NHL notes: Habs reveal how they chose Slafkovsky No. 1

It’s back-to-school month, and the first couple of weeks will be study time for the league’s brightest young stars.

The Upper Deck/NHLPA rookie hockey card showcase was held Tuesday in Washington, featuring the most recent two first overall picks, Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabers and Juraj Slafkovsky of the Montreal Canadiens.

While the photo/meet and greet media session also included Shane Wright, who was the favorite to be picked ahead of Slafkovsky in the July draft, a video just released by the Habs examines the backroom debate between general manager Kent Hughes and his staff that eventually turned them to the Slovak.

It became well known that Slafkovsky made a great impression on Montreal at the NHL scouting combine as a 15-year-old living on his own while playing for a Finnish team. In the July 5 pre-draft meeting at a Montreal hotel, Hughes told his execs and scouts “there’s no wrong answer, whether it’s (Logan) Cooley, whether it’s Wright, whether it’s Slafkovsky and whether there’s another player out there that somebody thinks has more upside.”

Stu Cowan of the

Montreal Gazette

who reviewed the video, reports Hughes told the scouts they need to put position aside and decide which player they believe has the most upside as an NHL player down the road and not just in 2022.

“I don’t know Wright, but I know Slafkovsky,” says Christer Rockstrom, their chief European scout. “I want some of the other guys, smaller guys. But he’s a big horse (6-foot-3, 227 pounds) and that’s why I would go with him because it’s a piece of the puzzle that falls.”

Analytics director Christopher Boucher opines if they can get a big player with proven skills right away versus drafting for size in later rounds where there’s more risk, then he’s on board with Slafkovsky. Co-director of amateur scouting, Nick Bobrov, reminded the group how well Slafkovsky did in world championship play, rising from fourth line to first despite his age.

Fellow Slovak Simon Nemec wound up going second to New Jersey, Cooley third to Arizona before Wright’s surprising drop to fourth spot where Seattle selected the six-foot, 94-point center from Kingston.

“I don’t want to focus on that any more,” Wright said Tuesday. “That’s not a stress, not a worry in my life. There’s not as much time to prepare for the season, prepare for camp, which is my main focus right now.”

ROOKIE TOURNEY TUNE-UPS

One of the most scrutinized events beginning next week will be multi-team tests such as the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. It involves the host Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs.

In Buffalo, six teams, also including Atlantic Division rivals Montreal and Ottawa, will take on Pittsburgh, Boston and New Jersey. Six-foot-6 defenseman Power will not be participating to concentrate fully on the Sabres’ main camp the week after.

Jake Sanderson, a 2020 first-rounder of the Senators, told the media in DC that he is recovering from two separate hand surgeries and will be ready for camp. Both operations were in this calendar year as the defenseman wrapped up with the University of North Dakota.

The San Jose Sharks are hosting the Kings, Avs, Vegas, Arizona and Anaheim next week.

MOURNING DAN SCHACHTE

The tight-knit brothers of NHL officials lost linesman Dan Schachte on Tuesday morning. The 64-year-old from Madison. Wisc., had battled a diabetic condition much of his life.

Referee colleague Tim Peel noted that Schachte was the first American official to work more than 2,000 games,

“He had an incredible career,” Peel said via Twitter. “I had the pleasure of working the 2009 outdoor game at Wrigley Field with him.”

A statement from the NHL read, in part: “Schachte’s elite officiating earned assignment to a Canada Cup, World Cup, Olympic Games and five Stanley Cup Finals.”

He worked his first NHL game Oct. 6, 1982, at old Chicago Stadium, the same night Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Bowen made his Leafs debut.

KADRI-SUTTER SHOULD SIZZLE

Coach Darryl Sutter can’t wait to see Nazem Kadri in a Calgary Flames sweater.

“He’s a winner, he’s still got a little bit of old school in him,” said Sutter, a man who knows very well what the term means, during the Eric Francis Show on Sportsnet 960 Calgary.

Kadri signed a seven-year $49-million US deal last month after winning the Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.

“Everybody wants to win, they don’t always understand what it takes. But I think he’s a guy that understands.”

Sutter said he is holding off naming a new captain for now, having not yet replaced Mark Giordano.

ICE CHIPS

While Detroit has been adding pieces from other teams to fast-track its rebuild, a former Red Wing (and Winnipeg Jet) has found his way to San Jose. Evgeny Svechnikov, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound winger who was 19

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overall in 2015, signed a one-year, two-way deal Tuesday. The older brother of Andrei of the Carolina Hurricanes, he played parts of four seasons for Detroit, but injuries limited him and both Detroit and Winnipeg did not extend him qualifying offers the past two summers… Pittsburgh will have 57 training camp players, including 30 forwards , 21 defensemen and six goalies, with 23 of 25 rookie campers invited. One of the vets will be 35-year-old Sidney Crosby. He is hoping to finish with better than a point a game average by April, which would make him 19 years at that level. Only Wayne Gretzky has done that in NHL history… During the DC show, many of the rookies gave sneak previews of their team’s new home uniforms, some with small individual team advertising on the upper corner. The Capitals will have a Caesars Sportbook logo, Pittsburgh a private medical facility and Minnesota an orthopedics company. Ottawa’s will have an EM crest for late owner Eugene Melnyk.

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