The 2022 NHL Draft year has been an interesting season. My attention to the Draft began when Shane Wright was dominating the GTHL with the Don Mills Flyers and earning the OHL exceptional status distinction. With my hometown team, the Kingston Frontenacs owning the first overall selection in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection I was keen to watch the 2022 NHL Draft Class. With names like Shane Wright, Brad Lambert, and Matthew Savoie all headlining favorites for the top-ranked player in what was shaping up to be a strong draft class.
As the season played out and I started to take a deeper look at this year’s class, I realized the depth is not as strong as I had hoped. While there are some intriguing players that will be available in the mid-later rounds, the overall quality is less than in recent years.
The pandemic all but eliminated an entire season of development for the 2021 Draft Class, and there is still some fallout from that impact. As several players that had little to no views from scouts fell to the wayside. With hockey back, those players are getting another look and could be on scouts radar this year in their second year of eligibility.
The combination of a shallow Draft Class and the pandemic effect could make for a perfect storm for NHL teams to look at selecting more over-age players than in previous drafts.
Typically, teams lean towards selecting very few over-age or re-entry players, and those players tend to be selected in the later rounds. Don’t be surprised if teams begin selecting such players not only in larger quantities but sooner in the draft as well.
The quality at the top of the draft is good, but not elite. The top ten to twelve or so have impactful upside but no clear-cut franchise players that I can see. Shane Wright went into the season as the consensus number one despite not playing a single league game the previous season. He held onto that position on my rankings but not everyone’s.
So, without further ado, here is my top 32 ranking for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
- Shane Wright, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
The consensus number one leading into the draft year after not playing a single league game the season prior. Wright had a slow start to his draft year, but he turned up his production in the second half and still holds my number one ranking. His hockey sense and read and react are the best in class. His compete level is very high. His skating is strong in balance, strength, first step acceleration and edge work. His shot is quick, accurate and the release is very sneaky. He may not be a generational talent like Crosby or McDavid, but the comparisons to Patrice Bergeron are very real, and Bergeron is a first ballot Hall of Fame player.
- Juraj Slafkovsky, LW – TPS (Liiga)
After a breakout performance at the Olympics, the confidence carried through to the end of the season, where again playing against NHL players at the World Championships he was a standout. Big, skilled, and mobile he is perhaps the most NHL-ready player in the draft.
- Logan Cooley, C – NTDP
Speedy and offensively creative forward. Cooley has arguably the highest offensive upside in the draft class and will be playing his D+1 season at the University of Minnesota. He likely will only play one season there and could be in the NHL as soon as his freshman season ends.
- David Jiricek, RD – HC Plzen (Czech)
An injury slowed his season down, but Jiricek brings size, mobility, heavy shot and offensive upside to the table. He has all the tools NHL teams dream of adding to their blueline.
- Simon Nemec, RD – HK Nitra (Svk)
Nemec may not match the size and all-around game of Jiricek, but his offensive upside may be unmatched in this draft class from the back end. His hockey sense, vision and passing ability are NHL-ready now.
- Cutter Gauthier, C/LW – NTDP
Big, strong, and skilled, can play wing or center. Projects as a versatile and impactful player both offensively, and physically. Really impressed at the U-18 with USA scoring nine points in six games. Boston College commit says he likes to play like Auston Matthews.
- Joakim Kemell, RW – JYP (Liiga)
Projected to be potentially the best goal scorer in this draft class, Kemell often has lopsided stats with more goals than assists. Injuries in the second half of the season took some of the wind out of his draft stock sails.
- Frank Nazar, C – NTDP
Nazar scouting report reads a lot like his teammate Cooley. He is an undersized, speedy offensive dynamo. Thinks the game fast and has the hands and feet to match. Nazar has Matt Barzal comparisons.
- Denton Mateychuk, LD – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Plays with NHL-level pace, reads plays, and is all over the ice. Chases pucks down and drives pucks to the goal. Has the upside to be the biggest impact defenseman in this draft class.
- Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW – Djurgardens (SHL)
Another sniper, Lekkerimaki has a lethal shot and can light the lamp. He has more elements to his game than just goal scoring but that’s his bread and butter. Has top-six upside in the NHL.
- Matthew Savoie, C – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
An early favorite for a potential first overall, had a solid draft season in his first full campaign in the WHL on an All-Star Winnipeg Ice roster posting a 90-point season. The biggest concern in his game is hit size – 5-9 and 179 pounds.
- Danila Yurov, RW – Magnitogorsk (KHL)
A top ten talent that likely slips on draft day due to the Russian factor. How far does he slide? His usage in the KHL was limited and it would have been nice to see him play more minutes in another league.
- Connor Geekie, C – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Geekie boasts the size and skill NHL teams dream of. 6-4, 205 pounds and scored 70 points in 63 games with the Ice. His skating is below average for NHL first-line centers, but if he can improve that and play a more aggressive physical game, he could be a Ryan Getzlaf impactful center.
