With rookie and development camps in the books, talk surrounding which prospects will transition to the NHL has commenced. Along with that comes the thought of the 2022 NHL Draft. We won’t fully know the fruits of two pandemic drafts (2020, 2021) until four or five years down the road. The 2004-born players are in a similar situation. Truncated or, in some cases, cancelled seasons have really put this draft class behind the eight ball.
In the meantime, let the 2022 draft conversation begin.
• It was nice to see Montreal get rewarded with the 2022 NHL Draft on July 7-8. The Olympic break is responsible for the late date. As of writing, the hometown team will have 11 picks, including the first-rounder acquired from the Jesperi Kotkianiemi offer sheet, which is conditional dependent upon where Carolina and Montreal finish in the official draft order.
• The 2022 draft class looks to be as diverse as ever, especially those projected in Round 1. The 2021 first round produced 15 Canadians, eight Americans, six Swedes, one Russian and one Swiss-born player. For the first time since 2009, there were no Finnish players selected in the first round.
Early projections of the 2022 class estimate as many as eight countries to be represented in Round 1.
• As for the 2023 draft, Dalibor Dvorsky has entered the conversation to challenge Connor Bedard as the top rated prospect. Dvorsky turned heads at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with 12 points for the silver medal-winning Slovaks.
• Speaking of the Slovaks, the 2004-born age group (2022 draft eligibles) looks to be a bumper crop. A few names to follow here include: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW; Simon Nemec, RD; Filip Mesar, RW; and Peter Repcik, C, who will play for Lethbridge in the WHL.
• OHL draft eligibles are poised to generate the most interest of any league this season. While most 2021 high-end draft eligibles from the league were able to find teams in Europe to play for during the shutdown, most 16-year-olds based in Ontario weren't able to play anywhere.
Some teams will have a limited book on those players based on their participation in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games.
• Joakim Kemell is a name to familiarize yourself with, and he'll be playing for JYP in the Finnish Liiga. That league has done a great job producing first round NHL talent recently. Think Miro Heiskanen, Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen, Kaapo Kakko, Jesperi Kotkaniemi to name a few. Kemell has started the season on a point per game pace through five games.
• Another highly touted 2022 draft prospect, JYP teammate Brad Lambert, is also playing in the Liiga. His name gained prominence at the 2021 world juniors where he represented Finland. Lambert maintained the spotlight for the Finns at the U18 after a 16-year-old season where he put up 15 points in 46 games playing against pros. His dad, Ross, is a former Saskatoon Blade.
• Expect a return to prominence from the USNTDP, where several players have been identified as prospects to be selected early in the 2022 draft. Jack Hughes (not that one), Rutger McGroarty, Frank Nazar and Logan Cooley are the top players to watch here.
• With all the focus on Shane Wright as the 2022 class' top prospect, we’ve heard little about Matthew Savoie. The Winnipeg Ice star was outstanding after moving to Dubuque (USHL) last season where he put up 21 goals and 38 points in 34 games for the Saints. He returns to Winnipeg this season poised to put up big numbers in the WHL.
• Don’t sleep on Savoie’s teammate Conor Geekie, the younger brother of the Seattle Kraken's Morgan. Conor is also a projected first round pick.
• With Saint John having won the right to host the 2022 Memorial Cup, the CHL will have to quickly shift its attention to the annual Canada-Russia series. The event is typically contested in early November as a means to evaluate players for Hockey Canada’s world junior selection camp, and of course, give Canada a sneak-peak as to what the Russian roster will look like come December.
It’s unlikely a team of Russian players and staff will be granted exemptions to come over and play in a series that typically sees each CHL league host two games apiece in different cities. What the series looks like moving forward is anyone’s guess.
• In case you missed it, the Guelph Storm was sold by former owners Rick Goetz, Rick Hoyle, Scott Walker and John Heeley. Under that ownership, not only did the Storm win two OHL titles, but they produced a number of NHL-calibre players. Here’s a few familiar names: Tyler Bertuzzi, Brock McGinn, Jason Dickinson, Robby Fabbri, and Pius Suter.
• Here’s hoping new owners of the Storm, Joel Feldberg and Jeffry Bly, will be able to maintain a highly competitive franchise while continuing to pump out top-notch NHL talent. A wise first-step was transitioning Scott Walker from owner to President. Walker recently left his job as Director of Player Development for the Arizona Coyotes.
• Of note, the Vancouver Canucks’ training camp roster features 18 defencemen, four of whom are former Kelowna Rockets (Madison Bowey, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Devante Stephens.
• Due to the pandemic, there are a number of stories like that of Will Scott. A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, the 16-year-old attended St. Andrew’s College Prep School in Aurora, Ontario last year, but did not play as a result of provincial restrictions. His rights belong to the QMJHL, but because of the lack of viewings, he was not selected in the 2021 Q draft. Scott is once again eligible for the 2022 QMJHL draft.
If you have a story like Will’s, please DM me on Instagram @sammycoz4.