Buffalo, NY – The Canadians have a tough decision ahead with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, but they hope the conversations they’ve had here at the Exploration Group can offer some clarity.
We can’t talk about the impressions they might have after talking to Canadian Shane Wright, Slovakian Juraj Slavkowski, and American center Logan Cooley. The Canadians formally interviewed each of them at the gathering, and also met them in a more informal setting—taking Wright and Coley out to dinner, while asking to meet Slavkovsky again Wednesday evening after being interviewed earlier. day.
After speaking to these three this week, we were touched by each of them for completely different reasons.
But the one thing they all have in common is how confident they are and how well they can express that confidence, but also how their personalities and the way they talk matches the way they play.
Highly self-aware, poised and outspoken, Wright handles some of the criticism of this season in a calm, efficient, well-thought-out and down-to-earth manner. The responses were quick, serious and direct, much like his game.
The first impression of Slavkovsky is how he imposes himself on the young man; A body sample makes an impression just by sitting next to him. But then he started talking, flashing his big smile and showing just how much fun he could be. His game is also great and fun. He’s someone who catches your eye on the ice and impresses you with a rare combination of speed, size and skill. He is a bold and charismatic young man, and it shows in his game.
In Cole’s case, this association between his personality and his gameplay may not be quite as true as it is for the other two, but the one thing he exudes on the ice and when he’s talking is quiet confidence. Cooley is seen as one of the most dynamic players in this draft, and if you don’t believe us, just ask him. He knows what he wants and has no doubt that he has the ability to get it. That’s right in his game, and he really shined in our conversation with him.
Deciding which of these three youngsters deserves to be the first pick in the NHL Draft is what the Canadian front office and amateur scouting staff will have to deal with between now and July 7. But as far as we’re concerned, they each have qualities that make them very attractive.
To give you an idea of what we mean, we asked Wright, Slafkovsky, and Cooley a similar set of questions. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions based on their answers, but if you’d like to hear more lengthy interviews with each of them, you can tune in to the June 2 episode of The Athletic Support podcast.
When you think of Montreal as a hockey market, what comes to mind?
Shane Wright: I think it’s incredible their fan base there, and it’s one of the most passionate fan bases in the entire NHL. If you have a chance to play for a team like this and such a fan base, they obviously expect a lot on the ice and want to win. But they love you, too. These fans love you as a player and accept you as their own. So playing in front of such a fan base would be a great experience, definitely a lot of fun.
Juraj Slavkovsky: Lots of fans! Yes, they love to win and hate to lose, and if the team loses, they can go crazy. This is how things look from Europe, and that’s what I heard.
Logan Cooley: I just think they’re a passionate fan base, they were real historicals to win trophies that day. To be able to play for the Original Six team would be so special, wearing this jersey would be incredible.
What are you most satisfied with in your season? Least satisfying?
I have seen: I think making my decision with the disc, understanding where I have to go on the ice, the different situations on the ice is what brings me the most success and it’s really my best as well… I think also, my maturity as a player, my maturity to be able to play in More situations, ability to kill penalty kicks, ability to take confrontations, ability to play in more situations and do well in every situation instead of the last, kind of being in those situations but not being as successful as I would like…
(But) I think a few times, a lot of times, I’d probably grab a stick a little too hard. I think a lot of the time I’ve been trying to make a perfect play, trying to make a perfect pass, maybe it was a bowler that goes through the skates or a hard pass in there. Trying to deliver a perfect game instead of just reacting, letting my instincts take over and just doing maybe a simpler play, but also kind of reacting to what the defenders give you, react to where my teammates are. Sometimes I get in trouble where I think a lot, or think about the situation or decisions I’ve been making.
Slavkovsky: I’m glad I showed myself that I can score some goals. Least happy? I think I will say in general how I played in the first half of the season. I was like, I’m kind of afraid to make things up and really shoot and score or make something… I think it’s about confidence. I felt like I had those skills and skate and everything, but maybe there was a lack of confidence. I wasn’t very confident, so it looked like I was struggling a bit. But after the Olympics, I felt amazing on the ice in every game.
