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There were a bunch of surprises on Thursday with the opening round of the NHL Draft. It started at number one as Shane Wright was expected to go number one. That rumor started three seasons ago when Wright was granted exceptional status from the OHL, allowing him to be drafted and play at the tender age of 15. His status as the top player in the draft lasted until 7:20 ET when the Canadiens selected Juraj Slafkovsky at the top pick.
Before that, the Chicago Blackhawks, in definite rebuild mode, dealt star wing Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh and 39th picks in the 2022 Draft, as well as a third-round pick in 2023. Look for DeBrincat to play alongside Tim Stutzle next season as both should have great fantasy campaigns.
Now, on to the Draft.
1. Montreal Canadiens – Juraj Slafkovsky – Left Wing
That was a bit of a surprise since most had thought Shane Wright would go first overall. Slafkovsky is the most-NHL ready player in the Draft. He skyrocketed up the rankings thanks in large part to his play at the Winter Olympics when he scored seven goals in seven games as a 17-year-old for Slovakia, while leading his team to a bronze medal and claiming the MVP honor. He also had nine points, including six helpers, in eight matches during the World Championship. Slafkovsky played in Finland’s Liiga this season, scoring five times with five assists in 31 games. He also saw action for TPS in the U20 league, dominating with six goals and 18 points in only 11 contests. He is 6’4, 220 pounds and uses his size wisely to fend off opponents and get to areas of the ice that he cannot be moved from. Slafkovsky possesses superb puck-handling skills and a superb shot. The Canadiens have got a good one.
2. New Jersey – Simon Nemec – Defenseman
Nemec going second overall is quite the surprise, especially given that Shane Wright was still available. Nemec had a busy season, playing in the top pro league in Slovakia. He set a league record for points in the postseason by a defenseman with 17 in 19 games. He also played at the World Juniors, the Olympics and the World Championship. Nemec’s poise with the puck makes him excellent in transition and he has great awareness in his own end. He can also quarterback the power play and kill penalties, while seeing ice time as a top-pairing defender. Nemec’s hockey smarts, mobility, passing ability and versatility combine to make him a potential stud blueliner in the NHL. He has all the makings of a talented two-way defender and the fact that he shoots right-handed is a cherry on top. Nemec has a very bright future ahead of him and should fit in nicely with the Devils.
3. Arizona – Logan Cooley – Center
Cooley is an outstanding skater and he is tremendously creative with the puck. The product of the United State Development Program, Cooley is a standout at both ends of the rink. He had 27 goals and 75 points in 51 games with the USDP under-18 team this season. The smallish center is only 5’10, 180 pounds and that might hurt him defensively in the NHL, but his high hockey IQ, work ethic and skills in transition could help overcome that. Cooley is committed to the University of Minnesota next season. He could spend a year or two in the college ranks to further develop his game and add some strength.
4. Seattle – Shane Wright – Center
Wright had been the favorite to be selected with the top pick in the 2022 NHL Draft since he was granted exceptional player status as a 15-year-old to enter the OHL so the fall to number four was significant. He had 39 goals and 66 points in 58 games with Kingston that year, but lost the 2020-21 campaign when the OHL suspended play due to COVID. He rebounded nicely this season with a 32-goal, 94-point performance in 63 contests as the captain of the Frontenacs. Wright has tremendous hockey smarts and plays an outstanding two-way game. His skating skills are outstanding as well, but he tends to slow the game down when he should be using his ability to his advantage. He should fit in nicely to the Kraken plans and should stick out at training camp.
There were a couple of trades announced at this time as the Canadiens sent Alexander Romanov and the 98th pick to the New York Islanders for the 13th overall pick and then the Habs sent that pick along with the 66th pick to Chicago for Kirby Dach.
