The 2021 NHL Draft was different in regards to scouting and evaluating prospects. With the on-going pandemic, a number of leagues were shut down or delayed. It was hard to get a gauge on where a prospect lies in terms of rankings as players were scattered across draft boards. There was no clear-cut number one until late in the season and most of the viewings were done online instead of at the rink.
The positive in all of this after an odd year, things seem to be getting back to normal. Scouts are starting to go into rinks, the Ontario Hockey League is back and things seem to be trending in the right direction.
A Sneak Peek into the 2022 Draft
The 2021 draft class itself wasn’t as deep compared to 2020, but the 2022 NHL Draft looks to have high end skill and talent, especially in the top 15-20. Leading the way is a 17-year-old phenom, a dynamic Finnish centre, a promising Slovak defender and two highly skilled, game-changing Russian forwards who have high-end potential. That’s just a little glimpse as to what this draft class can offer.
For this ranking, I’ve broken everything up into tiers to get a quick gauge of where each player is at for each specific range along with a short scouting report. In each range, a player has the potential to move up my draft board and sneak into the next tier at any point.
My list will be changing and more players will be added throughout the year as we inch closer to draft day. For now, these are the names who caught my eye to be on my top- 32 list. Without further ado, let’s take a look my preseason rankings for the 2022 NHL Draft.
2022 Draft Rankings
1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Unlike last year’s draft, it’s safe to say that we have a really good idea who is going to go first overall and it’s not even close. Shane Wright is on another level compared to everyone in the 2022 NHL Draft.
He has been the talk of the town since his days with the Don Mills Flyers of the GTHL, being granted exceptional status for the OHL draft. He had 66 points in 58 games in his first season, matching Connor McDavid’s point total as a rookie, but had a better point per game rate as McDavid. Wright had a 1.14 P/G rate where as McDavid had 1.05. He was also on pace with John Tavares’ 77 points in his first season in the OHL.
There’s a reason he’s the consensus first overall pick. He displays an elite level IQ, vision, and work ethic. The way that he thinks and processes the game is like a veteran NHL player. Even when you think he’s at his best, he goes another step above to be a game-changing player. When the game is on the line, he’s always there to take charge. His elite level offensive instincts and shot makes him a lethal scorer every time he’s on the ice. He’s just as strong as a playmaker as he is a sniper, being able to make strong and accurate passes. He knows how to draw in his opponents in order to create space for his teammates and open up the game.
He’s the last person you’d want to have the puck as he’s extremely dangerous carrying it into the offensive zone. Players are always on high alert when he’s on, as he’s an extremely versatile, offensive threat. He has excellent character as he’s an exceptional leader on and off the ice.
While he didn’t play in the OHL due to it being suspended because of the pandemic, he shined at the World U18 Championship recording eight goals and 14 points in five games en route to a gold medal. There isn’t any doubt that Wright is going to tear up the Ontario Hockey League this season and be at the top of the leaderboard. It’s going to be extremely difficult for anyone to overthrow him as the top player in this draft.
2. Brad Lambert, C/ RW, JYP (Liiga)
3. Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
4. Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
5. Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
Although Wright is going to be the main attraction in this draft, Brad Lambert is definitely one name that can be a strong option as a second overall pick. Lambert possesses great poise whenever he has the puck, displaying his high-end puck handling and mobility. He has a powerful shot and a quick release with great accuracy. He’s extremely dynamic in the offensive zone and has the ability to be just as effective when he doesn’t have the have the puck on his stick as he’ll constantly be in there to gain possession.
Simon Nemec is the top defender in this year’s draft and the closest thing you’ll find to being a complete, all-round defenceman. He’s a mobile and fluid skater showing great confidence with his movements and decision making with the puck. He’s always finding the open lanes to push the play forward to generate an attack. He’s extremely reliable defensively, being strong in one-on-one situations and boxing out his opponents. He has no problem taking charge quarterbacking the power play as he has a strong shot from the point.
The younger brother of Carter, the Edmonton Oilers fourth-round pick in 2020, Matthew Savoie will expect to hear his name called earlier. Matthew is a fantastic skater, displaying strong edgework, excellent speed and agility. He is very elusive with the puck as he has soft hands to make moves in high traffic areas. In addition he’s aggressive when attacking the puck carrier to create a turnover and gain a quality scoring opportunity.
At 17 years old, Ivan Miroshnichenko is already boasting a high-end shot, IQ and size that makes him extremely tough to contain. If you give him enough time and space to shoot, chances are it’s going to end with the puck in the net back of the net as he has great accuracy. He has quick hands to make moves in tight as he has great control and patience.
6. Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
7. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga)
8. Logan Cooley, C, USA U18 (USHL)
9. Rutger McGroarty, C, USA U18 (USHL)
10. Isaac Howard, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
Danila Yurov is probably my early favourite in this draft class. During the World U18 Championships, Yurov was a standout player on a stacked Russian team that included Miroshnichenko and phenom Matvei Michkov. Yurov reads and anticipates plays at a very high level. He has excellent speed, as he’s able to go end to end in a flash, leaving the opposition in the dust. Defenders are always on alert as his speed and stride allows him to quickly go on the attack and apply pressure and create turnovers. He’s great at protecting the puck and has great control when gaining an inside edge attacking the net.
