The 2022 NHL Draft was unpredictable, starting with the first overall pick. Shane Wright was favoured to go No. 1 but slipped after the Montreal Canadiens went in a different direction and selected hulking winger Juraj Slafkovsky from Slovakia.
From there, the New Jersey Devils chose highly regarded, right-shot defenceman Simon Nemac second overall while Logan Cooley went to the Arizona Coyotes at No. 3. That meant landed Wright with the Seattle Kraken at four.
But how are all those top picks developing and trending so far? Here is a check-in with the Top 10 players selected in the 2022 NHL Draft.
No. 1: Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens)
The hulking (6-foot-3, 238 lbs) winger is learning on the job at the NHL level. He’s averaged just shy of 11:00 TOI per game in his first 13 games. Slafkovsky has a long way to go with his three-zone detail. The bulk of his minutes come at even strength, but he also sees time on one of the Habs’ power-play units. He plays to his heavy / power forward identity from the hash marks down in the offensive zone and is proving he is hard to move from the crease area.
No. 2: Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils)
New Jersey’s NHL roster is coming together. The team has been building through the draft, and adding key players through free agency and trades, for the past several years. They can take their time developing their next layer of prospects. Nemec is skating in the AHL with the Utica Comets. It’s a different process for defenceman. Nemec is learning how to defend and contain opponents on the smaller ice in North America, while attempting to keep his offensive upside as a key element to his game.
No. 3: Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes)
I had Cooley ranked at No. 1 on my season-ending list last year. He’s a dynamic player who competes to be a difference maker. He’s off to a solid start in his freshman season playing in the Big Ten for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Cooley is logging over 18:00 TOI and being used on the Gophers’ primary power play unit. He very rarely kills penalties, and I don’t expect him to graduate to that role at the NHL level. There are in-game scenarios that Cooley has to do a better job of surveying his options and not skating pucks into traffic and checks. Part of his growth will require being more open to using everyone around him more efficiently.
No. 4: Shane Wright (Seattle Kraken)
We have recently analyzed how the Kraken have been using Wright in his rookie season. He’s had very little opportunity to date. In fact, his most recent healthy scratch was his fifth in a row, which means he can now be sent to the AHL on a conditioning stint that can last five games. I’m not sure how the current process is good for the confidence (never mind development) of Wright. I would be very surprised if Wright doesn’t suit up for Team Canada at the World Juniors in Halifax and Moncton next month.
No. 5: Cutter Gauthier (Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers prospect is skating for Boston College in Hockey East (NCAA). The way he is scoring goals speaks to the different layers of his ability. Gauthier has scored at even strength, four vs. four and on the power-play. He has an elite release. He scores from distance and around the crease. The puck goes through Gauthier on the Eagles’ power-play. The Flyers have a big-body forward with goal scoring upside in their stable with Gauthier.
No. 6: David Jiricek (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Jiricek has skated in two games for the Blue Jackets at the NHL level. Their team is off to an uneven start (to be kind) and it’s not an environment to develop a young defenceman. With Cleveland at the AHL level, Jiricek is playing to his identity. Most of his minutes come at even strength and the power-play. He’s averaging just shy of a point per game for the Monsters. Jiricek shoots the puck with authority and has the accuracy to beat goaltenders from distance. His leverage and gap control will need to continue to improve as he develops in the AHL. He’s not quite ready for full-time NHL duty but I wouldn’t be surprised if he earns a spot after this year.
No. 7: Kevin Korchinski (Chicago Blackhawks)
Korchinski continues to play heavy minutes in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Seattle is a contending team in the WHL who have a record of 13-3-1 (while I write this article). Korchinski is used in all situations, but his primary element is his offensive upside. He’s more of a distributor than a shooter and has produced 21 points in 15 games.
No. 8: Marco Kasper (Detroit Red Wings)
Kasper has been taking his game to another level over his last 10-game segment. He’s recorded two goals and six assists in that span while averaging just over 16:00 TOI. When you watch Kasper, you will notice he is engaged in all three zones. He’s above the play when his team doesn’t have the puck. He’s responsible. It’s encouraging. He projects to be a two-way forward at the NHL level who can contribute better than secondary offence. Kasper is showing he can create offence off the rush and score around the crease. He’s used at even strength and the power-play in the SHL (Sweden) playing for Rogle.
No. 9: Matthew Savoie (Buffalo Sabres)
I appreciate the skill Savoie has and believe it can translate to the NHL. However, I don’t think he will play the middle. He is best suited as a winger. Savoie continues to play to his identity in WHL with the Winnipeg Ice. His element is clear. He’s produced nine goals and 17 assists through 17 games.
No. 10: Pavel Mintyukov (Anaheim Ducks)
Mintyukov has potential to be a name that could move up in a re-draft ranking from this 2022 class. Some stats can be misleading at the junior level. Last season, Mintyukov ended with a plus/minus line of miinus-14 with a rebuilding Saginaw in the OHL. This season, the team is much improved and Mintyukov’s defending has followed suit. He’s a plus-15 through 21 games. He continues to play to his element offensively (10 goals + 19 assists) while quarterbacking the power-play. He’s as much a shooter as a distributor.