5. Philadelphia – Cutter Gauthier – Center
Gauthier is the type of player that Flyers fans should come to love. The USDP had an outstanding team this past season, and Cutter Gauthier was a huge part of it with 34 goals and 65 points in 54 games. While Gauthier played on the wing with the team due to its depth, he is certainly good enough to play center and that could be his spot in the NHL. Gauthier is strong in all aspects of the game as a superb skater who can score and play physical. He also plays a solid defensive game and tested very well at the NHL Scouting Combine. Although Gauthier should play a big role in Philadelphia eventually, he is expected to play next season at Boston College next season. His time in the NCAA should help his development before he makes the jump to the NHL.
6. Columbus (via Chicago) – David Jiricek – Defenseman
Jiricek has outstanding defensive skills and he has a strong offensive side as well. He has played the last two seasons in the top Czech League, honing his two-way game. Jiricek has an outstanding shot from the point and plenty of explosiveness in his skating. He missed three months this past season with a knee injury suffered at the World Juniors, but was able to return and see some time at the World Championship. Jiricek’s mobility, size, shooting and edgework make him an intriguing all-around defender who projects to be a top-pairing defender at the NHL level. This is the final of three draft selections that Columbus acquired from Chicago as part of the Seth Jones trade.
7. Chicago (via Ottawa) – Kevin Korchinski – Defenseman
This was the first pick Chicago had in the Alex DeBrincat trade with Ottawa earlier in the day. Korchinski can be a top-scoring defenseman in the NHL during his career. His 65-point season with Seattle of the WHL was the seventh-best this century for any blueliner under the age of 18. He had four goals and 61 assists in 67 games improving as the season went on. He has NHL size and skating ability at this time but needs some work on his play in his own zone. Korchinski should be a huge fantasy asset after a couple of years in the NHL as he will be able to quarterback the power play. He will be a top-four defenseman and should flourish with another season in junior hockey.
8. Detroit – Marco Kasper – Center
Kasper left his native Austria to play in the Swedish Hockey League for Rogle. He had seven goals and 11 points in 46 games during the 2021-22 season. He also added six points in 13 playoff matches. Kasper has good skills in all aspects of his offensive game including his skating, shooting and passing. He also has very good hockey smarts and a bit of a mean streak. Kasper’s grittiness and skill should serve him well with the Red Wings. He shouldn’t be expected to play in Detroit next season, but he’s a well-rounded player with middle-six forward upside.
9. Buffalo – Matthew Savoie – Center
It was thought back in 2019 that Savoie would challenge Shane Wright for top spot in the 2022 Draft after he was the top pick in the WHL Bantam Draft. Savoie showcased his outstanding offensive skills with 35 goals and 90 points for the Winnipeg Ice in 2021-22. He led all WHL rookies in scoring. He is tough to play against despite being just 5-foot-9 thanks to a feisty style. Savoie is quick on his skates and possesses an excellent wrist shot. He is a star on the power play and could be the best player in the draft in that regard. However, Savoie will need to continue to improve in even-strength situations and work on his defensive game before he makes the jump to the NHL. His skating, playmaking and shot make him a dynamic offensive prospect with top-line forward potential.
10. Anaheim – Pavel Mintyukov – Defenseman
Mintyukov is a rare Russian in the 2022 Draft as he actually played last season in North America, starring for Saginaw of the OHL. The defenseman was an offensive star with 17 goals and 62 points in 67 games. The Spirit were not a good team last season, finishing last in their division with 49 points in 68 games and only one point out of last in the OHL, but that ended up being good news for Mintyukov who was on the ice for over 30 minutes per game on numerous occasions. All of Mintyukov’s skills are above average but he does need help on his defensive game. Mintyukov has terrific offensive skills and that will be his calling card in the NHL. Look for Mintyukov to be a solid, if not better than that, fantasy asset, in the future for the Ducks.