- Jagger Firkus, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
One of the more electric players to watch. He has an NHL-caliber shot that he displayed in the CHL Top Prospects game, and when he scored a Michigan goal. Has top-six offensive winger upside with highlight-reel skills, but is slight at 5-10, 154 soaking wet and holding bricks.
- Kevin Korchinski, LD – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
One of the more complete defenders in this draft. He has size, skates at an NHL level now, and excels at transitional offense. The knock early in the year was in his own end but as the season wore on, he erased those concerns.
- Rutger McGroarty, C – NTDP
The Michigan commit has size, skill, hockey sense, is a net front presence, plays a physical and two-way game. His biggest development need is his skating, but he plays the game like a Tkachuk.
- Liam Ohgren, LW – Djurgardens (SHL)
A favorite among the scouting community as he plays the game with pace and urgency. Ohgren does it all – skates well, has a great shot, is smart, drives plays, is responsible defensively, and is physical. He may be a sleeper that is a top-five pick in redrafts five years from now.
- Ryan Chesley, RD – NTDP
Chesley is a big-time riser in the rankings this year. He has size, plays a two-way game, a strong skater with good hockey sense. His rise this year is reminiscent of Jake Sanderson.
- Pavel Mintyukov, LD – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
The Russian Import player had a fantastic draft year in the OHL with Saginaw, posting 62 points in 67 games. He has a big upside with his size, skating, and offensive abilities. Still a raw package, he needs some development to put it all together and shore up his defensive game.
- Isaac Howard, LW – NTDP
The Minnesota-Duluth commit actually lead the NTDP in scoring. So why is he not the top-ranked player from that team? Probably due to his size at 5-10, and lack of defensive awareness. But his offensive upside can not be ignored. It may take Howard a few more years of NCAA development, but he has potential.
- Jimmy Snuggerud, RW – NTDP
A power forward that always plays physical and gritty. He is a pest that can get the other team off their game. He drops the gloves but can also score with his hard shot and drive to the net.
- Marco Kasper, C – Rogle (SHL)
18-year-old playing in the SHL against professional grown men. Kasper took a regular shift with good time on ice and looked good while doing so. Kasper plays a pro-ready game. Returning to the SHL for his D+1 year but could be one of the more NHL ready players in the draft.
- Lane Hutson, LD – NDP
One of the smartest, most offensively dynamic, shortest and smallest players in the draft. If you think size matters, don’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. If you don’t think size matters, draft him as soon as possible. A boom-or-bust player that could be the best defender in the draft, or not make the NHL.
- Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW – Omskie Kryila (VHL)
Two big strikes on his file keeping him down the draft rankings, his health and his passport. There are big questions about when if ever he comes to North America, but the skill and upside demand he is a first-round pick regardless.
- Owen Pickering, LD – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Projectable size and offensive upside. Pickering was a big riser in this draft year, but still has plenty of development needs in his defensive and puck management game. A long-term project but has good upside if his development is just starting.
- Jiri Kulich, C – Karlovy Vary (Cze)
Struggled to produce in a limited role in the pro-level Czechia league but dominated at the U18 scoring nine goals in six games.
- Filip Mesar, RW – Poprad (Svk)
Some players at 5-10 and 174 are short, but strong, some are small and play timid. Mesar is the later, but his offensive skill set is obvious. Much like Semyon Der-Arguchintsev he needs to go to the hard areas and be harder to knock off the puck to succeed at higher pro levels let alone the NHL.
- Brad Lambert, RW – Pelicans (Liiga)
A big-time faller. Once considered a potential first overall, and is now barely a first round pick in my rankings. He has elite-level skating and skill, but I have serious concerns about his hockey sense and compete.
- Gleb Trikozov, RW – Omskie Yasterby (VHL)
Smart, physical two-way player with a heavy shot. Dominated the MHL with 45 points in 35 games but had a small draft year sample size. Good upside, but a long-term prospect, and the Russian factor is at play here.
- Noah Ostlund, C – Djurgardins (SHL)
The third draft-eligible from the line in Djurgardens along with Liam Ohgren and Jonathan Lekkerimaki. He was more impactful at the junior level and at the U18. He may be undersized but he has a motor and high-end skill
- Calle Odelius, LD – Djurgardens (SHL)
Big mobile defender. His offensive upside may be limited but he looks like a lock to make the NHL as a minute-munching defensive defenseman with some potential for secondary offensive support.
- Lian Bishel, LD – Leksand (SHL)
The 6-5, 225-pound defender is a physically dominant defender. He has mobility and reach. The offensive upside is questionable, but had he been healthy and available for the U18 for the Swiss we may have had a glimpse of that potential.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on Twitter at @pharling