Photo Credit: Tomas Kyselica / Hockey Slovakia
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Juraj Slafkovsky is a Slovakian 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect and he hails from Košice, Slovakia.
Slafkovsky played youth hockey for the local club, HC Košice. It’s the same program that developed several current and former NHLers including Peter Bondra, Ladislav Nagy, Erik Černák, Martin Marinčin, Tomáš Jurčo and Marek Svatoš. During Slafkovsky’s time playing youth hockey, he played alongside Green Bay Gamblers goaltender and fellow 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect Rastislav Eliáš. The Slovakian winger played his final season with HC Košice in 2017-2018 and then he packed up his bags to play abroad.
In 2018-2019, Slafkovsky played for the Red Bull Hockey Academy U18 club (Salzburg, Austria) and for the U16 and U19 HK Hradec Královéc clubs (Hradec Králové, Czechia). The following season, 2019-2020, Slafkovsky moved to TPS in Finland (Turku, Finland). Since joining TPS, he played for the club at the U16, U18 and U20 levels before making his Liiga debut this season (2021-2022).
In international play, Slafkovsky has represented Slovakia at the International Level at the World Juniors. He participated in the 2021 and 2022 IIHF World Juniors. In addition, he was on the Slovakian roster for the 2021 IIHF World Championships.
D.O.B – March 30, 2004
Nationality – Slovakia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –225 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Slafkovsky’s Style Of Play
Where Slafkovsky shines the most is on the forecheck. He implements heavy pressure on the forecheck and does a good job staying toe to toe with the puck carrier. If Slafkovsky is in the offensive zone and his center lost the face-off draw, right off the draw, he jumps up and immediately puts pressure on the puck carrying defender. Not only does Slafkovsky keep quality pace, but he will throw his weight in the corners and behind the red line on the forecheck. Looks to be physical along the boards behind the red line and he has the reach to make himself be a tough competitor in those physical board battles. His reach allows him to pick up pucks that are slightly further away from his body even when he is being sandwiched at the boards. Someone has to fight in those tight battles in the trenches. Slafkovsky can be that guy.
As we just mentioned, Slafkovsky has excellent reach when he is on the forecheck, but he doesn’t just use his reachability for capturing loose pucks. He has an active stick and it is fun to watch in action. Slafkovsky looks to take away passing lanes by extending his stick into the passing lane. He will also use his active stick to trap attackers and force rash decision making. In addition, there are sequences where Slafkovsky looks to be very deceptive with active stick. He will extend his stick away from the direction of the puck, but as soon as he is in range he quickly moves his stick towards the puck. It completely catches the attacking puck carrier off guard.
Continuing on the subject of stick-handling reach, Slafkovsky does an excellent job of securing the puck with his reach. Often you will see he uses his non-dominant hand (right hand) to secure the puck out wide and then cradle it back towards his body. That allows him to net possession but then bring the puck close to him to truly secure possession. His reachability also allows him to extend the puck further out away from an attacker at open ice and along the boards. By extending the puck further out, it can also open up passing lanes and he does use those lanes. For instance, in a November matchup against Lukko U20, Slafkovsky managed to get enough separation when using his reach. He then drove the puck slightly behind the net and then fed a backhand pass to Kasper Koskinen in the slot to set him up. It is plays like this that show just how powerful his game can be. He can generate scoring chances with his stick-handling reach and not everyone can do that.
There are instances in which Slafkovsky does not have his stick blade at the ready when receiving a pass. But, if he can get his skates on the puck, he will aim to kick the puck from his skate blade to his stick blade to trap possession.
At times, Slafkovsky will struggle to get around the last defender especially when skating along the boards as he tries to force his way past the defender by squeezing by him at the boards. In addition, there are situations in which Slafkovsky tries to stick-handle through two or three attackers and gets trapped. There are shifts where he needs to be far more selective when walking to danger, but then there are shifts where he identifies the danger and finds a solution. For instance, if Slafkovsky is skating along the perimeter and he has heavy attack on him, he will attempt a backhand pass back to his defenseman on the point. Or if he picks up the loose puck along the boards and sees that traffic is glued on him at the boards, he will skate towards the point and uses his vision to spot a teammate skating in the opposition direct towards the corner. Slafkovsky then delivers a drop pass.
