NHL: Habs top pick Juraj Slafkovsky dazzles, Kings sign Sean Durzi, and more

Juraj Slafkovsky
Jul 7, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Juraj Slafkovsky after being selected as the number one overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens shocked there fanbase when they opted to select Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky of TPS Turku with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The belief heading into the draft was Shane Wright should be the top pick, but he actually went fourth.

Slafkovsky, 18, was named Most Valuable Player at the 2022 Beijing Olympics after scoring a tournament-high seven goals in seven games while representing Slovakia. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder collected just 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 31 games with TPS.

On Thursday, Habs fans were overjoyed with the hulking prospect’s game in a 4-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres rookies.

Juraj Slafkovsky dazzles for Habs

Juraj Slafkovsky
Jul 7, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Juraj Slafkovsky shakes hands with Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes after being selected as the number one overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens won the draft lottery after finishing last season with a league-low 55 points (22-49-11) giving them the first overall selection, their sixth in franchise history.

Yesterday, the organization and their fans received an up close view of him in a Habs uniform. Slafkovsky only picked up one assist, but was dominant on the ice using his size to create space and makes plays.

“I felt like my pace was pretty high for the first game and it will be only higher and higher, so I’m looking forward [to] that,” Slafkovsky said. “I tried sometimes to push a little more than I should, but I just like to win and I tried to do whatever it takes. I know a couple mistakes were made, but I’ll take the good things from this game and try to bring it to the next game.”

NHL.com

Montreal has openings up front thanks to being in a rebuild. If he can keep this up, making the 2022-23 roster should be a given.

Kings sign Sean Durzi

Sean Durzi
May 12, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Durzi (50) celebrates his goal scored against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period in game six of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Durzi signed a two-year contract extension worth $3.4 million on Thursday.

Durzi, 23, recorded 27 points (three goals, 24 assists), a team-leading 121 blocked shots and 19:36 of average ice time in 64 games last season, his first in the NHL.

He collected 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 13 games last season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League prior to be recalled by the Kings.

Durzi was acquired by Los Angeles in 2019 along with forward Carl Grundstrom and a first-round pick in that year’s draft in exchange for defenseman Jake Muzzin of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Durzi initially was selected by the Maple Leafs in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

Nathan Gerbe retires

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe retired from the NHL on Thursday.

The NHL Alumni Association announced his retirement.

The Buffalo Sabres selected the 5-foot-4 Gerbe in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Draft. In 435 career games with the Sabres (2008-13), Carolina Hurricanes (2013-16) and Blue Jackets (2017-18, 2019-21), he had 151 points (63 goals, 88 assists).

He appeared in just nine games for the Blue Jackets in 2020-21, contributing one goal and two assists. He missed the entire 2021-22 season after undergoing hip surgery in September 2021.

That was the latest surgery for Gerbe, 35, who had multiple injuries throughout his career. In 2019, he had surgery to repair his hip labrum and bilateral hernia surgeries.

He had not reached the 50-game mark in a season since 2014-15.

–Field Level Media contributed to this article