11. Arizona (via San Jose) – Conor Geekie – Center
The Arizona Coyotes clearly wanted Geekie given that they dealt the 27th, 34th, and 45th overall picks to the San Jose Sharks to move up to the 11th selection. It’s understandable though given Geekie’s upside. At one point he was considered a top-three player at one point this past season before he dropped down in the eyes of many. At six-foot, four-inches and 200 pounds, he would have been a top pick 10 years ago, but his skill and pace (what most teams now look for in a player) curb his potential in the current NHL. What Geekie does do well is go to the net and play a strong two-way game. His physicality could be the best among all draft eligible forwards, certainly those going in the first round, and while his point production was only 24 goals and 70 points in 63 games, he was only 17 during the season. Geekie has a very good shot and is a good playmaker with plenty of hockey smarts. He lacks footspeed which could hold him back in the NHL. Look for Geekie to be a top-two center for the Coyotes someday and definitely a top pivot if he improves his skating.
12. Columbus – Denton Mateychuk – Defenseman
Mateychuk is a defenseman but focusing on his position isn’t his strong suit because wherever the puck is, there’s a good chance that he is there. He can pull that off thanks to his speed, creativity, passing ability, and shooting. It’s a skillset that many forwards would be jealous of and it certainly translates to offensive production. He had 13 goals and 64 points in 65 games with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors in 2021-22. So, what’s the downside? As you may have suspected, his disregard to positioning can be something of a double-edged sword and while it’s worked for him in the WHL, he might need to play a more disciplined game at the NHL level. His defensive game also isn’t as good as his work with the puck, but it is worth noting that he is willing to throw his body around even if he’s not towering. He needs some polish, but with his skillset he could end up being a flashy, offensive defenseman that teams and fantasy managers love.
13. Chicago (via Montreal through New York Islanders) – Frank Nazar – Center
The Blackhawks picked up the 13th pick that belonged to the Islanders who dealt it to Montreal who dealt it to Chicago in the Kirby Dach deal. Nazar is slated to play for the University of Michigan next season. He lit it up with the U.S. National U18 Team in 2021-22 with 28 goals and 70 points in 56 appearances. He also accounted for 15 goals and 35 points over 24 appearances with the USNTDP Juniors. Nazar added three goals and six assists in six outings for the United States at the U18 World Juniors en route to a silver medal. Nazar possesses a high offensive IQ, which he uses to make plays look easy in the offensive zone. He is also an excellent skater and he has a great motor when he is on the attack. Nazar is a different story in the defensive end, where he has received criticism for looking disinterested and not nearly as engaged as he does when he is on offense. Still, his offensive upside, playmaking skills and speed project very well in the NHL as a potential top-six forward.
14. Winnipeg – Rutger McGroarty – Left Winger
An argument can certainly be made that McGroarty was taken early by the Jets, but at the same time this draft has had a lot of players who have surprised with their selection placement this year. McGroarty has committed to play for the University of Michigan next season after he showcased plenty of offensive talent in the United States National Team Development Program. He generated 35 goals and 69 points in 54 matches for the U.S. National U18 Team as well as 15 markers and 33 points over 25 contests for the USNTDP Juniors. McGroarty also had eight goals and one helper in six matches for the United States at the U18 World Juniors, while captaining the Americans to a silver medal. He has all the makings of a dynamic power forward thanks to his creativity, strong work ethic, heavy shot and play- making ability. There are aspects of his skating that require improvement, but that is something that can be taught. McGroarty possesses a great package of skills that should translate well to a scoring line once he makes it to Winnipeg.
15. Vancouver – Jonathan Lekkerimaki – Right Wing
Lekkerimaki’s big weapon on the ice is his shot whether he is taking a wrister or blasting a one-timer. He had 20 goals and 35 points in 26 contests for Djurgardens junior team prior to scoring seven times in 26 games for the big club as a 17-year-old. Lekkerimaki led Sweden to a gold medal at the Under-18s with five goals and a tournament-high 15 points in six outings. His playmaking abilities, especially on the power pay, stand out as well. Lekkerimaki lacks defensive awareness and physicality, but his offensive skills will likely make him a top-six scoring forward in the NHL once he crosses the pond.
