ARLINGTON, Va. — Juraj Slafkovsky spent the day dressed in his Montreal Canadiens uniform, but it was for posing, not playing.
Slafkovsky was one of 27 players who took part in the NHL Players’ Association Rookie Showcase at Medstar Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday.
The players spent their day on and off the ice posing for photos for their official Upper Deck trading cards. They also signed items, lots of them, related to the trading card company.
“It’s pretty tough to sign that many signatures,” said the forward, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. “But it’s fun and it comes with that, and it’s good to meet other guys too and just spend some time together. Do some photos and that stuff. So yeah, I liked it.”
Slafkovsky, who collected more soccer cards than hockey cards growing up in Slovakia, said he wasn’t sure how to feel about soon having his own.
“Depends how my face will look,” he joked.
Posing for the photos was the fun part of the day for forward Matty Beniers, who was selected by the Seattle Kraken with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, which was held virtually.
“A lot of the guys here, we didn’t get a draft, so I think this stuff is fun to do because we didn’t get to do it,” Beniers said. “Some of the other stuff we did, take your draft photos, so we’ve been able to do some little fun stuff.”
In the process, Beniers also got to spend some time with three former teammates from the University of Michigan: defenseman Owen Power (selected by Buffalo Sabers with No. 1 pick in 2021 draft), and forwards Thomas Bordeleau (selected by San Jose Sharks with No. 38 pick in 2020 NHL Draft) and Brendan Brisson (selected by Vegas Golden Knights with No. 29 pick in 2020 draft).
“I was with ‘Briss’ a little bit this summer training, but I hadn’t seen ‘Bords’ or Owen, so it was fun to see them here,” Beniers said. “You just jump right back into it. You haven’t seen them in a little bit, but you’re right back into it, having fun, just like we’re getting ready for another year (at Michigan), except we’ we’re all in different spots now.”
There was also some family time for the New Jersey Devils forward Graeme Clarke (No. 80 pick in 2019 draft) and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Brandt Clarke (No. 8 pick in 2021 draft).
With the brothers playing on opposite sides of the United States, spending the day together provided a rare opportunity.
“It’s really cool, really special for our family that me and him are succeeding the way we are and getting recognized like this,” Brandt said. “It’s really special that he’s out here with me.”
Along with the photos and signings, the day also included players being recorded doing their shootout moves and goal celebrations, and a 3-on-3 scrimmage.
It was all part of a laid-back atmosphere that followed from Monday night, when the players also got to have dinner and play at Top Golf.
“This is a [NHLPA] and Upper Deck event that we try to keep very relaxed,” NHLPA special assistant to the executive director Mathieu Schneider said. “The guys aren’t really on a time crunch, and I think that’s something that’s a little bit different from the day to day of the NHL or the clubs that they came from. … When you get into the NHL, it’s be here at 12, be here at 1. So I think they enjoy that.”
And with the stress of training camp fast approaching, putting on their respective uniforms Tuesday made it feel a bit more real.
“Definitely gets me itching a little bit for camp,” said forward Shane Wright, who was selected by the Kraken with the No. 4 pick in the 2022 draft. “I’m leaving in a couple of days here for camp in Seattle. … Just putting the socks on as well to match the jersey kind of really makes it feel real in that this is the reality for me, which is really cool .”