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We are well into the NHL season and as the World Juniors draw near, it is time to turn our attention to the world of prospects. While fans are surely excited to see their team’s top youngsters suit up at the annual holiday tournament, some are already eyeing up the next crop of potential stars that could help push their team to the next level.
After a difficult 2020-21 season that saw several leagues forced to pause or cancel their seasons altogether, the 2021-22 season has brought a sense of normalcy with all major hockey leagues across the world returning to play. As players continue to emerge and establish themselves as legitimate NHL prospects, the top of the 2022 NHL Draft class has started to take shape.
My top-32 is made up of 23 forwards and nine defencemen, as this class lacks a high-end goalie prospect like we have seen in recent drafts. These rankings are based on a combination of my own personal viewings of these players as well as conversations I’ve had with other scouts in the public sphere. A lot can change before draft time rolls around but with a solid chunk of the season behind us, here are my current top-32 prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft:
1 | Shane Wright | C | Kingston (OHL) | 6’1″ | 187 lbs
Wright has been the consensus projected first-overall pick for the 2022 draft class ever since there has been a 2022 draft class. Granted exceptional status by the OHL, he torched the league for 39 goals and 27 assists through 58 games, only turning 16-years-old halfway through the season. Wright was one of countless prospects that were forced to go without competitive hockey in 2020-21 with the OHL season canceled due to the pandemic and didn’t get a chance to build off of that stellar rookie campaign until he starred for Canada at the U18 World Championships last spring. He got off to a slow start this season but has been producing more as of late and currently leads all OHL draft-eligible players in scoring.
Wright is a do-it-all center with an outstanding shot and excellent instincts all over the ice. He has strong puck-handling skills that allow him to make difficult plays off the wall or under pressure and he protects the puck well despite his average size. Wright’s shot is already a legitimate NHL-caliber weapon that he can release with power from a variety of hand positions and stances. Not only does he control the game in the offensive zone, but his strong play away from the puck helps to re-establish possession and push play in a positive direction for his team. The Kingston pivot is also an above-average skater with a clean, powerful stride that allows him to establish good body position while supporting play or looking for space in transition and he doesn’t need much room to make a highlight-reel play. Wright is the kind of two-way, scoring center that NHL teams dream of building around.
2 | Matthew Savoie | C | Winnipeg (WHL) | 5’9″ | 179 lbs
Savoie played in the USHL last year with the WHL season delayed due to the pandemic and put up 38 points in 34 games for Dubuque. He returned to Winnipeg this season and has been an absolute force, leading the WHL in scoring through the early part of the season while averaging over a point and a half per game.
Savoie is an undersized but dynamic forward with high-end offensive instincts. He is an excellent puck-handler, possesses fantastic vision and passing ability, and can absolutely rip the puck for a player his size. Savoie creates deception with good lateral movement and quick dekes, always keeping opposing defenders on their heels. He is elusive in tight spaces, gets into scoring areas, and though there have been some questions about his explosiveness, I think his skating is also a strength. He isn’t overly physical but competes hard despite his small stature and brings energy to just about every shift. There is a chance that he ends up on the wing in the NHL but wherever he plays, Savoie is going to generate more than his fair share of offense.
Here’s Matthew Savoie’s opening goal! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/LqCBU8rAiq
— Winnipeg ICE (@WHLWpgICE) November 28, 2021
3 | Joakim Kemell | W | JYP (Liiga) | 5’11” | 176 lbs
Kemell has been the biggest riser in the public draft sphere through the first half of the season and it’s easy to see why. He got off to an incredible start in his first full season in Liiga, scoring 10 goals in his first 13 games and jumping out to an early scoring lead. An injury has slowed him down but he is still on pace for one of the best U20 seasons in Liiga history as a first-year draft eligible.
Kemell is an energetic winger with slick hands and a variety of deadly shots in his arsenal. He controls possessions effectively and takes pucks into scoring areas but he can beat goaltenders from distance as well. Kemell’s wrist shot is deceptive, powerful, and accurate, and it comes off his stick quickly. He has a good feel for finding space in the offensive zone and can unleash heavy one-timers from the half-wall on the powerplay, making him a diverse scoring threat. He engages physically as well and hasn’t looked intimidated playing in a men’s professional league as a 17-year-old. The one concern is that he can try to do too much on his own at times but Kemell has all the makings of an impactful scoring winger at the NHL level.
4 | Simon Nemec | RHD | HK Nitra (Tipos Extraliga) | 6’1″ | 192 lbs
Nemec cemented himself as one of the top prospects in the 2022 draft with an outstanding showing as the captain of Slovakia’s silver medal winning squad at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup over the summer. He played huge minutes throughout the event, picking up six points in five games on his way to tournament MVP honors. All he has done since is return to Tipos Extraliga and put up more than twice as many points as the next highest scoring U20 defenceman in the league.