16. Buffalo (via Vegas) – Noah Ostlund – Center
Ostlund spent most of the 2021-22 season with Djurgardens IF J20 team. He compiled 33 assists and 42 points in 32 games. The 18-year-old center added five goals and two helpers in five playoff outings. Ostlund also produced four goals and 10 points in six matches for Sweden’s U18 World Junior team en route to a gold medal. He has displayed an excellent work ethic along with strong playmaking abilities, plenty of speed, good puck-handling skills and a high hockey IQ. He has some questions to answer in the goal-scoring department, but if he manages to bring it all together then he has all the makings of being a talented top-six forward in the future at the NHL level for the Sabres.
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17. Nashville – Joakim Kemell – Right Wing
Nashville fans should be happy with Kemell dropping to the 17th selection. He lit up Finland’s Liiga in the early going of the 2021-22 season with 12 goals and six assists in his first 16 games. He slowed down afterward with just three goals and five points in his final 23 contests, but a shoulder injury in November was a big factor. Kemell had five goals in six games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup a year ago as well as six goals and two assists at this year’s Under-18 tournament. Kemell is a talented goal scorer with a great release on his shot and he is very creative with the puck. He can play aggressive and understands his defensive responsibilities, but needs to work his skating and decision making a bit. All in all, Kemell has the makings of a solid middle-six forward for the Predators and could fit nicely on a scoring line if he rounds out his game.
18. Dallas – Lian Bischel – Defenseman
Bischel played in Sweden last season after he suited up for Biel-Bienne in his native Switzerland in 2020-21. The first thing you notice about Bischel is that he is 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds. His physicality will get him a job at the NHL level, but he has also displayed some offensive ability. He had one goal and three points as a 17-year-old in the Swedish Hockey League in 29 games and has quite a bit of mobility considering his size. Still, it is an aspect of his game that could use improvement along with his puck movement. Bischel projects to be a two-way, top-four blueliner in the NHL, but he is expected to need more time to develop.
19. Minnesota (via Los Angeles) – Liam Ohgren – Left Wing
The Wild got a good one with Ohgren. He tore apart the Swedish Junior League last season with 33 goals and 58 points in only 30 games for Djurgardens Under-20 team. He was named the J20 Nationell Best Forward. Ohgren only had one goal and one assist in 25 games when he was then called up to their top club in the SHL. However, he stood out at the World Under-18s, while captaining Sweden to a gold medal. Ohgren supplied nine points, including six assists, in six games. He has an excellent shot and superb playmaking abilities, which bode well for his transition to the NHL. His versatility and play away from the puck make him a strong two-way player. Ohgren could end up as a solid middle-six forward at the NHL level, but there is top-line upside to his game.
20. Washington – Ivan Miroshnichenko – Left Wing
There’s no way of talking about Ivan Miroshnichenko without first discussing his health. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He went to Germany for treatment and the silver lining in all of this is that it is curable. However, he has understandably put his hockey career on hold for now and while he does want to play again when he can, it’s entirely possible that he’ll miss the 2022-23 campaign. Prior to the diagnosis, he was a potential top-10 pick. He has an amazing shot, but his passing and skating are also assets that shouldn’t be overlooked. That said, his puck handling could use work and his defensive play isn’t impressive. The biggest X-Factor though is unfortunately his health and it makes it hard to offer any kind of projection. We wish him all the best. Certainly, he has the potential to be a great player for the Capitals in the future.
21. Pittsburgh – Owen Pickering – Defenseman
You can’t teach size and that’s the first asset you’re likely to notice about Owen Pickering. He stands at 6-foot-5, which will make him an imposing blueliner once he fills out his frame. When he started in the WHL, he was actually on the small side. Since then, he’s had a huge growth spurt that continued during the 2021-22 campaign. That’s led to him dealing with some literal growing pains and it’s forced him to constantly adjust to his new body. It’s also likely a contributing factor to him being 179-pounds, which is on the thin side for a potential NHL player of his height. So, it’s fair to say Pickering needs more time to develop, but once he does, he could be a terrific asset at the NHL level. He is a good skater and a responsible defender. Pickering’s offensive game needs some work, but there’s a lot of potential there as a potential two-way blueliner.
