BROSSARD — By a conservative estimate, hundreds of Canadiens fans adorned the windows surrounding the rinks at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday.
They were there to see the prospects participate in development camp, but more specifically, they were eager to see Juraj Slafkovsky in action.
Slafkovsky did not disappoint, immediately showing his scoring prowess, his strength with the puck and his ability to direct play from any area of the ice.
And while the towering Slovak was far from happy with his performance, he was clearly impressed with the number of fans in attendance who closely followed his every move.
“It’s really good,” Slafkovsky said. “It’s a hockey town, everybody loves hockey, and I love it. I’ve always wanted to play somewhere where they love hockey, and I’m in the best place in the world for that. is nice. I like taking pictures and signing autographs, I like that.”
Fans have already turned to this year’s top pick, not only because of his potential, but also his ability to distinguish between confidence and arrogance.
When asked if it was possible to play on a line with Cole Caufieldwho quickly texted his new teammate after the draft, Slafkovsky wisely poured cold water on the subject.
“It’s already here and I have to fight for it,” he said. “We’ll see. I just want to show myself in the best way and fight for a contract.”
As for the reaction to his home selection, there’s no doubt that a certain Habs mania pervades the Slovak hockey landscape, especially considering that his close friend, Filip Mesar, was also drafted by the Habs. in the first round.
“It’s just great that it happened, that we’re both on the same team,” Slafkovsky said. “I was telling the other guys before the draft that it would be good. I’m happy to be here with him.”
The couple have a very long history together. To say their parents are together would be an understatement given that both families vacation in the same areas whenever possible.
“It’s very special,” Mesar said. “I’m very happy that there are two Slovaks here. It makes it easier for me to adapt. We’ve known each other very well since we were kids.”
Their friendship will help both players feel more and more at ease as they embark on their journey to the NHL, but in Slafkovsky’s case, his immediate and honest immersion in Canadiens history was pretty evident.
And that will go a long way to endearing him to the crowd of fans who cling to his every word.
“I always enjoy being part of the organization,” he said. “But, I just want to focus on my game and do my best to adapt to Montreal and win games. It’s great to be a Canadian, and it’s the best thing that can happen to me. I just need to work hard, to prove it.”
The Canadiens’ development camp, which runs through Wednesday, will give Slafkovsky plenty of opportunities to prove his worth, but judging by his performance on the exercise bike in Brossard, structural reinforcements are in order.
When asked if he damaged the bike, he replied with a wry smile.
“For sure, I will damage everything here,” he said.