Higher Floor, Slafkovsky vs. Cooley
This one is a huge question, but you’re looking at two players who, again, showed very different skill sets in very different showcases throughout the year. This is also the first year we’re really going to see the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic had on a young player’s development. This was another weird year, and these kids had two years of hockey being disrupted.
Still, we have to make these assessments. The Devils don’t get a do-over because the situation is harder than normal. So, it might be a question of “safe versus possibility”.
Slafkovsky is built like an NHL player. He has the size and he seems like he knows how to use it. His puck control is really good, and that is something that will translate to the NHL. Slafkovsky feels like the higher floor. However, what is that floor? Are we talking about Pavel Zacha as a floor? Would that be a good thing? In the worst possible scenario, if Slafkovsky turns into Zacha, then nobody is happy. However, if that is literally the worst thing to happen to his development, is that acceptable?
When it comes to Cooley, it seems like you’re banking on upside here. Cooley could be something great, but at his very worst he would have trouble staying in the NHL. If his skill doesn’t exactly translate, or if his scoring doesn’t continue against better competition, then his NHL career is short lived.
Neither of these is a likely scenario, but we are talking about “floor” here. It just seems like this one is pretty clear. Slafkovsky wins this one.