When you analyze Slafkovsky’s shot, you notice that he takes more of his shots from down low and in tight. He generates scoring chances and capitalizes down low. Slafkovsky has tipped in goals off of rebounds. Goals in which he manipulated the goaltender to stay low on his butterfly and drag him to one side before shooting. The majority of his success is at net front and that makes me think that there is so much untapped potential for Slafkovsky. We already know that he thrives at running the cycle down low. He has shown that he has the ability to net the puck and deliver quality passes to the slot. But, he can also use his stick-handling to get into the crease as well. With his stick-handling and puck manipulation, he could be a handful at net front at the NHL level someday.
When shooting from range, he isn’t as dominant as he is at net front. He will struggle with shot accuracy from range and that has a lot to do with the shot mechanics. Slafkovsky needs to work on weight transfer. When he shifts his weight as he shoots from range, he does not shift enough weight towards and over knee to foster enough power. While he does shift more weight when attempting shots from range, he does have a heavy wind up. The wind up can help him generate power, but he has to follow it up through with good weight transfer to make his shots more lethal. I would also like to see him work on stick blade placement when the blade is connecting with the puck. To get as much height as possible on his shot, he needs the flex to be more open than closed. In addition, the stick blade flex needs to line up with the net to net stronger accuracy. While there is more work to be done with his shot, I’m confident in his ability to bolster his shot and become slightly stronger from range. But, with that said, I’m not expecting him to be a sniper. Given his power forward play style, he will be more effective down low than in medium or low danger.
When it comes to his passing in the offensive zone, he doesn’t generate a lot of passes too low danger. That is an area of his game that will need continued growth, but as we saw earlier, he can find success when passing to high danger and there are instances in which he tries to be deceptive in his passes to high danger. With his ability to win puck battles and grab possession of loose pucks behind the red line, he could generate quite a few dangerous scoring chances. But, in order to do so, he would need to generate more passes to teammates at net front.
Aside from passing from behind the red slot to teammates at net front, he will attempt a decent amount of lateral and cross ice feeds. If there isn’t a clear passing lane, he will attempt passes through the triangle. His cross ice feeds are quick and has no problem getting enough power into has passes.
In the offensive section, we discussed how strong his stick-handling reachability is. His reachability is not only dominant when generating scoring chances down low in the offensive zone. It is also is quite the tool for Slafkovsky’s defensive zone play. He has excellent reach that allows him to use active stick by extending his stick blade out to cut down passing lanes. You will also see him use his long reach to try to shut down attacker puck movement. Slafkovsky will extends his stick blade out towards the corner when facing a puck carrying attacker in low danger along the boards to try to manipulate him into taking an ill-advised shot.
From a positioning perspective, Slafovsky drops back down low to the red line when there is a tight puck battle that his defenders are engaged in. When the puck battle shifts to the other side, he moves over to centered ice. At the point, when facing an impending attacking zone entry, he looks to lower and widen his body at the defensive zone blue line to take up as much space as possible and trap puck carrying attackers at the point. But, when defending against puck carrying attacking defenders once the attack has established control in Slafkovsky’s zone, he doesn’t often go park himself at the point, instead he will sit at the perimeter and monitors from there.
When defending against the attack once they have moved the puck from point inwards, Slafkovsky does a good job of exerting pressure and implementing good gap control to keep the attacker in low danger. He patrols the boards well. Should the attack cycle the puck to the corner, Slafkovsky goes in for physical checks along the boards to cause puck disruption. At open ice, you can also expect Slafkovsky to stick lift when he doesn’t have good gap control and the attacker has broken loose and thus he is skating behind the attack.
If he is one of the last of his teammates back, he looks to survey puck battles and tracks the puck well. Should the puck break loose, he is one of the first ones on the puck.