Nemec is one of the most refined players in the class, having already played parts of three seasons in Slovakia’s top professional league. He may not be the most dynamic player but there is a consistency and maturity to his game that is rare among draft-eligible players. Nemec rarely makes a poor read, with or without the puck on his stick. He is a strong skater with good four-way mobility to elude forecheckers and he has the vision to complete hard, accurate passes through layers of traffic in transition. His quick feet allow him to maintain tight gaps defending the rush and he excels on puck retreivals, quickly securing possession and turning play in a positive direction for his team. Nemec might never enter the NHL’s upper echelon of offensive blueliners but his well-rounded game will make him an impactful player in the league for a long time.
5 | Logan Cooley | C | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 5’10” | 174 lbs
Cooley burst onto the scene with an impressive showing at the World Junior Summer Showcase and has been a driving force for the USNTDP’s U18 team so far this season. His 30 points in 20 games gives him the highest points per game mark on his team and he is one of only two draft-eligible skaters included on USA’s preliminary roster for the upcoming World Juniors.
For my money, Cooley is one of the safest prospects in this draft but that doesn’t mean he lacks upside. He is an excellent skater who pushes the pace offensively, both as a puck carrier and distributor but he can slow the game down in the offensive zone when presented with time and space. Cooley has slick hands and can execute tough plays at high speed, whether it be dangling around a defender or firing a quick pass to an open teammate. He has proven to be equally dangerous as a passer and as a shooter so far this season. What sets him apart, however, is his refined two-way game. Cooley has excellent defensive instincts and commitment to his responsibilities away from the puck. His work ethic and skating ability allow him to win a lot of races and create contested puck situations on the forecheck, making him a difficult player to play against. Cooley has all the makings of a two-way, dual offensive threat pivot at the NHL level.
Logan Cooley is so damn good. Great wheels to control the entry, crisp cross-ice pass to Casey, retrieves the bobbled puck, dangles through two defenders, and makes a slick backhand feed to McGroarty who completes the play with a beautiful move of his own.#2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/H1xKjjwc8V
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) October 11, 2021
6 | David Jiricek | RHD | HC Plzen (Tipsport Extraliga) | 6’3″ | 190 lbs
Jiricek turned heads with his solid play at last year’s World Juniors as a draft-1 player and has continued to impress in his second season with Plzen in the top Czech professional league. On pace for one of the most productive seasons for a draft-eligible blueliner in league history and already playing over 18 minutes per game against men, Jiricek isn’t far off of making an impact in the NHL.
Jiricek is a well-rounded, mobile defender with great size. The defensive details in his game are already pro-quality as he uses his reach and mobility to deny chances off the rush while having the awareness to identify threats in defensive zone coverage. It doesn’t hurt that he likes to throw his weight around, either. Jiricek is also a strong puck handler who is able to drive possession from the back end by skating the puck up ice and completing crisp passes in transition. In the offensive zone, he attacks middle ice and finds space to unleash heavy one-timers from the point. He has good vision in the offensive zone and has the ability to make quick passes to sustain pressure for his team. An active player capable of making an impact in all areas of the ice, Jiricek should be one of the first defenders off the board on draft day.
7 | Danila Yurov | W | Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL) | 6’1″ | 179 lbs
Yurov has been caught in a tough spot so far this season – good enough to be on his KHL club’s roster, but still too young and inexperienced to earn the trust of his coaches and receive significant ice time. He has been dominant when loaned to the MHL, however, putting up 12 points in just six games. Those brief glimpses, along with his performance at last spring’s U18 World Championships, have been enough to maintain his draft stock but he could be surpassed if he doesn’t see more playing time in the second half of the season.
Yurov plays the game at a high pace and competes hard all over the ice. He has great hands, makes plays under pressure, and drives offense with smart reads in transition. Yurov doesn’t shy away from the tough areas either and has shown an ability to play through traffic to create offense or pressure opposing defenders on the forecheck. His shot is a weapon and it comes off his blade with force, making him a scoring threat from the outside and off the rush. In the offensive zone, he displays a solid understanding of spacing and works in and out of gaps in coverage to make himself available. Yurov has been a tough player to gauge due to his lack of playing time in the KHL but his skill set is undeniable.
Check out the slick little finish by Danila Yurov from this morning.
He's up to 12 points in 6 MHL games on the season. Somebody needs to loan this guy to a VHL squad like yesterday pic.twitter.com/rjObpjAMgj
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) October 29, 2021
8 | Juraj Slafkovsky | W | TPS (Liiga) | 6’4″ | 225 lbs
Slafkovsky was a teammate of Nemec’s on the Slovak team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in the summer and played a huge part in their success, finishing in a tie for fourth in tournament scoring with nine points in five games. He has spent most of the season in Liiga playing for TPS and though he hasn’t produced much in limited ice time at the top level, he has been a force for their U20 team with 18 points through 11 games.
