Things are starting to get real for the 2022 NHL Draft.
As the regular season winds down, the draft order is starting to come into focus. In May, we'll know the results of the draft lottery. Then, it’s the NHL Combine in June and finally the draft in Montreal on July 7-8.
In the meantime, there’s still plenty of scouting to be done. The world U18’s commence Saturday in Germany. The Russians and Belarusians will be absent from the tournament. So too will be the Slovaks who, rather than be included in the primary pool, instead took gold in the Division 1 pool. In a perfect world, it would’ve been nice to see Juraj Slafkovsky, Filip Mesar and Simon Nemec all together competing in the top pool, however, with the wonky schedule, the pandemic and a couple of other factors, it just wasn’t meant to be.
The US is typically the favourite in this event. It’s the crown jewel on the USNTDP schedule and something they build for all season. Canada is the defending champion, and thanks to Swift Current getting eliminated from the WHL playoffs, its entrant into the tournament will be stronger than first anticipated. Six Broncos made the team, including forwards Connor Hvitson, Josh Filmon, Josh Davies, Matthew Ward, along with defenceman Owen Pickering and goaltender Reid Dyck. The strength of Canada’s team will come up front, where 2023 draft eligibles Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli will lead the way. Both are projected top three picks next year. Sweden, Finland and Czechia will all feature prominent players we expect to see in the 2022 draft.
Sportsnet, by way of Jason Bukala and the Pro Hockey Group will be on hand to deliver a number of scouting reports post-tournament.
Not to be forgotten is the CHL. Both the OHL and WHL are into the post-season. The QMJHL, thanks to being shut-down for an additional month after the Christmas break, has yet to complete the regular season before a shortened playoff run. Playoff viewings hold additional value due to the pressure of playing in meaningful games where time and space are limited. It also gives scouts the opportunity to gauge how a player responds to the increased physical demands offered up in playoff conditions.
The upper-end of this draft class is extremely diverse. Not just from a nationality perspective, but from a hockey perspective. We have smaller, skilled forwards. We have plenty of right-shot options at both forward and defence. We have some massive defencemen, but there are also a few smallish, slick-skating D as well. The pandemic’s effects will also wreak havoc in this draft where there still remains some uncertainty and a lack of typical developmental time.
*denotes late 2003 birthday
1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): Thanks to the finer points in his game and the details away from the puck, Wright still remains the top player available.
2. Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP: As the most dynamic player available, he wasn’t lying when he quipped that I had him ranked too low in March (No. 4). Rising to No. 1 is not out of the question.
3. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS Turku (Liiga): Continues to play solid minutes for a team competing for a league title, but this will almost certainly keep him out of the U18’s.
4. Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL): Ended the regular season on a three-game multi-point heater. A lengthy playoff run in the rugged WHL will be a great test.
5. Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia): Slipped in a two-assist effort for the D1 gold medal-winning Slovaks at the worlds while playing for his club team in the playoffs.
*6. David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Extraliiga): After missing more than three months due to a knee injury, he’s back and is a candidate to play in the men’s worlds. Can he regain his place as the top defenceman in this class?
7. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgarden (SWE U20): Out ill since early March, it will be interesting to see if he plays in the worlds, and if so, will he be able to keep pace?
*8. Brad Lambert, C, Pelicans (Liiga): There’s no denying he’s a top 10 talent in this draft class, but where does he fit -- if at all -- inside the top 10 players picked?
9. Joakim Kemell, LW, JYP (Liiga): Getting a chance to regroup by playing within his peer group at the U18s should be hugely beneficial.
10. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL): Attaining a balance between skill, creativity and physical play remains the goal. Projecting how quickly that will all come together will give a better sense of just where he will end up in this draft class.
11. Cutter Gauthier, LW, USNTDP: Has shown versatility and a steady upward trend of positive development. NHL bloodlines always add value.
*12. Danila Yurov, RW, Magnitogorsk (KHL): The uncertainty surrounding Russian-born players complicates his ranking. As does his lack of playing time since being promoted to the KHL in March, and the limited live viewings in the MHL prior to that. Scouts will have pause over this player.
13. Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Can really dazzle with his feet. Is not afraid to make plays, but can also be a defensive liability.
14. Marco Kasper, C, Rogle (SHL): Leaving Austria to play against better competition is admirable and speaks volumes about where he’s trying to take his game.
15. Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL): Has underrated puck skills. There’s massive growth potential in this player, especially once he fills-out.
16. Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USNTDP: Has the strength to apply himself to impact the game physically if his goal-scoring is off.
17. Frank Nazar III, C, USNTDP: There’s a nice element of explosiveness in his game to make him an effective small area player.
18. Filip Mesar, RW, HK Poprad (Slovakia): Injured at the end of the season, there’s still plenty of currency from performing well playing against men all year.
19. Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): In terms of his approach, there are few better in this class. He takes command out on the ice leading vocally and by example.
*20. Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern (NCAA): Super skilled and creative player who moves effortlessly, while playing with his head up to easily assess his best option.
21. Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL): Reports vary widely on this player. You’re wowed by the skating ability and edgework, as much as you’re concerned about his ability to defend.
22. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Projecting where he may fit has been a year-long challenge for scouts. With that said, there’s always room for a right-shot defencman with size.
23. Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP: Have to determine whether or not he can be a top-six forward. If he can’t, is there enough of a 'Plan B' to make him an effective middle- or bottom-six player?
24. Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): A remarkably consistent player who has embraced more of the power-forward mentality.
25. Liam Ohgren, LW, Djurgarden (SWE U20): Dogged determination in hunting pucks and knowing what to do with them afterwards.
26. Alexander Perevalov, LW, Yaroslavl (MHL): In terms of a skilled forward who isn’t just an offensive juggernaut, there’s plenty of NHL potential as a producer here.
27. Rutger McGroarty, LW, USNTDP: As a solid two-way option, his personality and leadership qualities make him a viable pick in the latter stages of Round 1.
*28. Adam Ingram, LW, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL): A late bloomer who has put up amazing numbers in the USHL (53 points in 53 games) considering he had only played eight games in the Manitoba Junior league the season prior.
29. Maveric Lamoureux, D, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): Another player with sneaky skill who has improved on the D side by tightening his gap and utilizing his size and reach to kill plays.
30. Lian Bichsel, D, Leksand (SHL): A smooth skater who can process the game effectively. The offensive side continues to improve, but he projects more as the complementary type of blue liner.
*31. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Plays both sides effectively. Will need to add weight and strength to steepen the developmental curve.
32. Noah Warren, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Old-school, hit-to-hurt mentality along with top-notched skating ability in a monstrous package.
Lane Hutson, D, USNTDP: Because of his size at his position (5-foot-8, 145 pounds), it’s hard to imagine an NHL team utilizing a first round pick on him. Having said that, in three consecutive viewings at the end of March, he was the best player on the ice, period.
Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omsk (VHL): Next to impossible to assess due to his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis. With all things being equal and based on the last assumption of when he was playing completely healthy at the U18’s, he is definitely a top 10 talent.