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Juraj Slafkovsky, Quinton Byfield and the development curve of a youngster
Last night, the Canadiens lost 4-0 to the Los Angeles Kings. [Insert a joke of your choice about the millions of dollars invested by the provincial government to bring the Kings to Quebec City].

The score reads 4-0, just like the November game against those same (mighty) Kings. That said, the CH still looked better yesterday than last time. And that’s even if some booing was heard at the Bell Centre.

First of all, the club got some real shots in the first period, which is already better than last time. The bar was set low, you may say, but it was done.

Having said that, we shouldn’t think that the two games against L.A. this year were identical. In the first, the guys didn’t show up. But yesterday was different.

You can call it a moral victory if you like, but the Habs played well early on. In the first period, the Habs did well against a team that’s an NHL powerhouse, but…

But it was 2-0 after 20 minutes. Good teams are, as they say, opportunistic.

But hey. Clearly, a club with Anze Kopitar, Phillip Danault and Pierre-Luc Dubois anchoring the center line can aspire to great things, when you think about it.

It could have been, in part, the CH center line.

If Marc Bergevin had kept Danault in Montreal, Christian Dvorak might not have been necessary. If Kent Hughes had traded Kirby Dach for Pierre Luc Dubois (if Dubois really wanted to play in Montreal, that is), the story would have been different.

But hey. With ifs, we go to Paris. And with financing, we go to Quebec City… but that’s not the point.

But hey. In reality, the Canadiens have come up against a very strong club, but one that plays a flat, hermetic style of hockey. It’s reminiscent of the Devils of yesteryear… but with more offense… and without a goalie like Martin Brodeur.

But it’s not too reminiscent of the Devils after all.

Joking aside, it’s clear that the Kings play hockey that isn’t super exciting, but is effective. The fact that the club is undefeated on the road so far this season speaks volumes.

Martin St-Louis believes they’re the best club the CH has faced this season. And since we’re in a copycat league, it’s possible that the CH or another team will decide to emulate the Kings, should they win the Cup in 2024.

At the end of the day, there’s one aspect of the Kings we can learn from: the development of Quinton Byfield.

You may have noticed, but Byfield is a more than decent player this season. He’s clearly blossoming within his formation, and it’s the Kings who are benefiting from it. He has 21 points (including eight goals) in 23 games this season, and yesterday he scored twice.

Byfield is a tall player (6’5), who was drafted really early (second overall) and who made a name for himself when he was just starting out in the pros. Then, in his fourth year in California, he looks like he’s going to explode.

I’m not the only one who’s made connections with Juraj Slafkovsky, am I? Am I right?

Slaf had already played in the pros before he was drafted, but like Byfield, who took advantage of the pandemic to play in the AHL at age 18, Slafkovsky was promoted to a more difficult level.

And it hasn’t been perfect.

Byfield didn’t do badly in the AHL that year, you might say, but he quickly made the jump to the NHL, where it was more difficult. But the Kings showed patience, and today, things are looking up.

Is Slaf two years away from looking like Byfield? Alexis Lafrenière? I don’t know, of course.

That said, what we see of Slaf is encouraging. We were talking about moral victories earlier in the text, and it’s clear that right now, the hat fits the Slovakian player very well.

The more time passes, the more we realize that Slaf doesn’t just play on the first line: he belongs on the first line. He doesn’t just complement Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield: they play as a threesome.

The more time passes, the more he knows how to play like the “big man” he is. It’s clear that Slaf is getting the hang of the NHL, and the Canadiens are the better for it.

And if he looks at what Byfield is becoming, it may give him hope.


The Canadiens have two games this weekend: Saturday in Buffalo and Sunday in Montreal. The Predators will be in town Sunday night, which is weird.

The club will be traveling today and the guys won’t be forced to skate this morning at 11am.

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