NHL Draft Recap: Juraj Slafkovsky Takes Surprise First Round Pick

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NHL Draft Recap: Juraj Slafkovsky Takes Surprise First Round Pick

Shane Wright was expected to be the first draft pick of the night. But in a surprising twist, the first two picks went to Slovakian players.


Juraj Slafkovsky (center) stands arm in arm with the Canadiens general manager, Kent Hughes (left) after his draft pick on Thursday night. Slafkovsky was the first overall pick. (Image: Bruce Bennett)

For the first time in three years, fans were allowed to attend the NHL Draft in Montreal’s Bell Centre. With the Montreal Canadiens holding the first overall pick, the night has fans sitting at the edge of their seat. 

When draft day started Shane Wright was the consensus #1 pick at -200 on Fanduel. With Juraj Slofkovsky at +170 to go first. But by 6 pm as the draft was just an hour away those odds changed and Slofkovsky became the favorite, closing at -160 to be the first overall pick while Wright was at +115.

Some information must have leaked somewhere for Wright to go from -200 to +115 in a matter of hours because when it came time for the Canadiens to pick sure enough Slafkovsky was their man as the big Left Winger from Slovakia was picked first overall, becoming the first Slovakian to every be picked number one.

So, depending on when you got a bet in on Slofkovsky you could have gotten him anywhere from -160 to +170 on Thursday.

Slovakia Takes the Night

The Slovakian theme continued as Simon Nemec was picked second overall – it’s the first time ever two Slovakians have been taken in the first round and only 2 picks had been made.

Wright didn’t even go third overall, in fact, that distinction was Logan Cooley who was +2600 to go first overall. He was the first Center taken off the board and even though he is committed to playing for the University of Minnesota next year, the forever re-building Arizona Coyotes thought he was the right man at this pick.

After sitting around for what must have felt like an eternity Wright’s name was called at pick number four to the Seattle Kraken. The Kingston Frontenacs Center had to wait through 3 picks and two trades, but his name was finally called, and it must have been a feeling of relief when it was.

As for the Slovakian theme, The Montreal Canadiens also had a pick at number 26, and they added Slofkovsky’s teammate and friend Filip Mesar from Slovakia. That put a cap on the first round for the Canadiens and was the third Slovakian picked in the first round.

To put that in perspective, only one Slovakian had been drafted in the first round in the last 10 years and the highest ever drafted Slovakian was Marian Gaborik by the Minnesota Wild with the third overall pick in 2000.

Picks and Trades

Following the third overall pick Commissioner Gary Bettman stepped to the microphone and announced the first trades of the night, both involving the hometown Montreal Canadiens, to the crowd’s delight.

Montreal traded away Defenseman Alexander Romanov and pick #98 (round 4, 1st pick – Isaiah George – D – OHL) to the New York Islanders for the #13 pick (Frank Nazar – C – USA NTDP) overall. But as fast as the Habs acquired the pick they shipped it off the Chicago Blackhawks along with pick #66 (round 3, 1st pick – Gavin Hayes – LW – OHL) for Center Kirby Dach.

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