Welcome back to our countdown to the 2022 NHL Draft. Most prospect’s seasons have been completed. They’ve all made their case as to how high they should be drafted. It’s now time to take a close look at some of those situations.
It’s time to unveil our annual “Do Not Draft” list for the 2022 season. We have produced this column now for the last several seasons. In 2021, it was different because of the pandemic. We only shared five players who I wouldn’t draft in a certain spot.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
In case you are new to the “Do Not Draft” list, this is a list of players who will be drafted very high at July’s NHL Draft. But we’re going to tell you why they shouldn’t be drafted in a certain spot. The idea of this piece is to give you insight into some of the decisions teams at the top of the draft face when making their first (or in some cases second) pick. The later the draft goes, the harder it is to call those prospects out on this kind of list.
We will focus on the first round and some of the pressure points that seem to be present. This year, 10 prospects make the list. As always, let’s start out real strong.
2022 Do Not Draft List
Action: Do not draft first overall.
Rationale: This is all about what the Montreal Canadiens do with the first pick. As we sit here with under a month to go until the draft, the top pick appears to be a three-horse race between Shane Wright, Logan Cooley and Slafkovsky. The Canadiens won’t decide until July who they will take. While it’s good to take your time in making a franchise-altering selection, it’s not good to pass on two game-changing centers. As good as Slafkovsky is, the Canadiens have waited years for an opportunity to draft a top center.
For some perspective, some prominent writers have a differing view of who the best prospect is. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman has Slafkovsky first (From NHL Draft 2022 top 127 prospects: Juraj Slafkovsky leads Corey Pronman’s list, 5/31/22, Corey Pronman, the Athletic.) Daily Faceoff’s Chris Peters has Cooley first overall while most everyone else has Wright first. For me, the decision for the Canadiens is which center between Cooley and Wright to take. Passing on both could haunt them for a long time. Slafkovsky is going to be a really good player, but not taking one of the centers could set them back for many years. But with all that said, let’s jump to number two.
Shane Wright/Logan Cooley
Action: Do not draft second overall.
Raltionale: It’s crazy, right? I’m advocating for the centers to go first overall but now saying don’t take the one who drops second. Yes that’s exactly what I’m saying. We have to look at the team who owns the pick for the reasoning. The New Jersey Devils have good centers already in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. While it’s wise to normally take the best available player regardless of position, the separation between Slafkovsky and the two centers is very small.
In the event of a tie, you go with need. The Devils need a player like Slafkovsky who can play on Hughes’ wing and fill the net. The potential of a Slafkovsky, Hughes, Alex Holtz line is too fun not to think about. Don’t get cute. Take the impact winger in this particular case.
Side note: If the Devils trade out of number two, disregard the above. The acquiring team takes the other center in that case.
Cutter Gauthier/Matthew Savoie
Action: Do not draft in the top-five.
Rationale: We’re taking nothing away from Gauthier and Savoie. Each player is expected to be really good in the NHL. This is about how good the top-two defenseman in David Jiricek and Simon Nemec are. The Kraken and Flyers sit fourth and fifth and can each grab one of the defensmen. In this case, the gap between the defenseman and Gauthier/Savoie is enough that I wouldn’t consider them in the Kraken’s and Flyers’ spots. Both Jiricek and Nemec are top-pair, right-handed defensemen that could be on their respective teams for more than a decade. There’s enough questions about the upside of the others that it’s no contest. You only land this caliber of defense when you draft them. It’s as simple as that.
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Action: Do not draft in the top-10.
Rationale: His talent is top-10. But there’s enough questions otherwise that I’d rather have other players with a top-10 pick. I acknowledge this could absolutely backfire. The first place I’d start to consider Lambert is 11th. By then, taking the risk is worth it. There’s even some folks that don’t think he’s a first rounder at all. You can’t ignore his talent. But you can question the other things.
Action: Do not draft in the lottery (top-16).
Rationale: For my money, Geekie is a fascinating example of big center teams will covet versus what others offer from a skill standpoint. I can very easily see him go in the lottery perhaps even in the top-10. But I would rather have guys like Marco Kasper, Frank Nazar, Rutger McGroarty and Kevin Korchinski within the top-16. Toward the back end of the first round is where I would feel comfortable drafting Geekie.
Luka Del Bel Belluz/Owen Beck
Action: Do not draft in the top-20.
Rationale: We are starting to get towards the point in the draft where lists for teams are going to look very different. In other words, team preference is going to reign supreme. Del Bel Belluz and Beck were each ranked within the top-10 of Central Scouting’s North American skaters on the final rankings. That’s potential lottery pick territory. That’s a touch too early for me as I think each have significant questions about their upside at the next level. These two will be very popular amongst teams but it’s a case where there are 20 players I’d prefer to have over them. Should they start falling too much though, then you race to draft them.
Action: Do not draft in the first round.
Rationale: I love his talent. I do not love the Jekyll and Hyde effect he can have. If he had any semblance of consistency, he’s an easy lottery pick. As is though, teams have to weigh the risk and reward of this kind of player who can disappear for long stretches. The start of round two is where I’d feel comfortable. But understand that there are some folks who think he deserves to be a high pick. It’s ultimately up to Trikozov to silence his critics, myself included.
I fully expect each of these players to have long, successful NHL careers. But I hope you see that these are huge decisions teams make when choosing someone to be their first-round pick. Drafting is not an exact science. You have to make the most of the information you have available. That’s what make the NHL Draft so fascinating every year. This year is no different in that regard.
And there you have it, 10 prospects that I would not draft in a certain spot or situation. How wrong am I? How right am I? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment or posting to social media. Which players would you not draft in a certain spot and why? It’s now time for you to sound off.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.