Juraj Slafkovsky can do it all; skate, score, hit you name it. He was under a point per game with TPS U20 with 13 points in 16 games last season. He possesses all the great qualities teams look for in a power forward. He already boasts an NHL-like frame, making it extremely difficult to knock the puck off him.
Logan Cooley is one player that definitely could make some noise. He’s a very reliable two-way centre with high IQ and awareness. He reads and anticipates plays exceptionally well and is always making life difficult for defenders when he’s on the attack. His well-rounded game is defeinitely going to attract the interest of many teams.
Rutger McGroarty and Isaac Howard are two players that have been dominant for the US National Development Team program. McGroarty displays elite-level offensive awareness and creativity with the puck, making him a lethal shooter and playmaker. Howard is always in attack mode as offense is always on his mind, having a keen eye for scoring in many different ways.
11. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
12. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
13. Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
14. Ryan Chesley, D, USA U18 (USHL)
15. Elias Salomonsson, D, Skellefteå AIK J20 (Nationell)
16. Frank Nazar, RW, USA U18 (USHL)
The brother of Seattle Kraken forward, Morgan Geekie, Conor displays great mobility for his size and is a dual threat offensively. A sticking point was his skating and he has improved in that aspect along with his speed. He has quick hands and puck skills making moves around players like it’s a cakewalk. He has great awareness to spot his teammates or utilize his powerful shot. He’s strong when protecting the puck and has good edges to keep his balance.
Joakim Kemell has an insane worth ethic and plays with a high level of intensity. Kemell is very creative with his handling of the puck as he’s able to beat defenders very easily. He can even be a threat as a net front presence providing a great screen and possessing good hand-eye coordination. He has an accurate shot and isn’t afraid to make a hit every now and then. He was extremely noticeable during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Tristan Luneau has the tools to be an effective, well-rounded defenceman. He’s a really great skater leading the attack from the back end but also has the awareness to back off and prioritize defense. He likes to model his game around Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. The similarities are there as Luneau already displays speed, drive and awareness that makes him a complete defender.
Ryan Chesley is a very smart two-way defenceman with a strong transitional game. He’s got a very active stick which is always effective at breaking up plays, leading to turnovers where his teammates are there to scoop up a loose puck. He’s a great passer, being able to make long stretch passes to move the play quickly.
Elias Salomonsson is a steady, two-way defenceman capable of being a factor on both sides of the puck. Still working on his defensive game, he has shown improvement. He has great speed and mobility to drive a play forward and is able to use his size to shut down players in transition and break plays up very well.
Frank Nazar is a human highlight reel as he had 28 goals and 55 points in 45 games with USA’s U17 team. He’s extremely quick off the rush using his agility and speed as well as his offensive awareness to attack with force. He has quick hands and despite his size at 5-foot-10, he has great strength to protect the puck and drive it to the net.
17. Noah Östlund, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
18. Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
19. David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czech)
20. Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
21. Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
22. Jonathan Lekkerimäki, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
23. Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
24. Hunter Haight, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Noah Östlund is a very quick skater with high-end speed and plays with a high level of intensity. He’s always constantly engaged in the play, making life difficult for defenders with his ability to attack and close in on the puck carrier. He’s very responsible on the defensive side of the puck, as he’s always in position to break plays up and quickly transition to offense.
Denton Mateychuk displays great confidence and an aggressive nature offensively. He’s a fantastic skater as he generates a great amount of speed, doing it effortlessly. He can get the advantage with a quick step on his crossovers and blow by the opposition with the power when he pushes off. He wants to lead the charge offensively with the puck on his stick or even jump into the play to provide support.
David Jiricek’s game relies on his speed and mobility. He’s a strong skater that allows him to move extremely well in the offensive zone or upon entry. He has a powerful shot when he winds up for a one-timer and he’s never afraid to use it. He was selected 54th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft by the Spokane Chiefs.
Guelph Storm’s Danny Zhilkin didn’t see much ice in 2020-21 after recording 15 points in 60 games in his rookie season. He’s a feisty ball of energy, as he’s a great skater with a hard shot. He also has great vision to distribute the puck and set up his teammates. He won gold with Canada at the World U18 Championship finishing with two assists in a limited role, but you took note of when he was on the ice. He’s a player that could definitely break out now that there’s going to be an OHL season. Playing with Anaheim Ducks 2021 third-round pick Sasha Pastujov is going to help boost his draft stock.
Liam Öhgren and Jonathan Lekkerimäki join Östlund from Djurgårdens to form a dynamic offensive trio. Öhgren does a fantastic job at finding and separating himself from everyone in order to create space and be open for a prime scoring opportunity. He’s always in the right spot to receive a pass and unload his quick shot but is also a very creative playmaker.
