The New Jersey Devils have a huge decision to make with the second-overall pick. There seem to be two forwards who make any sense to choose at this point. Logan Cooley seems to be the player with a higher upside. Some hope he could be a poor man’s Jack Hughes. He can be a playmaker to the tenth degree, and he was dominant at times with the U.S. National Development Program. Then there’s Juraj Slafkovsky. He’s dominated international play, usually the only time fair-weather fans pay attention to draft prospects until right before the NHL Draft.
These two are the only two forwards Devils fans will accept the team taking with the second-overall pick. They are incredibly different prospects but have an equal amount of hype. So, which one should the Devils take? Let’s take a look at the intangibles and the stats.
Better Scoring, Cooley vs. Slafkovsky
Slafkovsky and Cooley were in VERY different leagues last season. Cooley was competing with lesser competition while playing with USNTDP. Slafkovsky was playing in Liiga in Finland. One has men playing in a high-intensity European league and Cooley is facing the best of a young crew outside of Canada.
In Liiga, Slafkovsky had just 10 points in 31 games. He never looked that comfortable offensively, but he had a few shifts that looked phenomenal. Still, we’re looking at pure numbers right now. Slafkovsky had 10 points. That’s just not a good enough output when looking at the second-overall pick.
Where Slafkovsky’s numbers soared is on the international stage. It all started at the Olympics where he scored seven goals in seven games. Then at the IIHF World Championships, Slafkovsky had nine points in eight games. He showed his ability to be a playmaker there, putting up six assists and really laying down some pretty passes.
Meanwhile, Cooley had 75 points in 51 games playing for Team USA. He also had 36 points in 24 games playing against USHL competition. At the U18s, he had 10 points in six games, but that is really lower competition. The comparison is incredibly hard since the competition is so different, but Cooley did the best he possibly could, while Slafkovsky didn’t.