Slafkovksy has a unique combination of size and skill. He has great hands that allow him to execute skilled plays under pressure and he layers deception into his pass attempts to create chances for his teammates. He has excellent vision, both off the rush and while playing off the cycle in the offensive zone. While there are some deficiencies in his stride, Slafkovsky gets around the ice pretty well for a player his size and he doesn’t hesitate to get in on the forecheck and use his big frame to disrupt play. His puck-handling ability allows him to generate scoring chances for himself and he has some finishing ability as well, but his calling card will be his playmaking. Slafkovsky has the potential to become a very productive top-six winger at the NHL level but his floor feels relatively safe as well.
9 | Frank Nazar | C/W | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 5’10” | 174 lbs
Nazar led the USNTDP’s U17 team in scoring last season and he hasn’t missed a beat after making the jump to the U18 squad this year. He has been one of their most productive offensive players while playing second line minutes and contributing on both special teams units.
Nazar is one of the most electrifying forwards in the 2022 draft, blending high-end speed with elite puck skills and creativity. He generates offense off the rush and has the ability to play through traffic in the offensive zone, often displaying strong problem-solving skills. Nazar sets up his fair share of chances but he has a deadly shot of his own that comes off of his stick quickly and accurately. He is a versatile forward who thinks the game at a high level but there have been times where I’ve seen him disengaged or caught puck watching. Nazar has as much raw skill as just about anyone in this class, however, and if he can continue to build upon that strong base, he shouldn’t have to wait around long to hear his name called on draft day.
10 | Brad Lambert | C/W | JYP (Liiga) | 6’0″ | 179 lbs
Lambert has long been considered one of the top prospects in the 2022 class and entered the season projected as a top-five pick but his play this season hasn’t been enough to maintain that standing. After playing a full season in Liiga as a draft-1 player last season, he hasn’t taken the step forward that you would hope to see from a second-year player.
Lambert’s speed and puck-handling ability grade out as some of the best tool’s in the class. He excels in transition, carrying pucks through the neutral zone and gaining the offensive zone with control but has struggled to generate much from there so far this season. He has a heavy shot that can be a dangerous weapon when he is able to get into middle ice and has shown impressive vision in the past, but he needs to do a better job of getting to those areas with enough time and space to make a play. There are concerns about Lambert’s play away from the puck as well and he sometimes appears unsure of his assignment when he isn’t the one carrying it. Despite his lackluster start to the season and the flaws in his game, Lambert still possesses an enticing skill set. If he is able to round out his game and make better reads off the puck, he could become a strong transition winger with dual-threat ability on the powerplay.
11 | Isaac Howard | W | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 5’10” | 183 lbs
Howard spent most of last season with the U17 team and lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 27 goals and 27 assists in just 34 games. His exceptional play earned him 17 games with the U18 team and he scored above a point per game there as well. He has carried that over as a full-time member of the U18 team this season and leads the team in scoring through the early part of the season.
Howard is a dynamic offensive player who can impact the game in a number of ways. He is an excellent skater who carries the puck up ice with ease, routinely generating chances off the rush. Howard’s hands are some of the slickest in the draft and he uses them to complete difficult plays through traffic. He can dangle a defender to give himself time and space to unleash a quick shot or he can pull the puck in tight to his body to open up a passing lane to hit a teammate with a pass. He is creative with the puck on his stick but plays with a purpose, constantly funneling pucks into scoring areas and driving the net when given the opportunity. Howard projects as an offense-first winger at the NHL level and could be one of the more productive players to come out of this class.
12 | Ivan Miroshnichenko | W | Omskie Krylia (VHL) | 6’1″ | 185 lbs
Like Lambert, Miroshnichenko’s stock has taken a hit through the early part of the season. After impressive performances at the U18 World Championships last spring and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup over the summer, he has struggled to make a consistent impact in the VHL so far this season. His production has been underwhelming but it is worth noting that he is still generating chances, averaging five shot attempts per game on the season.
Despite landing outside my top-10, there is a lot to like about Miroshnichenko’s game. He is a powerful skater who is strong on his feet, he has a hard wrist shot and can unleash heavy one-timers at a moment’s notice, he sees the ice well in the offensive zone, and he has one of the best motors in the class. Miroshnichenko is active and engaged all over the ice, pressuring opposing defenders on the forecheck and finishing his checks with intent. He is still adjusting to the step up in competition presented by playing in the VHL for the first time, but there have been positive signs in his game. If he can start to produce a bit more offense in the second half of the season, Miroshnichenko could climb back into the conversation as a potential top-five pick due to his well-rounded game.
