2022 NHL Draft Grades: Pick-by-Pick Analysis
1. Montreal Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovsky (LW)
The first surprise comes early. Slafkovsky was not rated as the top prospect on most (if any) rankings until a month or two ago. Regardless, he is a beast of a player at 6'4" and 220 pounds, and could end up being the best playoff performer in this draft, where size and play drivers are still king. My concerns are simply about his ceiling, whether he's a top-six forward or a bonafide elite winger. With the acquisition of Kirby Dach, Montreal is clearly trying to be a big, mean, tough team to play against.
2. New Jersey Devils: Simon Nemec (RD)
The second Slovak surprise comes early as well. I think this pick addresses a need, rather than being the best pick available. Make no mistake, he is dynamic, and could end up as a premiere puck-handling defenseman in the league. But this feels like a bit of a reach. He doesn't have the same game-breaking tools that Cale Makar has, and doesn't have the size and aggressiveness of Moritz Seider. With Wright and Cooley still on the board, the Devils might end up regretting this.
3. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley (C)
I love this pick. Cooley has the most upside of any player in this draft, with this elite two-way play. He has an offensive style similar to Trevor Zegras, but can hold his own in his own end as well. What he lacks in size at 5'10" and 174 pounds, he makes up with an elite motor. He plays with energy and can turn games around single handedly. Passing up on Wright was a gutsy move, but I believe in this kid.
4. Seattle Kraken: Shane Wright (C)
After falling in their lap, Wright is the most obvious choice and has all the tools to become an effective, two-way scoring centreman in the NHL. Ranked first for years and almost all the way to draft day, he seems to do everything the right way, and is the best player available at this point. He will give them a solid building block alongside Matthew Beniers for years to come. He will most likely start on the second line, but he will be extremely motivated to work is way on to the top line within a year or two. Seattle has to be ecstatic that he was available at four.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: Cutter Gauthier (C/LW)
Another big body who recently committed to move to centre at Boston College, Gauthier should help alleviate the loss of Claude Giroux. He has a monster of a shot, is smart defensively, and plays an efficient game. He will be valuable in the playoffs. But with Savoie and Jiricek waiting, this seems like a bit of a stretch.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (from CHI): David Jiricek (RD)
He has size, smarts, offensive flair, and surprising elusiveness. A knee injury in his draft year might have hampered his stock a bit, which benefits the Blue Jackets in a major way. At 6'3" and 190 pounds, he has similar tools to Moritz Seider, but perhaps a bit less of a mean streak. Once he's back to 100%, and develops his frame a bit, he could end up being an elite two-way defenseman, and the best pick in this draft.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (from OTT): Kevin Korchinski (LD)
One of the biggest risers on a lot of draft boards, and one of the biggest growers, from 5'10" to 6'2" over the span of a year, Korchinski has the toolbox to become a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Analytics proponents will point to his metrics as evidence of his potential, while others will point to his WHL rookie defenseman assist record. He projects as a top-four defenseman, which is suitable value at this spot in the draft.
8. Detroit Red Wings: Marco Kasper (C)
Kasper is a bit of an under the radar pick, but who else but Steve Yzerman could unearth a hidden gem early in the draft. While I don't think he's a top-10 pick, Stevie probably knows better. He works hard and has good vision, albeit not elite. He projects as a third or second line centreman at best, and might be a bit of a reach. With building blocks like Seider, Edvinsson, and Raymond, and young veterans Bertuzzi and Larkin, the Red Wings look poised for a playoff push in the near future.
9. Buffalo Sabres: Matthew Savoie (C/W)
A dynamic passer and shooter, Savoie looks NHL ready, even though he will likely spend next year back in Junior. He plays centre, but will likely shift to the wing at the next level. He makes his teammates better, and should complement the size of Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch with some high-end skill. He was close to the top of a lot of draft boards throughout the year, and might have slipped simply due to his size. If the Sabres can turn their franchise around, he will need to be a big part of it.
10. Anaheim Ducks: Pavel Mintyukov (LD)
A physical defender with speed and soft hands, what's not to like? Well some teams are hesitant to pick Russian players, especially with the news of Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov's reassignment to a military base in Siberia after his KHL contract expired. Regardless, Mintyukov is already in North America and is eligible for the AHL. He projects as a top-four defenseman, but could end up as a top-two defenseman capable of running a power play and contributing on the penalty kill as well.