As mentioned earlier in the defensive section, he has quality stick-handling reach and that allows him to claim loose pucks at open ice and along the boards at a faster rate. His ability to net possession of pucks has only allowed him to be successful from a transitional perspective. But, that doesn’t mean that he is the one who captures the puck and completes a controlled zone exit. Instead, he opts to find breakout passing lanes and attempt to exploit them. Slafkovsky loves to attempt trajectory / route passes and looks to get the puck into a teammate’s hand but one who is headed towards the neutral zone at a quick pace. Sometimes he will struggle with how much power he puts into the trajectory / route passes or misidentify the exact route, but I love that he is looking for teammates who are speeding up the ice as he is looking to find teammates with enough separation speed to generate potential scoring chances in the offensive zone.
When backwards skating back into the neutral zone and he has his eye on the attacking defender in their own defensive zone, he extends his stick blade out to take away a passing lane to an attacking forward skating up towards the TPS blue line. He uses that active stick that I love and neutralizes potential threats but shutting down those passing lanes with his stick blade placement. In addition, Slafkovsky will swings his stick towards the attacker to force him to play the puck further out away from his body. Slafkovsky is hoping that the attacker struggles to retain control of the puck when the attacker swings the puck wide. Once the puck comes loose, he reacts by skating after the puck and netting possession. You can also expect him to extends his stick blade out towards the puck to force the attacker to make rash decision making. He has quite the active stick and he makes it work to his advantage. But, he will also try to utilize his active stick in situations in which he doesn’t have the upper ground at all. If he can’t get the necessary speed to get in front of the opposition’s rush, he will stick lift to cause disruption.
From a puck movement perspective, his style varies and it depends on the level that he is playing in. When playing in the Liiga, Slafkovsky doesn’t like to carry the puck through the neutral zone instead he would prefer to pass before entering into the neutral zone. His crossovers limit his speed and that might make him slightly more reluctant to try moving the puck himself throughout the neutral zone. When playing U20 hockey, he seems to be more open when moving the puck from zone to zone. At the U20 level, he can use his stick-handling alone to generate separation and skate into the offensive zone. But, in the Liiga, he needs both. Needs speed and stick-handling. With that said, in the skating section we will talk about his speed and how he gets far more speed off of his skate extensions than on his crossovers. The challenge is that Slafkovsky needs lengthy speedy crossovers to be truly effective to evade and turn around attackers.
When he does have the puck in the neutral zone, he will either pass to a teammate to generate a zone entry or dump the puck into the offensive zone. He isn’t a F1. Slafkovsky doesn’t drive play into the offensive zone for the reasons that we just spoke about. But, he does do a solid job at complete tape to tape feeds at centered ice or cross lateral feeds when he is right near the blue line.
Slafkovsky is an average skater. He is not going to wow you with his power stride and his crossovers don’t generate enough speed. I do believe that Slafkovsky knows that his crossovers don’t net enough acceleration and that is why he is slightly more cautious about carrying the puck from zone to zone in transition. Instead of his crossovers generating the speed that he needs, he relies on his stride to accelerate himself up the ice. He can generate solid speed when implementing his standard skate extensions. His ankle flexion allows him to generate that speed. To ensure that you can skate up the ice and net acceleration, you need quality ankle flexion and knee placement. Slafkovsky’s knees align with the toes of his skates. The skate extensions allow him to keep good pace with the attack and his teammates. But, he doesn’t have true separation speed. To net separation, he uses his stick-handling reach to push the puck past attackers. When it comes to retaining speed and completing turns, Slafkovsky will lean on his edges and that allows him to retain speed that he built up before using his edges to turn.
Slafkovsky can be a menace at the NHL level. His stick-handling reach and his play on the cycle makes him a threat down low. If he can broaden his game by working on his long range shot, that allows him to become a dual threat. But, even if he doesn’t become that dual threat offensively, he has the physicality and the reach to net pucks in puck battles and set up teammates in the slot. With that said, I can envision him being a top six contributor at the NHL level.
January 11, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.
Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!