13 | Seamus Casey | RHD | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 5’10” | 161 lbs
Casey was a stud for the U17 team last year, finishing as their highest-scoring defenceman with 36 points in 46 games. He has been equally as productive for the U18 squad so far this season and has done so without a prominent role on the powerplay, taking a backseat to Lane Hutson.
Casey is arguably the best offensive defenceman in the class. He is an outstanding skater with incredibly quick and agile feet that he puts to use weaving around forecheckers and carrying the puck up ice. His mobility is a gamechanger at both ends of the ice as he can easily escape pressure in the defensive zone and he has the ability to freeze defenders with quick fakes and changes of direction to control play inside the offensive blueline. Casey layers elite puck-handling skills on top of his high-end skating and is an elite play-driver from the back end who can create dangerous chances in the offensive zone. There is work to be done on his defensive game but with the intelligence he displays on a regular basis, the potential is there for him to become a reliable defender. He will need to add strength to his small frame as he progresses and he might be a few years away, but Casey has all the tools to become a dynamic offensive presence at the NHL level.
14 | Denton Mateychuk | LHD | Moose Jaw (WHL) | 5’11” | 187 lbs
Mateychuk played well in an abbreviated WHL season in 2020-21 but he has taken his game to another level for Moose Jaw this year. There is a significant gap between him and the next highest scoring draft-eligible defenceman in the WHL but it is the way that he has balanced an attacking mindset with responsible defensive play that has drawn the most praise.
A supremely intelligent player with great skating ability, Mateychuk is your prototypical modern-day two-way defenceman. He knows when to jump into the play and has both the puck skills and the vision to generate offense, but he also does a good job of picking his spots and not cheating for offense. Mateychuk doesn’t always make the flashiest play, but he usually makes the right play. He maintains good gaps defending the rush, utilizing his stick to take away space and force attackers where he wants them to go. Though he isn’t the biggest player, he takes intelligent routes in pursuit, establishing good body position in order to use his stick to come away with contested pucks. He is a proactive defender, too, consistently taking away lanes or tying up opposing sticks to prevent pass receptions. Mateychuk’s smarts shine through on almost every shift and there is little reason to doubt his projection as a top-four, puck-moving defenceman.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) November 7, 2021
15 | Liam Öhgren | W | Djurgårdens (SHL) | 6’1″ | 187 lbs
There seems to be a common thought that out of the three highly rated prospects from the Djurgårdens system, Öhgren is the one with the safest floor, but also perhaps has the lowest ceiling. While I agree that Öhgren is the most pro-ready of the trio, I’m not convinced his ceiling is drastically lower than the other two. He has scored at a higher rate than both Östlund and Lekkerimäki at the J20 level and has been trusted to play more games in the SHL than Östlund and Lekkerimäki combined so far this season.
Öhgren is a dual-threat offensive player who can generate offense off the rush with a refined give-and-go game, or work into open space to make himself available for dangerous opportunities in the offensive zone. I think he is a stronger skater than some other scouts I’ve spoken with and believe he has the ability to impact the game in transition, carrying the puck through neutral ice and pushing the defenders back to create space. Without the puck, he drives the middle and has a nose for scoring areas where he is able to utilize his quick release to beat goaltenders with well-placed shots. Öhgren also displays responsible, pro-level habits away from the puck in the way that he applies pressure or stays above the puck as the F3 when he isn’t leading the forecheck. He isn’t going to be a star in the NHL but I think Öhgren has a bright future as a two-way, play-driving winger with a bit of a scoring touch.
16 | Ty Nelson | RHD | North Bay (OHL) | 5’10” | 196 lbs
Selected first overall in the 2020 OHL Draft, Nelson was robbed of his first season as the OHL canceled their season due to the pandemic. He has been making up for lost time, however, playing a prominent role for North Bay and holding a significant points lead among draft-eligible OHL blueliners.
Don’t be fooled by Nelson’s small stature – he is a sturdy, physical defender who displays an attacking mindset all over the ice. He is a strong skater with good balance and quick feet, allowing him to defend rushes aggressively. Nelson deploys an active stick and pounces on opposing puck carriers at the first sign of hesitation to disrupt possessions. Not only does he lead with his stick to attack the puck, he makes a habit of finishing with the body to try and eliminate his man from the play. His aggressive nature shows up offensively as well as he is always eager to join the rush or push play with a long stretch pass from his own zone. Like the rest of his game, Nelson’s shot packs a punch and he does a good job of finding space to hammer one-timers from the point. Though his size may present more challenges as he progresses, the Battalion blueliner seems to have the mental makeup to overcome those challenges and reach his potential as a top-four NHL defenceman.
