Scouting: Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovský?
Analyzing and comparing the game of Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovský
Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovský? That’s the question that the Montreal Canadiens will have to answer in about 3 weeks with the first overall pick in this year’s draft.
Given that the draft is in Montreal this year, there is a lot of hype surrounding this selection.
In this article, I will break down the game of Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovský using different metrics and video analysis to uncover the strengths and discuss development opportunities for both players.
The first metric that we will use is a classic: NHLe. This production equivalency metric, which was provided for purposes of this article by my friend Max Tixador, can be leveraged to normalize the offensive production of players in different leagues. Max’s NHLe model is inspired by the work of CJ Turtoro and Patrick Bacon with N-NHLe models.
But even if research has shown that NHLe is a useful metric to project the success of players in the NHL, it doesn’t necessarily capture the whole picture. When analyzing the options of a team with the first overall pick, going beyond point projections may be useful to compare the style of play and projectability of habits of the different options.
Therefore, we will use our SARAH models (adapted from women’s hockey to junior men’s hockey) to compare the success probability for players, across 30 habits and 7 skill sets.
Simply put, the SARAH models transform event micro-stats (e.g., exits, entries, shots…) into quantifiable habits (e.g., edgework, stride extension, shooting mechanics, vision…) by identifying relevant event-habit pairs and using a weighted combination of these event-habit pairs to make probabilistic predictions regarding habits. To learn more about our SARAH models, here is the paper we wrote outlining our methodology.
With that in mind, we can take a look at a player comparison tool summarizing the key metrics discussed above for Wright and Slafkovský:
As Max is the one who built the NHLe model, I asked for his interpretation of the equivalency stats for both players:
Generally, a player who is a significantly better point/game producer than his peers is more likely to turn into an NHLer and become a star in the NHL.
From a pure point-production standpoint, Shane Wright has a clear edge and is projected to become the better NHL player. Slafkovský would have needed an additional 5 points in the same number of games in the Liiga to end up with the same 82 GP NHLe as Wright.
Then, in terms of analysis of the habits based on the SARAH models, we can break down the comparison of Wright and Slafkovský in the 7 skill sets of interest used as part of the initial project.
Despite sometimes having an inefficient basic posture (with a wide gap between his feet), Shane Wright is still able to access his outside edges quickly and with ease.
Wright ranks slightly above Slafkovský in terms of skating habits, but one thing that he could leverage by improving his basic posture is his ability to keep his feet in motion following a turn or a cutback.
Slafkovský has a solid basic posture and likes to use linear and lateral crossovers to dynamically move on the ice. He is able to access his outside edges with ease as well, but despite a better basic posture than Wright, he’s not necessarily more efficient at it than Wright. Overall, he has a decent skating technique (extension + flexion) for a player of his size.
2) Puck Reception
Slafkovský likes to catch the puck in stride (within a weight shift or followed by a crossover) but doesn’t necessarily let it slide into his hip pocket right away. Given his strong technical foundation overall, he has the underlying skills to develop this habit down the road.
Wright also has the ability to dynamically receive pucks and often leverages hip pocket catches to increase his efficiency at puck protection and deception in open ice.
But for both Wright and Slafkovský, control on the first touch along the boards could be improved in order to bring the puck quicker towards the high value areas of the ice.
3) Stick Handling
As an extension of his puck catching habits, Wright is able to leverage his hip pocket when handling the puck to minimize its exposition and ease of access for opponents. However, while being able to use one touch plays to quickly improve the condition of the puck, he also has the tendency of overhandling the puck from time to time.
On the other hand, Slafkovský doesn’t systematically load the puck to his hip pocket. But he doesn’t have the habit of overhandling the puck, even if sometimes, he can hold on to it for too long before making a play.
Physicality may be the weakest part of Shane Wright’s game. In puck battles, he fails to initiate contact when needed. This is something that he will have to develop in order to create opportunities to get access to the puck in 50/50 battles.
Also, his puck protection skills may be on point when in motion, but he could learn to use his body better to create separation between the puck and his opponents along the boards.
On the contrary, at 6’4”, physicality combined with his offensive skills may be one of Slafkovský’s strongest assets. He is much more willing to use his frame to initiate contact in puck battles and protect the puck.
5) Defensive Play
Kingston’s DZ coverage was very disorganized this season. As such, some of the defensive inefficiencies that scouts point out in Shane Wright’s game may be caused by the poor design & implementation of team systems. He does have some interesting qualities (especially in terms of stick-related defensive habits) that could be better leveraged by coaches who have more organized team systems in the DZ.
While both players have an offensive mindset, Slafkovský as well could learn to play his role within a defensive structure. He has a good stick in the DZ, but DZ play may never be his number one strength. And that’s ok because at the end of the day, the best defense is offense.
Shane Wright sees the game in a way that allows him to identify optimal passing lanes, while creating and leveraging seams for himself and his teammates through movement. He tries to bring the puck to the middle with different types of high value plays like slip passes.
As discussed above, Slafkovský works the boards and from time to time, can bring the puck to the high value areas of the ice with passes. He doesn’t blatantly lack vision and hockey sense, but he could learn to be more efficient when distributing the puck.
Both Wright and Slafkovský have decent shots, but they have different preferences in terms of shooting mechanics.
Wright has a quick release but usually likes to load his weight on his back foot when shooting in stride. He is still able to maximize power on his shots by applying downward force following his weight transfer. But he may lose some accuracy given that he likes to finish on the outside edge of his back foot which results in less stable movements through his shooting mechanics.
On the contrary, Slafkovský likes to shoot on his front foot. This facilitates the weight transfer for him to then apply downward force and generate heavy wrist shots. When forced to shoot on his back foot, Slafkovský is able to finish more often on the flat part of his blade which ensures stability and translates into accuracy for his shot attempts.
All in all, Shane Wright has the advantage on Juraj Slafkovský in 5 of the 7 skill sets analyzed in this article. He also projects to be the better NHL player when looking at DY NHLe. Therefore, with the combination of these metrics and video analysis, the logical choice for the Montreal Canadiens with the first overall pick would be Shane Wright.