22. Anaheim (via Boston) – Nathan Gaucher – Center
The Ducks got this pick from Boston in the Hampus Lindholm deal. Some young players need to put on some weight, but Nathan Gaucher already has an NHL body with a 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame. He’s been taking advantage of that size too, overpowering defenders and putting himself in front of the net. He’s not a flashy player and his puck handling isn’t anything to write home about. But he does have fantastic speed and Gaucher managed to combine that with his strength to score 31 goals and 57 points in 66 games with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. It’s on the defensive side of things that Gaucher really stands out from the crowd though. He’s smart defensively and plays a very physical game. He seems like a good fit to serve as a bottom-six forward at the NHL level, but he does have enough offensive upside to work his way up to a second-line role for Anaheim.
23. St. Louis – Jimmy Snuggerud – Right Wing
Snuggerud made a huge leap in the last year and that was due to an improvement in his skating. He is a dynamic offensive force with a high-end shot, but he also has solid playmaking abilities. Snuggerud played on an outstanding American Under-18 team that could have as many as six players go in the opening round. Snuggerud had 24 goals and 63 points in 59 games and will go to the University of Minnesota next season. He needs to continue to improve his skating, but if all goes well, he could end up as a second-line winger with the Blues someday.
24. Minnesota – Danila Yurov – Right Wing
Likely the best player to come out of Russia this season, Yurov had 13 goals and 36 points in 23 MHL games during the 2021-22 season. He was unable to pick up a point with the parent Magnitogorsk side in the KHL in 21 games, but saw extremely limited action. Yurov has played 42 games at the KHL level in the last two seasons, while logging 90 seconds or fewer in ice time in 22 of the 42 games. That made him a trickier player to evaluate, but Yurov scores highly in his hockey smarts, speed and physicality. Drafting Russian players is expected to be a problematic as there is a good chance that they may not be able to come over any time soon. Still, Yurov has top-six forward upside and a team with depth and patience could take a chance on him.
The Maple Leafs, in desperate need of salary cap relief, dealt Petr Mrazek and the 25th overall pick to Chicago for the 38th pick.
25. Chicago (via Toronto) – Sam Rinzel – Defenseman
The Blackhawks had no first round picks heading into Thursday and after picking up Petr Mrazek from the Maple Leafs as well as the 25th pick for the 38th pick, they picked their third player in the opening round. Rinzel finished up his junior season at Chaska High with nine goals and 38 points in 27 games. He concluded 2021-22 as a member of the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks with two goals and 10 points in 21 appearances. The 6-foot-4, 181-pound defender is poised to play for the University of Minnesota next season. Rinzel just turned 18 in late June, which makes him one of the younger players in the 2022 NHL Draft and it has plenty of scouts excited about his two-way upside as a top-four blueliner. He needs more experience against better competition, which he will gain next season, but his size, skating ability, puck distribution skills and creativity make him an intriguing prospect.
26. Montreal (via Calgary) – Filip Mesar – Center
Mesar is the third Slovakian player taken so far in the 2022 draft. He notched eight goals and 16 points in 37 games for HK Poprad of the Slovak Extraliga during the 2021-22 season. He also picked up three goals and one assist in six playoff outings. Mesar’s skating, puck-handling abilities and offensive upside make him a well-rounded prospect. He is a versatile player who can player center or the wing and he has the skillset to fit on the second or third line with the Canadiens.
