Rushing Prospects is a Bad Idea

Montreal drafted Slafkovsky because he might become the best player in 3-5 years. That to me sounds like a project. And just like another project, they double-down and rushed him. The theory is that MSL and Nicholas will be good for him. I agree they'll be good for him. But the competition and not being familiar with the ice-surface trumps that. There will be plenty of time for Slafkovsky to learn from MSL and Nicholas - after he gets used to the North American ice, the speed of the game, and the quicker decision-making he has to make.

Barron also had MSL and Nicholas to work with. He didn't improve in Montreal. He did, however, improve when he got sent down to Laval. Strange how that worked out.

Byron Bader - A sign that Kotkaniemi was rushed into the NHL


Since 1990, there have been 309 players who profiled like Kotkaniemi at the draft. Only 5 of them made the NHL right away (1.6%). Kotkaniemi was the 5th, and first to do so since Jordan Staal (2006). (Bader's profile of Slafkovsky was worse).

At the 2018 draft, Kotkaniemi had a 40% star probability but he wasn't quite ready to go right into the NHL. Three years later, with his stunted development, his star potential is nearly zero.

Montreal should have let him go back to Finland, built confidence and become a ppg player there, and then brought him over in his D+2 or D+3.

Turning a player into a star in the NHL when they're not already one in their respective feeder league is nearly impossible. The NHL learning curve is too great and that treadmill is moving too fast.

No Good Reason for Canadiens to Rush Slafkovsky to NHL

For his part, Slafkovsky undeniably looked impressive leading Slovakia in scoring. However, the lion’s share of his success came against non-hockey powers like France, Kazakhstan, Italy and Denmark, against whom he scored two goals and six assists (eight of his nine points). Each of those teams were either eliminated in the group stage or relegated to a lower division for the 2023 edition of the tournament.

Slafkovsky admittedly scored against Switzerland, which had a decent tournament, leading Group A in the round robin, only to get eliminated by the United States in the first round. However, against the other teams above Slovakia in the Group A standings (Canada, Germany), Slafkovsky was held scoreless. The same goes for against eventual-champion Finland in the two teams’ quarterfinal match-up.

Perlini a Cautionary Tale

So, the idea that Slafkovsky was dominant is a falsehood. The notion he should be able to step into the NHL right away is optimistic. The argument he’s ready has yet to be proven at all. However, even if Slafkovsky does have a successful training camp and preseason, it similarly doesn’t guarantee much.

The top scorers of the 2021-22 preseason are hardly a who’s who of top NHL competition either. As evidence of that fact, Brendan Perlini ended in a tie for first with five goals and one assist.

Yes, the same Brendan Perlini, who was out of the NHL by 24, playing in Switzerland in 2020-21. The same Perlini who signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers to get back to the NHL last summer, lighting it up in the preseason and prompting hockey poolies everywhere to take a flyer on him, hoping he’d get regular ice time with Connor McDavid. The same Perlini who then scored just five points in 23 games, getting waived multiple times. The same Perlini who was a first-round pick himself back in 2014… and is similar in size to Slafkovsky (6-foot-3, 211 pounds).

Meltzer's Musings: Defenseman Development

Ron Hextall has said repeatedly that he would rather err on the side of caution with player development. There is no such thing as being "too NHL ready" but there have been plenty of once-promising young players who have been ruined by being rushed to the NHL.`

Answer to Flames secondary scoring woes isn't necessarily in first-rounder Pelletier, Stockton

Darryl Sutter:

"You don’t just call guys up and not let them have success. You want them to have one or two years of success, for sure. It’s a big jump. Again, you’re looking at Jakob, right? And saying he’s up there in scoring. Well, there’s a big difference between the American Hockey League and the NHL, especially when you’re a first-year pro and you’re undersized."

Brad Treliving

"But the majority of players, you look over time, are best served to touch every rung on the ladder on their way up," Treliving said. "It’s not just getting points. You want players when they come here, and yes, there’s always value to being around an NHL team. But you always want to make sure, when you bring players up, you want them to be here full-time and for the long run and it’s important you don’t rush that process, for the player themselves.

"It’s a hard league when you get up here. And I’ve seen it many times before, very few players are hurt by being over-ready than coming in here too quickly … you just want to make sure you’re doing it properly."

Mike Babcock’s philosophy of development: ‘Arrive when you’re ready; be good right away’

Mike Babcock:

What’s the matter with being the best player and having the puck all the time and getting better and being confident? That to me is what makes sense. We’re in such a hurry to rush these kids. They’re not ready. They’re not strong enough and they’re not mature enough. Arrive when you’re ready; be good right away.

Philadelphia Flyers: No need to Rush the Kids

Model Franchise Practices

Let’s now take a look at some of the most successful NHL franchises over the last ten or fifteen years and their philosophy when it comes to developing young players as compared to some of the less successful ones. The Kings, the Red Wings and the Blackhawks all believe in developing their prospects slowly. Even guys like Duncan Keith on the Blackhawks and Tyler Toffoli on the Kings spent time in the AHL before being promoted to the big club.

Compare that to a team like the Edmonton Oilers who have had all of their prospects jump right from Juniors to the NHL level. The Oilers still haven’t made a playoff appearance since 2006. It looked as though they had made that same mistake with Leon Draisaitl, who they had taken with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft. Like they had with all of their other prospects like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, they threw him right in to the fire by putting him in their NHL lineup right away. It was an absolute disaster as he struggled to adjust to the NHL game. The Oilers seemed to have learned from their past mistakes and sent him back down to Juniors. The result was he returned to the NHL as much more confident, well rounded player as he posted 19 goals, 32 assists and 51 points in only 72 games.

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