11. Arizona Coyotes (from SJ): Conor Geekie (C)
To me, the apparent issues with his skating are a minor blip in the resume and can be rectified. He's just too good at everything else; and with an NHL-ready body, he could not be passed up. The Coyotes were aggressive in trading up to get him, and this draft could end up giving them a legendary 1-2 punch with Cooley as well. He's a multi-sport athlete with NHL-bloodlines and plays a physical and skillful game. Home run for the Yotes.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Denton Mateychuk (LD)
Another pick, another WHL player selected above their projection. Year after year, we see defensemen undervalued on the draft floor, but this year has reversed that trend. While diminutive in size at 5'11" and 190 pounds, he has the personality and confidence to make up for it. He projects as a high-end distributor, but there are questions about his defensive IQ and physicality. I think he could end up as a top-four defenseman but I'm not going to bet on it.
13. Chicago Blackhawks (from MTL via NYI): Frank Nazar (C/W)
It's been an interesting draft for the Blackhawks. They shipped out two young pieces in Debrincat and Dach, and added a defenseman in Korchinski and a speedy, smart forward in Nazar. I don't think they're better now than they were before the draft, and passed up on a few higher ranked European players like Kemell, Lekkerimaki, and Ostlund. That being said, Nazar could end up being a top-six forward, but he will likely peak at a third line role.
14. Winnipeg Jets: Rutger McGroarty (C)
Now there's a hockey name for ya. Another slightly off the board pick, but a solid one nonetheless. He can flat out score, leading the U-18 USNDTP program with 35 goals last season. He works hard, wins puck battles, and plays a physical brand of hockey. He has the competitiveness and all the tools to play hard-nosed playoff hockey. His ceiling might not be as high as some of the other European players left on the board, but he might be able to make an impact in those other ways.
15. Vancouver Canucks: Jonathan Lekkerimaki (RW)
A goal scorer first, Lekkerimaki has an elite release and can put it exactly where he wants it. Whether a wrister, snapper, or slapper, he just finds a way to put the puck in the back of the net, and with authority. He might lack some of the finer details of game, but he isn't expected to make an immediate impact next season. With the right development, he could end up being a consistent 30 goal scorer.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from VGK): Noah Ostlund (C)
While undersized at 5'11" and only 163 pounds, don't let that weight fool you. With only 6.8% body fat, the lowest at the NHL Draft Combine, this kid has off-the-charts athleticism. Paired with that, is his eye-popping skill. He has soft hands, a creative mind, and a knack for finding the back of the net. In addition, he is reliable in his own end, can win a big faceoff (as he showed in the U-18 World Championships), and makes his teammates better. There's a lot to like about this kid, who projects to fit nicely in any top-six.
17. Nashville Predators: Joakim Kemell (RW)
At one point, he was leading Liiga, the men's professional league in Finland, in scoring. He looked like a sure-fire top ten pick, perhaps even top five. After some injury issues, he slipped in the scoring race, and in the draft as well. His calling card is his shot, and although he is undersized, with reports ranging from 5'9" to 5'11", he shoots like a much bigger man. He fell in Nashville's lap and they picked him up, quite happily. He could score 30 or more goals per season in his prime.
18. Dallas Stars: Lian Bichsel (LD)
I love players like this. He plays physically, he plays mean, and at 6'5" and 216 pounds, he has the body to back it up. There are questions about his defensive IQ, and his offensive IQ, so this might be a bit of a reach. His ceiling is as high as a top-four defenseman, but his floor is low as well. This pick will put the Stars' development program to the test.
19. Minnesota Wild (from LA): Liam Ohgren (RW)
The Wild were so excited to make this pick that they almost forgot to bring a sweater up to the podium. One word to describe his game: tenacious. He has competitiveness and character to go along with his all-around skillful game. He captained the Swedish team at the U-18s and found ways to contribute in every zone. It's a safe pick on a player who projects as a third or possibly second-line winger.
20. Washington Capitals: Ivan Miroshnichenko (LW)
I know this player better than others after writing a full draft profile on him a few months ago. He was a projected top-10 pick before the season started, but sputtered at the start of the season before his flooring cancer diagnosis (he is expected to make a full recovery). He has a beast of a shot, and has been compared to Alex Ovechkin, although he is not as dynamic and could be viewed as a bit less competitive. However, he trains with Malkin in the offseason, and could end up putting up 40 goals per season at the height of his career. Risky but with huge upside.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Owen Pickering (LD)
At 6'4" and 178 pounds, he has room to grow and a frame that could hold more weight. While his physical growth is enticing, he has scouts wondering about his offensive growth as well. With a modest 33 points in 62 games, he can afford to be a bit more aggressive with the puck. I question whether his hands need to adjust to his body, or if he might just be a top-six or seventh defenseman.
22. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS): Nathan Gaucher (C)
Another big body, at 6'3" and 207 pounds, Gaucher has NHL-ready size. What concerns me is the skill level. Although he led the QMJHL in shorthanded goals, and has a hold of some of the peripheral skills like faceoff prowess, he doesn't seem like anything but a fourth line forward at the NHL level. He reminds me of Frederick Gauthier from a few years back, who was drafted for these peripheral skills but couldn't produce enough secondary offense to stick at the NHL level.
23. St. Louis Blues: Jimmy Snuggerud (RW)
His coach at the USNDTP said his shot release reminds him of Auston Matthews'. That's some high praise for a late first round pick. While I wouldn't expect him to score 60 goals in his career, goal scorers can cost a premium. He provides good value for the Blues at this spot in the draft, and could end up being a top-six winger.
24. Minnesota Wild: Danila Yurov (RW)
An absolute steal for the Wild, who get a player who can play in every situation, and do everything. He can shoot, pass, hit, and play defense. He has all the tools to be a top-six winger in the NHL, and a difference-maker at that. He looked mean and ready when he was selected, but expect him to take a couple years before he makes it to the show.
25. Chicago Blackhawks (from TOR): Sam Rinzel (RD)
The Blackhawks trade up to reach on Chaska high school product Rinzel. His skating and size are his biggest assets, and has committed to play NCAA hockey with the University or Minnesota. His counting stats at the high school level are not eye-popping, and he is a long-term project. I just don't think this pick makes sense at this point in the draft, especially after trading up to make this pick.
26. Montreal Canadiens (from CGY): Philip Mesar (RW)
Mesar is high skill and high ceiling, it's just a question of whether he can reach that ceiling. He reminds me of Martin Necas; fast, smart and can do many things, but maybe not as consistently as you'd like. His shot leaves a bit to be desired, but is by no means a finished product. He projects as a third line winger.
27. San Jose (from ARI via MTL): Filip Bystedt (C)
Viewed as a bit of a project, Bystedt played at the U-20 level last season, compared to some of his peers who played in European men's leagues. He isn't elite at anything particularly, but has a projectable frame at 6'3" and 187 pounds. Again, I don't love picks like this, as they more often than not end up as fourth line forwards, who are replaceable for cheap during free agency. There are better options here.
28. Buffalo Sabres (from FLA): Jiri Kulich (C)
The MVP and leading goal-scorer from the U-18 championships last year, Kulich comes exactly as advertised: a shooter. He has acceptable size at 6' and 180 pounds, and rises to the occasion for big games. I see this as great value for the 28th pick, and the Sabres are having a quietly good draft, with Savoie and Ostlund in tow.
29. Arizona Coyotes (from EDM): Maveric Lamoreux (RD)
About as big as it gets at 6'7", this kid plays the game with passion and excitement. You could see it on his face when he was drafted. Besides his height, his character is the biggest things that stands out about him. He is willing to put in the work to make it to the next level. Reminds me a bit of Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley. He projects as an impactful fourth or fifth defenseman.
30.Winnipeg Jets (from NYR): Brad Lambert (RW)
His skating is elite; he's quicker than almost anyone in the draft. His projection has been as high as top-five in year's passed, but his offensive production has plateaued, leaving him available at 30th overall for the Jets. I don't think he's the elite offensive weapon that we once thought he could be, but he could contribute on a third line someday. It's a safe pick due to his history and his speed and skill.
31: Tampa Bay Lightning: Isaac Howard (LW)
Led the USNTDP U-18s with 82 points. He loves hockey, he loves to score, and he has the confidence to back it up. He wore a white suit with a turtleneck to the draft, and when asked about his goal scoring ability from 1-10, he rated himself as a 12. While his confidence might rub some the wrong way, there's no reason to think an organization like the Lightning can't get him to buy in. High risk, and possibly high reward.
32. Edmonton Oilers (from ARI via COL): Reid Schaefer (LW)
Another big body from the WHL, Schaefer projects as a third line winger who could become important come playoff time. He might not have the offensive upside of other players, which leads me to want to project him as a fourth line, replaceable winger. But I think there's a bit more skill there.
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