27. San Jose (via Arizona through Carolina) – Filip Bystedt – Center
At 6-foot-4, 187 pounds, Filip Bystedt is a big center who should be an imposing physical force once he fills out. He uses his reach well, especially when it comes to disrupting passing lanes on defense, and he’s not afraid to play physically. He’ll also sacrifice his body to get in front of shots, giving many of the defensive attributes that coaches love. However, on the offensive side of things, he doesn’t use his size as effectively. He did fine in Sweden’s Junior league, scoring 16 goals and 49 points in 40 contests, but when he made the jump to the Swedish Hockey League, he had just a goal and two points in 15 games. He showed some reluctance to get into the dirty areas when he had the puck, and his skating has been a matter of some debate. There’s plenty of potential here, but he needs time to develop before he’ll be an effective two-way forward.
28. Buffalo (via Florida) – Jiri Kulich – Center
The Sabres dealt Sam Reinhart to Florida last off-season for goaltender Devon Levi and this first-round pick. Kulich’s nine goals and 14 points in 49 games in 2021-22 might not initially pop out, but when you consider that he only turned 18-years-old in April and he was playing against men for Karlovy Vary HC of the Czech league, the fact that he even did that well is far more impressive. By contrast, when he was playing against people his own age in the World Juniors Under-18, he stood out from the crowd with nine goals and 11 points in six contests. He does have some offensive tools, including a great one-timer and strong skating that he can use to best defenders, but his physical play is also an important facet of his game. Ultimately, while his defensive game could still use polish, there’s already enough there to make it easy to envision him as a future two-way center for the Sabres.
29. Arizona (via Edmonton) – Maveric Lamoureux – Defenseman
The Coyotes acquired the 29th overall pick, a 2025 second-round pick, and a 2024 third-round selection from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for the 32nd overall pick and Zack Kassian. As for Lamoureux, he has an imposing 6-foot-7 frame and his ability to move the puck well makes him an intriguing prospect. He accounted for 24 points in 54 games for Drummondville of the QMJHL during the 2021-22 season after struggling to produce much offense during his rookie campaign. He has good speed, but needs to improve other areas of his skating. Aspects of Lamoureux’s overall game are still a bit rough around the edges, which could make him more of a long-term project, but his toolset could reward teams in the future as his all-around game develops and he continues to grow into his body.
30. Winnipeg – (via New York Rangers) – Brad Lambert – Center
The Jets acquired this pick from the New York Rangers in the Andrew Copp trade. The most polarizing player in the draft, Lambert was thought of as a top-three pick at the start of the 2021-22 campaign and a drop down in the Draft was expected, but it is still a surprise that he slid all the way down to Winnipeg at pick No. 30. He only had four goals and 10 points in 49 Liiga games this past year. Lambert is the best skater in the Draft. Some scouts believe he is faster when carrying the puck than most of this class are without it and that all aspects of his skating skills are world class. Lambert is also a great passer, but sometimes he tries to do too much and turns the puck over. He can also leave his teammates out of the play at times because of how dynamic he can be. Lambert was very good at the World Juniors, with five points in two games, before the tournament was canceled due to COVID. Lambert has a chance to be great, but needs more seasoning and consistency before he transitions to the NHL. Still, he has all the tools to be a solid top-six forward.
31. Tampa Bay – Isaac Howard – Left Wing
Howard was the United States National Development team’s top scorer on the Under-18 team with 82 points in 60 games. He is able to find openings with his speed and smarts, which helped him to score the 33 goals. He also has a heavy wrist shot. Howard needs to bulk up and continue to work on his all-around game. Playing at least one season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth will allow him to develop his physical presence. Howard projects to be a top-nine forward with a chance to be a top-liner due to his scoring ability. He will have plenty of time to develop with the Lightning.
32. Edmonton (via Arizona through Colorado) – Reid Schaefer – Left Wing
This pick is something of a surprise, but Schaefer was strong in the 2022 WHL playoffs, scoring six goals and 21 points in 25 contests for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Schaefer’s strength is that he’s big and tough. He stands at 6-foot-3, 213 pounds and has the potential to develop into a middle-six power forward. He’s willing to use that size to help him force his way to the net and he’ll also make his presence known defensively. After trading away Zack Kassian, the Oilers might have gotten a future player of that mold in Schaefer.
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