Lekkerimäki is another dangerous scoring threat. He can unload a one-timer or use his soft hands in tight to get the puck by the goaltender. He scored five goals for Sweden at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup as won bronze along with Öhgren and Östlund.
Bryce McConnell-Barker is an excellent blend of a two-way centre with a shooters mentality. McConnell-Barker is always taking charge of his shift. He’s a very strong skater and has an extremely strong worth ethic. Brock Oten has him ranked as his second OHLer behind Wright and I agree with him, given his smarts and effort level as he’s always leading the offense.
Hunter Haight displays quick hands and goal scoring abilities. Add that with his strong skating stride and you have a very effective centreman in the making. He’s able to sneak in behind defenders and be in the perfect spot for a pass or shot. That was displayed at Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase, as he scored three goals by going undetected and used his strength to get an advantage over defenders.
25. Seamus Casey, D, USNTDP (USHL)
26. Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
27. Tomas Hamara, D, Tappara U20 (SM- sarja)
28. Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
29. Mikko Matikka, RW, Jokerit U20 (SM- sarja)
30. Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)
31. Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
32. Filip Mesar, RW, HK Poprad (Slovakia)
After watching quite a bit of the Remparts defender and 2021 Florida Panthers second-round pick, Evan Nause, I also got an early look at Nathan Gaucher and his skillset.
Finishing first in team scoring during the 2020-21 season with 31 points, Gaucher has great size, strength and abilities of being a reliable offensive power forward. He has the ability to provide a strong net front presence, digging away at loose pucks and driving hard to the net.
Tomas Hamara is a very strong puck-moving defender. He’s extremely confident when the puck is on his stick and is always taking charge of a play with his deceptive skating and speed. He has strength when protecting the puck and does a good job in defensive situations. He’s a very strong passer as he has great accuracy either with short or long breakout passes out of his own zone.
Despite his small stature as a defenceman, Ty Nelson is a fierce competitor with a great work ethic and motor every time he’s on the ice. A first overall pick of the North Bay Battalion in 2020, he’s quick and agile in transition and is very aggressive in applying pressure on the puck carrier.
Outside of the top 15, Marco Kasper is definitely a player that caught my eye and I’m becoming a big fan. Kasper’s a very strong skater while also displaying his offensive skillset. He’s always constantly involved in the play, whether it’s digging for loose pucks on the corner or using his speed and size to drive and crash the net and look for those second or third scoring chances. He’s always looking to make himself open and go undetected for a prime scoring chance.
Filip Mesar broke out and made a name for himself at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, helping Slovakia to a second place finish. Even though Nemec, Slafkovsky and Dalibor Dvorsky Mesar kept up with the big names as he finished the tournament eighth in scoring with eight points in five games. He’s a great playmaker with soft hands to make quick moves and is a very fluid skater with strong edges.
Honourable Mentions/ Final Thoughts
Filip Bystedt, C, Linköping HC J20 (Nationell), Pano Fimis, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL), Gavin Hayes, RW, Flint Firebirds (OHL), Sergei Ivanov, G, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL), Kasper Lundell, RW, HIFK U20 (SM-sarja), Paul Ludwinski, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) Julian Lutz, LW, EHC München (DEL) Spencer Sova, D, Erie Otters (OHL)
Pano Fimis is everything you would want in a centreman as he has the competitive edge and drive on both sides of the puck. A two-way centre with great speed and quick hands, Fimis is always engaged and constantly battling. He has the awareness to help out on the backcheck to break plays up and immediately transition to offense. He’s always buzzing and he never takes a shift off.
At the moment I have Tyler Brennan as my top goaltender, but it’s a close battle between him and Sergei Ivanov. He doesn’t have the size like Brennan, but he does have great technical skills in the crease, while having strong lateral movements and mobility.
Staying with the OHL, Gavin Hayes and Paul Ludwinski are two players that have a lot of potential. Hayes is the perfect mold of a power forward that teams would want as he has great skill and hands. Ludwinski is another centreman that has great smarts and makes excellent decisions with and without the puck.
Going to play for EHC München, Julian Lutz is one name that could fly under the radar for this draft. Lutz likes to make life difficult for the opposition, applying great pressure while battling to gain control. He’s a smooth skater for size and does a great job at protecting the puck. While Germany didn’t have a strong tournament, Lutz was one bright spot for them scoring twice in four games.
Kasper Lundell is the younger brother of Florida Panthers 2020 12th overall pick Anton. Like his brother, Kasper possesses a persistent work ethic and smarts that allows him to succeed every shift. He’s a very dangerous playmaker, as he had 17 assists and 26 points in 20 games at the U18 level and does a great job at protecting the puck. He already has seven points in three games with HIFK U20 and is definitely one player that I think could improve his stock as the season goes on.
Who are some names that you’re keeping an eye on? Have your say in the comment section.
Hockey has been a big part of my life since watching my first Leafs game to currently coaching minor hockey. I previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. Aside from hockey, I also enjoy drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.