Coli: I think I had a really good season, I put in a huge amount of points in every game. That was kind of my goal, to produce a lot more than my 17-year-old, and I did. The only thing I wish I could have done a little more is to be more consistent. I think I showed it a little bit, and as the season went on I was a lot better.
How would you describe yourself as a hockey player?
I have seen: I’m not a flashy guy, I’m not a guy who will finish super fast and quickly catch defenders. I think my game is a little smarter, a little more decision making, and a little faster gaming that can sometimes go unnoticed. Decisions, understanding where to go on the snow – this is my game. I’m less interested in the flashy, really noticeable plays that make you go “wow.” I think my game can also translate and lead to a lot of success. There are different ways you can achieve success, and there are different ways to become a good player. That’s just kind of the way I play it.
Slavkovsky: I think I would say a force forward with skill and creativity that can score and a good pass. I like (Mikko Rantanen very much), how he plays. I love watching his game, but he’s clearly far from me. I just look at him.
Coli: I am a complete player, two-way player, very dynamic, exciting player. I love winning too – I’m a winning player, I love being on successful hockey teams. I love being with my successful teammates too, and helping the team win the championship.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I have seen: (Sydney) Crosby was always that guy to me. Growing up he was my favorite player, he was my role model, the guy I always watched. The Penguins were my favorite team as well as being a kid, so he’d definitely be the guy that comes to mind.
Slavkovsky: I think it was Marianne Share. When I was growing up, he was in progress and he was the best Slovak player in the league and I think he was one of the best in the league too. He won three cups and his career was amazing. I also went to Chicago to watch a game. The first time I saw it was 2013, and the second time was 2016. It was amazing. I bought a shirt and all that stuff. Took some nachos and pizza and was enjoying my time watching hockey!
Coli: She’s kind of my whole family, but more importantly, my brother Eric. I think we’ve always been pushing each other to be our best. Watching him get a good chance of playing college hockey when I was a real little kid made me want to do it. Now that this stuff is a reality, I think this goes for it.
Being the general of your draft, knowing that your scouts have been watching you all season and that they want to see certain things, how could that have affected your playing style, if any?
I have seen: It’s really important to find a balance. You have to manage these expectations, you have to manage what these people say about you and just those different experiences and manage what these outside people say. There are a lot of people saying things and a lot of people saying things that don’t matter very much. What matters most is to focus on what you think of yourself, what the coaches say about your playing, and what your teammates say as well, and try to block out and tune in to those other things as best you can.
Slavkosevsky: I usually try not to think about all of this stuff, that someone is watching it and (that) stuff. I’m just trying to play my game, no matter what happens. I feel that when I don’t think too much and just focus on my game, it’s easier for me to play and it looks better too.
Coli: Scouts know when you’re a selfish player, and that’s not me at all. Using your teammates and finding open ice is the way to play hockey, and playing a mature game is what they’re looking for and that’s what I’m trying to do.
How important is it to be the first choice in the draft?
I have seen: Certainly it is important to me. He was always my motivation. I always want to push myself to be the best. I’m a competitive guy, I want to be the best, I want to be the best draft player, I want to be the first overall pick. He has always been my motivation, always the thing that drives me to be my best.
Slavkovsky: Right now, I feel like it’s probably closer than it was, say, three months ago. Of course I want it, but I always say it’s not important when you are drafted, but where and where you get a good chance to play. This is the most important thing at the end of the day. Being first generally means a lot, but I just let it go, and don’t (try to) think about it much.
Coli: To be able to compete against other top players, like a guy like Wright or Slavkowski, I like it. I love competing against these guys and being the best of them all. That’s my goal and I love the feeling… Nobody wants to be second, third, or fourth. But you want to go to a team that wants you, you don’t want to go to a team that has some questions about you. You want to go to a team that believes in you and trusts you that you can help them win games for their franchise.
(Top photo by Shane Wright: Robert Lefevre/OHL Images)