Ty Nelson (@KidNelly89) show us some hustle and brings out the howitzer 💥
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) December 5, 2021
17 | Noah Östlund | C | Djurgårdens J20 (J20 Nationell) | 5’11” | 163 lbs
Östlund has been a highly touted prospect in this class for some time but a disappointing performance at last summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup raised questions about his place among the top names in the 2022 draft. He has had a solid start to his season though, and his raw tools are still very intriguing.
The first thing that stands out about Östlund is his high-end skating ability and the pace at which he plays the game. He is a technically sound skater who can carve up the opposition as a puck carrier, weaving through checks in transition and dicing in and out of traffic off the cycle. Östlund has fantastic hands and is able to quickly string pass receptions into slick dekes which he layers on top of his agile skating stride, giving him an explosive element to his game. He shows good vision in the offensive zone but has a tendency to stick to the perimeter a bit too much, and though he can still manipulate defenses from the outside, getting to middle ice with the puck on his stick would make him a more dynamic offensive threat. Östlund still has a lot of areas of his game that require refinement but his combination of skating, puck skills, and offensive awareness make him a worthy selection in this range.
18 | Filip Mesar | W | HK Poprad (Tipos Extraliga) | 5’10” | 172 lbs
Already in his second full season in Slovakia’s top pro league, Mesar is third in Tipos Extraliga scoring among all U20 players. He was also one of Slovakia’s top performers on the way to a silver medal finish at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Mesar is a highly-skilled, creative offensive player who excels as a puck carrier. He has a smooth skating stride and scans the play with the puck on his stick, identifying his options to attack space and utilize his open teammates. His shot is deceptive and he can let it go from multiple release points but needs to get it off from dangerous areas more consistently. Mesar is a high-end puck handler who has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one but he can get caught between trying to do too much on his own or spending too much time playing on the perimeter. He has good intentions, however, and his work rate off the puck is reflective of that. Mesar still needs to work on playing through traffic and being more deliberate in the offensive zone but the raw skills he possesses are difficult to pass up at this point in the draft.
19 | Matthew Poitras | C | Guelph (OHL) | 5’11” | 172 lbs
I acknowledge that this is probably higher than you’ll find Poitras on most rankings right now but I just love this kid’s game, and at this point in the draft, I’m comfortable going out on a limb for him. His production, while respectable, doesn’t jump off the page but it’s the details in his game that make Poitras such an enticing prospect.
Poitras is a hard-working, offensively skilled forward who utilizes his quick hands and vision on both sides of the puck. He has all the requisite offensive tools; a strong release on his wrist shot, good vision and passing ability, and quick hands in traffic, but it’s the pro-level habits already present in his game that will help him excel at the next level. He protects the puck well on the cycle, takes great angles in pursuit, and consistently comes away with contested pucks. Poitras has a habit of baiting opposing players into poor decisions and jumping lanes at the perfect time, routinely capitalizing on mistakes by the other team. He makes strong reads off the puck and competes hard, laying out to block a shot or taking a hit to make a play. He may never put up huge point totals but Poitras does a lot of things well to create chances and drive play for his team. I think he has a pretty safe floor as a top-nine NHL forward and there is potential for him to become more than that.
Matthew Poitras starts the play in the defensive zone with a great shot block, finds Jake Karabela trailing the play, and goes to the net to finish it off after a nice move by Karabela to create the initial chance:#2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/oC9Fp09xWV
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) October 21, 2021
20 | Conor Geekie | C | Winnipeg (WHL) | 6’4″ | 205 lbs
I’m a lot lower on Geekie than most other scouts I’ve spoken with and though he has produced at a high rate in the WHL this season, I have serious concerns about how well his game will translate as he climbs the ranks.
Geekie grades out as above-average in a lot of areas. He has great size, exceptional puck-handling skills, a heavy shot, and impressive vision in the offensive zone, but his skating is a problem. His stride is clunky with poor extension and a lack of ankle flexion, severely limiting his short-area quickness and mobility. Geekie seems aware of his limitations and sometimes compensates for his lack of quickness by hesitating to commit to a lane in pursuit or off the rush, and there is little hope of catching up when he gets caught behind the play. He has shown that he can generate a head of steam and occasionally power around defenders at the junior level but he won’t be able to do that in the NHL without significantly improving his skating. I think there is a wide range of outcomes for Geekie – he could improve his mobility, even slightly, and be able to utilize his offensive gifts to be a productive NHLer or he could stagnate and never develop to the point where he can keep up to the pace of the pro game. He is a risky pick but if he pans out, he could eventually become a top-six NHL forward.
