chicago Black Hawks for center. Kirby DutchWho was ranked No. 3 in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Montreal also picked another Slovak and Slavskovsky’s friend Philip Messer at No. 1.
Wright, ranked North America’s number one skater by NHL Central Scouting, seems to be the popular choice to enter the draft. Some Slavkovsky walked along the red carpet on Thursday. At least one wore the “Right No. 51” Canadian jersey on the field. Wear at least three T-shirts that say, “Right Choice”, with the “C” made from the Canadian logo.
Canadians have not made the right choice, but perhaps they have made the right choice.
“I just hope so [the fans] One day I will like it too, and I will do everything [to show] That I’m a good player and that I really make some history with Montreal, ”Slavkovsky said.
Slavkovsky, ranked No. 1 European skater by the NHL Central Scouts, leads the 6-foot-4, 229-pound force. He was the most valuable athlete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics although he was the youngest in the tournament at the age of 17, scoring seven goals in seven games to help Slovakia win the bronze.
Video: Montreal Canadians pick LW George Slavkovsky No. 1
Hughes, 18, was impressed with the 2022 NHL Scouting Combine when Hughes asked him about leaving home at 15 to play in Finland.
“I asked him if he lived in Latham,” Hughes said. He said ‘no’. And I said, ‘So your parents went with you?’ He said ‘no’. Then I said, ‘How did you cook?’ And he said: With a knife.
“He’s very independent. He’s confident without being arrogant, and we think he’s a kid who not only has the mentality we’re looking for, but we also value him for his play. Where he is, what he has in terms of natural abilities. And where we can be if we help him in this process. “
Hughes said the Canadians were hoping to arrest Slavskovsky on Wednesday morning but wanted to see him again. When they met with him on Thursday morning, owner Jeff Molson Hughes, hockey operations chief executive Jeff Gorton and others joined him. Slavkovsky has not read much about it.
“I didn’t know if Shane had a meeting with the owner, so I was like, ‘Maybe he did.’ [a meeting with Molson] Also, and it makes no sense, “Slavkovsky said with a laugh,” yes, but in reality, it makes some sense. “
Video: Slavkovsky on being ranked No. 1 in the 2022 NHL Draft
Hughes said the Canadians do not want to leave 22-year-old Romanov, who averaged 20:24 in 79 games for them last season. But they wanted to get bigger and faster in the middle of the ice, and they likely added another 6-foot-4 player.
The Dutch have scored 59 points (19 goals, 40 assists) in 152 games for the Black Hawks in three seasons, but he is still 21. He can grow up with a Canadian home.
“We will invest money in the development of hockey players and try to make the most of their potential, and we believe Kirby has considerable potential,” Hughes said. “And we hope that with Montreal Canadians in this environment, we can bring him with us and take him to a place where he is a special center.”
Expectations will be high, the pressure will be intense. But if they reach their potential, they will be loved in Montreal.
Fans had already begun to embrace Slavskovsky about 90 minutes after his selection, when he rose from the draft floor through the stands, then sat down for a TV interview in full view of the crowd. People got up on their feet and stood there giving letters of appreciation, patting their backs, taking pictures. Eventually, they gave him a hug.
“Oli! Oli-Oli-Oli! Oli! Oli!”
Slavkovsky seemed determined to live up to it.
“The first is something overall, and you have to prove it,” he said. “So, yes, I’m going to think about getting better every second I live on this earth.”