SLAGGERT ‘USING EVERY DAY TO GET BETTER’Dec 5, 2023
By Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48
Graham Slaggert has figured it out everywhere.
He didn’t produce a ton of points in his first two USHL seasons, then went on to score 17 goals his third time around when playing for Cedar Rapids. He scored 19 points combined in his first two years at the University of Notre Dame, before posting consecutive 25-point seasons while being team captain for the Fighting Irish.
Now, the South Bend, Indiana, native is in his second full season of pro hockey. Here, Slaggert is still trying to figure it out.
After scoring six goals and 10 points in 63 games with Toronto last season, Slaggert signed a one-year contract with the Rochester Americans over the summer. In his 12th game of the season, Slaggert slid into the slot, corralling a drop-off pass from Mason Jobst, before burying his first goal as an Amerk against Belleville last Friday.
“It was huge to finally get that off my back,” said Slaggert on scoring his first goal of the season. “I felt like I was playing pretty well and getting chances, but to finally have something to show for it was nice.”
The goal was Slaggert’s first in 33 games, dating back to Feb. 25 when he scored against Laval as a member of the Marlies last season. His last goal scored on the road was nearly a year ago on Dec. 28, also against Belleville.
“He’s a really good player,” said Amerks head coach Seth Appert. “We’ve got good depth players like him that have given us quality minutes. There’s a lot of versatility to Slaggert’s game.”
Slaggert and Appert are no strangers to one another. Long before they were Amerks, Appert was the bench boss for Slaggert for two seasons at the U.S. National Program, including the 2016-17 season where the two were together to capture gold at the U18 World Junior Championship.
Appert went on to coach Slaggert’s brother, Landon, for the same program, then coached against their father, Andy, who’s been a longtime coach at Notre Dame and a friend away from the rink.
“He said ‘hey, pretty good opportunity you got there,’” said Slaggert when asked about what his dad’s reaction to signing with Rochester was. “Coach Appert knows how I play, and it’s been a really good fit for me.”
Slaggert’s style mimics that of what Appert has preached to his forwards: take care of the defensive zone and learn how to create your offense from defense. It’s a characteristic Slaggert prides himself on.
“Defense has always been a strong suit of my game. Being a coach’s kid, you quickly realize playing that way helps you win hockey games. It’s kind of a default for me.”
Slaggert has fallen into the depth player category in the AHL, but that’s not something the 24-year-old wants to be known as forever.
“I understand it’s really important to score goals and produce. I think that’s something that I learned to do in college and something that I know I can do again. I think it’s just a matter of finding it again and having that confidence to do so. Last year was a big change: going to a new level, new country, new team, but now that I have that year under my belt it’s an opportunity to grow as a player and grow more offensively.”
There may be few, if any, teams better than the Amerks for Slaggert to grow with. Over the last several seasons, countless players have traded Rochester red for Buffalo blue, with the Sabres and Amerks constantly working together to develop and mold future NHLers.
“I was able to play with Kulich and Rosen for a little bit, so being able to see those guys produce firsthand and see how skilled they are is really helpful for me. I think it’s a really good opportunity to learn from the players that we have in this organization.”
Slaggert wants to develop and continue to grow. He doesn’t want to be viewed as a bottom-six forward in the AHL. He wants to produce. He wants to make plays. He wants to score goals and do so on a consistent basis.
So, the million-dollar question: how?
“It’s a lot easier said than done. My goal is to come in every day and work on those offensive details. For me, it’s just possessing the puck more and using my legs to create offense for myself, not just generating for other players. I need to put a little bit of pressure on myself to generate for myself as well.”
Pressure is the name of the game. It’s professional sports. A good play you make can be heralded and a mistake can be highlighted for all the wrong reasons. Slaggert wants to put pressure on himself to do better, but he also understands it’s a process, and admits it’s a reminder he may need to use more often.
“One thing I have to work on with myself is realizing it’s only my second year. You don’t have that big of a runway, but at the end of the day, I’m not even halfway through my second year, so there’s still a lot of time. I’m using every day to get better. I don’t want to look at it as having an unlimited amount of time. I do have time to figure it out, but let’s do it pretty soon here.”