21 | Jack Hughes | C/W | Northeastern University (NCAA) | 6’0″ | 165 lbs
One of the older players in the class, Hughes already has a full season with the USNTDP U18 team under his belt and is nearly halfway through his freshman season at Northeastern University. Hughes has put up respectable offensive numbers for a first-year draft-eligible playing in the NCAA but it is his overall maturity that stands out.
Hughes is already averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per game as a freshman, including a significant role on the Huskies’ powerplay. He doesn’t necessarily possess elite skill but he handles the puck well, has good vision in the offensive zone, and perhaps most importantly, executes with pace. Hughes is a solid skater as well and displays a strong work rate all over the ice. He forechecks aggressively, tracks back in defensive transition, and is a willing combatant in battles along the boards. His two-way game is advanced for a player his age and he makes strong reads to take away space as well as passing lanes on the defensive side of the puck. He may lack the pure upside of some of the other players in this range but Hughes’ floor as a middle-six, two-way forward feels pretty safe.
22 | Owen Pickering | LHD | Swift Current (WHL) | 6’4″ | 179 lbs
Drafted in the 9th round of the 2019 WHL draft, Pickering has blossomed into an important player for Swift Current. He registered nine points while playing over 21 minutes per game in 23 contests in 2020-21 and has seen his role increase in his second season, averaging almost 24 minutes of ice time per game through the early part of his draft year.
There just aren’t a lot of defencemen with Pickering’s combination of size, mobility, and offensive instincts. He has a long, powerful stride but is agile for such a rangy defender. He is able to mirror oncoming attackers with good footwork and can turn to skate with opposing forwards when they try to beat him with speed. Pickering’s mobility allows him to step up and smother passing options in the neutral zone with his great reach because he has the ability to recover if the play gets behind him. He also shows a willingness to push play from the back end and jump into the rush when he sees an opportunity. In the offensive zone, he makes quick reads to pinch down the wall or skate into shooting space and he has some finishing ability – he currently sits just one goal back of Mateychuk for the goal-scoring lead among WHL draft-eligible defencemen. Pickering is still growing into his body and with added strength, he could become a strong defensive presence with the ability to generate offense at the NHL level. It might take a while to get there, but his upside is about as high as anyone’s outside the top-10 in this draft.
23 | Marco Kasper | C | Rögle (SHL) | 6’1″ | 183 lbs
Kasper, an Austrian import playing in Sweden, earned 10 games in the SHL as a draft-1 player in 2020-21 and his strong play has helped him secure a full-time role with Rögle this season. He has played more games in the SHL this season than any other draft-eligible player, averaging just under 12 minutes of ice time per game for one of the top teams in the league.
As you might expect for a player who has grabbed hold of a regular job in the SHL at 17 years of age, Kasper is a solid two-way center who exhibits maturity all over the ice. He isn’t the flashiest player but he has good puck skills and can make creative passes when presented with time and space. Kasper has already shown the ability to execute with pace in one of the top professional leagues in the world and though he may not become an offensive driver at the NHL level, he consistently makes smart plays to facilitate and help sustain possessions for his team. A versatile player with poise and smarts, Kasper could climb this list if he is able to show a bit more offensive upside in the second half of the season.
24 | Jonathan Lekkerimäki | C/W | Djurgårdens J20 (J20 Nationell) | 5’11” | 172 lbs
Lekkerimäki has been a force for Djurgårdens’ J20 squad so far this year, leading the team in points and leading all J20 Nationell draft-eligibles in goal scoring. The only draft-eligible in the league with a higher points per game average so far this season is teammate Liam Öhgren who has spent the majority of his season playing with the SHL club.
Lekkerimäki is one of the youngest players in the 2022 draft class and might be one of the most dangerous shooters as well. He has a quick, deceptive release that comes off his stick with power and he has shown the ability to score from distance. He is a slick puck handler who can create his own scoring opportunities but he also has a great sense of timing and spacing in the offensive zone to make himself available in scoring areas. Lekkerimäki is still a pretty raw prospect but his offensive tools are some of the best in this draft. If he is able to wrestle away more opportunity with his SHL club in the second half of the season and show that he can be a scoring threat at the men’s level, there is a chance Lekkerimäki could hear his name called in the top half of the first round.
Sweden has the first goal of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) August 2, 2021
25 | Matthew Seminoff | W | Kamloops (WHL) | 5’11” | 183 lbs
Seminoff is having a huge year for Kamloops, sitting behind only Matthew Savoie in points per game among draft-eligible WHL players. One of the older players in the class, he is now in his third WHL season and he has shown notable growth each year.
