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Juraj Slafkovsky becomes a cornerstone of the Habs 5-on-5 team
Last night, Juraj Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield looked like a real first trio. Against the Avalanche, who are no easy customers, the guys looked really good.

Let’s face it: Nick Suzuki continues to improve. The Habs’ captain and #1 center is excellent over 200 feet, can generate offense and does a lot of nice things on the ice.

It’s a good thing he’s here.

He’s been consistent since the start of the season. He’s had a few rough patches, but let’s just say they haven’t lasted very long. So that’s a good sign.

However, the same cannot be said for the team-mates on his trio. Caufield isn’t having a great season, and Slaf looked lost when Kirby Dach was taken away from him (by force of circumstance).

That said, since he’s been on the first trio, Slaf is progressing well. It doesn’t always show on the scoresheet, but the man who wanted to play with Suzuki and Caufield when he was drafted is making sure his wish continues to come true.

Even if Sportsnet doesn’t seem to realize that he’s having a great season. Yesterday, the panel didn’t seem to understand that the young man doesn’t deserve to play on the fourth line.

As for Caufield, there are ups and downs. Even though he scored his 13th goal of the season yesterday, leading the Flanelle this season, we know he needs to give more.

Kent Hughes talked about it yesterday in his press briefing: Caufield needs to have a better success rate on his shots. Perhaps he needs to be inspired by the spirit his coach had when he was playing…

All this to say that one wonders if Suzuki’s most trusted winger isn’t Slaf.

And let’s just say it’s even more questionable knowing that Corey Pronman (The Athletic), who ranks NHL players 22 and under, has placed Slaf ahead of Caufield in terms of both guys’ potential.

Note that Caufield is 23, but had to be 22 as of January 1, 2024 to be considered in his “age 22 year” for the ranking. He was born on January 2

Slafkovsky was ranked 20th in the rankings, in the #5 category “on track to be an All-Star Game member and top lineup player” by the reporter. He is just behind Alexis Lafrenière and ahead of Logan Cooley and Trevor Zegras.

Caufield, meanwhile, is ranked 25th. He is the first player in the sixth category, i.e. top of the line-up.

In other words, not only is Slaf ahead of his colleague, he’s also in the top category. That’s quite a feat under the circumstances.

But I can’t say it’s undeserved. After all, we’re seeing more and more of the monster Slaf can become, gaining confidence around the net and using his body. Yesterday, he listened to the people who want him to shoot more: he did it six times.

After 82 NHL games, we’re getting to know Slaf better and better, and his points record doesn’t reflect the difference between the guy of 2022 and the guy of 2024. His 14 points over the past two months are a good example.

David Reinbacher is in the same category as Caufield. He is ranked 47th.

Kirby Dach (49th) is in category #7, named “on track to be a top player and middle of the line-up” by Pronman, which counts 169 players.

The “middle of the line-up” category in the text includes several Habs players/forwards: Kaiden Guhle (82), Lane Hutson (88), Alex Newhook (91), Justin Barron (115), Joshua Roy (122), Owen Beck (141), Logan Mailloux (148) and Sean Farrell (165). No Habs goaltender.

Connor Bedard is alone in the first category. Jack Hughes, Tim Stützle and Adam Fantilli are in the next category and Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov, Luke Hughes and Moritz Seider are in group #3.

In bursts

– Speaking of prospects.

– We can stop associating Jake Allen with the Oilers, I think.

– Well done.

– Good question.

– Jayden Struble’s impact goes beyond the score sheet.

– Really?

– What will the A’s do?

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