Seminoff possesses a unique combination of dogged determination and soft hands around the net. As one scout I spoke with said, “Seminoff absolutely lives on the inside.” He gets to the front of the net and establishes inside position to battle for rebounds and jam loose pucks into the net, has good hand-eye coordination to deflect incoming shots, and positions himself for dangerous shooting opportunities in the slot. He is a fine skater as well and takes good lanes to make himself available in transition to create chances off the rush. Seminoff shows a good work rate and is willing to engage on the forecheck but I would like to see that in his game more consistently when he isn’t getting as many puck touches. His game requires some polish but there are some pro-level scoring traits in his toolbox.
26 | Tristan Luneau | RHD | Gatineau (QMJHL) | 6’2″ | 174 lbs
The first-overall pick from the 2020 QMJHL Draft, Luneau entered the junior ranks with significant hype and was named the QMJHL’s defensive rookie of the year in 2020-21, finishing with 18 points in 34 games. An injury at the beginning of the season has slowed him down a bit but Luneau has the potential to find himself higher than this in my next rankings with a strong second half.
Luneau is a big, mobile blueliner who drives play from the back end by consistently creating clean zone exits with his skating and passing ability. He defends well, taking away middle ice in transition and effectively boxing out opposing forwards in front of his net. He is a willing shot blocker who makes good reads to get into lanes and he uses his size effectively to cut off cycles along the boards. Luneau excels on retrievals, employing shoulder checks to identify his options before securing the puck, and is able to quickly transition from defense to offense. He controls the offensive blue line with his mobility and vision, making quick and accurate passes to help sustain possessions from the point, and he can quarterback a powerplay. He probably isn’t going to become a high-end offensive defenceman but Luneau has the potential to grow into a responsible, play-driving defender who can handle top-four minutes in the NHL.
27 | Rutger McGroarty | W | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 6’0″ | 205 lbs
McGroarty entered the season touted as a potential top-10 pick and while I don’t think he has played poorly, I do think he has been surpassed by a number of prospects in this class – including a few on his own team. He spent a significant portion of last season with the U18 team as well, suiting up for 19 games and registering six points, but hasn’t taken charge this season the way I think guys like Cooley, Nazar, and Howard have.
If you catch McGroarty on one of his better nights, you could see why he was considered one of the top prospects in the class at the beginning of the season. He has good size, excellent hands, a quality release on his wrist shot, and has a knack for getting into open space at the right time. His skating isn’t exactly a strength right now but he gets around the ice well enough and competes hard on the forecheck. The issue is that there are times where he seems to just get lost in the shuffle or is unable to create his own opportunities and becomes something of a passenger on his line. Consistency can be a difficult thing to gauge – especially when you’re talking about teenaged hockey players. It is about more than just raw production though, and if McGroarty can start using his offensive skill and playing with greater pace to take over games more often, he could work himself back into the discussion as a potential top-10 pick.
28 | Mats Lindgren | LHD | Kamloops (WHL) | 6’0″ | 176 lbs
Now in his second WHL season, Lindgren has looked more confident than he did as a rookie. He hasn’t scored quite as much as some of the other top WHL draft-eligible defenders but he still displays the awareness to be a productive blueliner as he continues to refine his game.
Lindgren isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing skater but covers a lot of ice with his powerful stride and has the elusiveness to shake opposing defenders with the puck on his stick. He controls the offensive blue line with quick head fakes and his great edge work allows him to separate to open up shooting or passing lanes. Defensively, he is aggressive in taking away time and space off the rush and in defensive zone coverage but can sometimes get caught taking poor angles. Lindgren appears to have the right idea at both ends of the ice more often than not but he needs to execute with more consistency, especially with the puck on his stick. His upside as a top-four NHL defenceman might not be as apparent as some of the other defenders on this list, but I still believe it’s there.
29 | Cutter Gauthier | W | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 6’2″ | 190 lbs
Gauthier is having a solid season and though he hasn’t produced at quite the same rate as some of his NTDP teammates, I think there are some pro-level traits to his offensive game.
Gauthier is a skilled, active player in the offensive zone who has the ability to beat goaltenders with his powerful, accurate shot. Outside of his shot, he doesn’t necessarily have any standout skills but he does a lot of things to help drive offense for his team. Gauthier can make plays off the wall, plays a solid physical game, and is an efficient distributor who utilizes his teammates effectively. His skating is good, not great, but he makes smart reads and maintains strong positioning all over the ice to help drive possession. Gauthier may not have the pure offensive upside that others in this class do but his well-rounded game and high-end shot make him a pretty safe bet as a top-nine NHL forward.
— USA Hockey’s NTDP (@USAHockeyNTDP) February 6, 2021
30 | Gleb Trikozov | C/W | Omskie Yastreby (MHL) | 6’1″ | 185
Trikozov had a solid showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and his performance at the MHL level so far this season has been enough to earn him a look in the VHL.
Always a threat with the puck on his stick, Trikozov flashes above-average creativity off the rush. He plays a strong north-south game and has good vision in the offensive zone but could stand to assert himself into the action more consistently. Trikozov has the skill to be a dynamic offensive weapon but still needs to add pace to his game in order to execute difficult plays under pressure. He has the foot speed and agility to play through traffic, he just needs to continue blending those skills with quicker reads. He does show some maturity in his physical play and off-puck game – especially for the MHL – and that could help ease some of the concerns about his offensive ceiling.
31 | Elias Salomonsson | RHD | Skellefteå J20 (J20 Nationell) | 6’1″ | 172 lbs
Salomonsson is another player whose draft stock has taken a bit of a hit since the season started but he is still an exciting prospect who is having a solid season. Through his first 23 games of the season, he sits third in scoring among J20 Nationell draft-eligible defenders.
A couple weeks short of only being eligible for the 2023 draft, Salomonsson has plenty of room for growth and already possesses a solid base of skills to build around. He has decent size and good four-way mobility, allowing him to lead his fair share of rushes from the back end. He is a strong skater, if not overly explosive, and covers the ice pretty well. Salomonsson shows good instincts in the offensive zone but will need to clean up some of his decisions with the puck. That said, he processes the game at a high-rate for the J20 level and there is reason to believe his skillset will translate as he climbs the ranks. He sticks to his lanes defensively, has a good active stick, engages physically, and his shot is a weapon from the point. He could be a bit of a project but Salomonsson has potential as a top-four defenceman at the NHL level.
32 | David Goyette | C | Sudbury (OHL) | 5’11” | 174 lbs
Goyette is enjoying a nice rookie season in the OHL, averaging around 20 minutes of ice timer per game and sitting top-five in team scoring. A first-round pick in the 2020 OHL draft, he missed out on his first shot at playing in the league last season but has made up for lost time so far in 2021-22.
Goyette is a near-flawless skater who can handle the puck and execute at high speeds. Not only is he fast, but he is quick and shifty. Goyette pushes the pace in transition, forcing defenders onto their heels but knows when to slow the game down and let lanes develop. He shows poise with the puck on his stick and he is a decisive distributor who identifies his options quickly, routinely finding teammates in space with accurate feeds. He has a knack for drawing defenders towards him before dishing the puck. Though he is a bit undersized, Goyette competes hard and establishes good body positioning with intelligent routes in pursuit to help disrupt opposing possessions. He is another player who could take a while to reach his potential but that is par for the course at this point in the draft.
Honorable mentions: Simon Forsmark (LHD, Örebro), Ryan Chesley (RHD, U.S. U18), Jordan Dumais (W, Halifax), Owen Beck (C, Mississauga), Alexander Perevalov (W, Loko Yaroslavl), Jimmy Snuggerud (W, U.S. U18), Nathan Gaucher (C, Québec), Paul Ludwinski (C, Kingston), Danny Zhilkin (C, Guelph), Hunter Haight (C/W, Barrie), Bryce McConnell-Barker (C, Sault Ste. Marie), Calle Odelius (LHD, Djurgårdens J20), Pavel Mintyukov (LHD, Saginaw)
|4||Simon Nemec||RHD||Tipos Extraliga||HK Nitra|
|5||Logan Cooley||C||USNTDP||U.S. U18|
|6||David Jiricek||RHD||Tipsport Extraliga||HC Plzen|
|7||Danila Yurov||W||KHL||Metallurg Magnitogorsk|
|9||Frank Nazar||C/W||USNTDP||U.S. U18|
|11||Isaac Howard||W||USNTDP||U.S. U18|
|12||Ivan Miroshnichenko||W||VHL||Omskie Krylia|
|13||Seamus Casey||RHD||USNTDP||U.S. U18|
|14||Denton Mateychuk||LHD||WHL||Moose Jaw|
|16||Ty Nelson||RHD||OHL||North Bay|
|17||Noah Östlund||C||J20 Nationell||Djurgårdens J20|
|18||Filip Mesar||W||Tipos Extraliga||HK Poprad|
|21||Jack Hughes||C/W||NCAA||Northeastern University|
|22||Owen Pickering||LHD||WHL||Swift Current|
|24||Jonathan Lekkerimäki||C/W||J20 Nationell||Djurgårdens J20|
|27||Rutger McGroarty||W||USNTDP||U.S. U18|
|29||Cutter Gauthier||W||USNTDP||U.S. U18|
|30||Gleb Trikozov||C/W||MHL||Omskie Yastreby|
|31||Elias Salomonsson||RHD||J20 Nationell||Skellefteå|
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com and InStat Hockey)