Welcome back to my 2022 NHL Draft rankings.
Back in September, I released my top-32 preseason rankings for the upcoming draft. Since then, there have been a lot more names added to my list and movement over the last few months. With the upcoming World Junior Championship, I thought it would be a good time to have an updated rankings before the tournament.
With prospects being able to play consistently and scouts back in the rink to watch them, it feels as if things are back to normal compared to last year where everything was done virtually. With some draft talent already making preliminary rosters– and even the main roster– for the biggest junior hockey event, there’s a good chance that fans may get a better opportunity to see them play as they continue to impress in their draft year.
Wright Still First, Impressive Top-Five
There are still some familiar names along with some new faces based on the first three months of the season. However, the first overall pick remains unchanged.
Despite a slower than usual start to the 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League season, Shane Wright is still the obvious choice to go first overall. Even though the start wasn’t there, Wright has started to heat up and is above a point per game with 30 in 22 games with the Kingston Frontenacs– putting him 16th overall in the OHL. Others may look at his production as a first overall pick and question whether he’s still worthy of the top spot, but he is.
Wright is a complete package player that excels on both sides of the puck, similar to that of Patrice Bergeron. He has tremendous vision to spot lanes for a pass and has a quick, powerful and accurate shot. He has high-end hockey IQ as he’s always one step ahead of his opponent and an insane work ethic that’ll translate to the NHL level. He has the tools and skillset that teams would love to have when selecting a player first overall.
Simon Nemec takes my number two spot. He has all the makings to be a potential top-pairing defenseman as he has a very refined and strong two-way game. He has excellent vision and mobility with the puck and displays excellent body positioning when he has possession. He has great production this season as he has 11 points (all assists) with HK Nitra.
Nemec can hurt you in transition with his speed and passing as he will always engage and get into attack mode. He can also be a factor defensively as he has great awareness to defend on the rush and has an active stick in order to break up plays. He’s extremely composed and confident with every decision and play that he makes which makes him a top-three, at worst a top-five, pick in this year’s draft.
Matthew Savoie is absolutely tearing up the Western Hockey League as he’s the leader in points (41) and assists (27) as he is my third ranked prospect. After going pointless in three games at the end of October, he has recorded a point in 13 straight games– five of which were three or more.
Savoie displays an excellent skillset and creativity when the puck is on his stick. He plays with a high level of pace and speed that makes him extremely unpredictable to defend against and contain. He can turn on a dime with his edgework and get out of tight situations as he handles the puck with ease. Despite being undersized at 5-foot-9, he’s difficult to knock the puck off of as he has great balance and strength to shield and maintain possession.
Taking the fourth spot is Joakim Kemell as he has been a big riser for me, cracking my top five after being ranked 13th in my preseason rankings. He was on a torrid scoring pace to start his draft year, being a dominant force with JYP in the Liiga. Even though he sustained an injury that forced him to miss about a month, Kemell is just under a point per game with 18 points in 19 games as a 17-year-old playing at the senior level. Despite missing time, he still ranks fourth overall in goals with 12.
Kemell’s greatest strength lies in his shot, especially when on a one-timer opportunity. When he gets open and into shooting mode, that’s when he becomes the most dangerous as he has a powerful and accurate shot from anywhere on the ice. The combination of his smooth skating stride, puck-handling skills and awareness makes him an offensive threat every time he’s on the ice. Look for him to being a major offensive threat for Finland at the World Juniors.
Rounding out my top-five and very likely to be the first American player taken in the draft, is centre Logan Cooley. Cooley has been a leading and dominant force for the National Development Team Program as he currently leads the team in goals (14) and is second overall in points (30).
Cooley possesses a strong two-way game and has the potential to be a very impactful centreman. He’s able to handle top-line minutes and go up against the opposition’s top players. He excels in every part of the game. He’s a very smooth and quick skater, has excellent control with the puck, a great shot and has high end hockey sense on both sides of the puck. He’s capable of making high-end plays at a quick pace or even take the time to make the safe plays.
That’s a breakdown of my top-five, but here is the full list of my top-64 rankings.
1.Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2. Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
3. Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
4. Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
5. Logan Cooley, C, USA U18 (USHL)
6. Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
7. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga)
8. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
9. Brad Lambert, C/RW, JYP (Liiga)
10. Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (MHL)
11. Rutger McGroarty, C, USA U18 (USHL)
12. Frank Nazar, RW, USA U18 (USHL)
13. David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czech)
14. Seamus Casey, D, USA U18 (USHL)
15. Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
16. Isaac Howard, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
17. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
18. Noah Östlund, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
19. Filip Mesar, RW, HK Poprad (Slovakia)
20. Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
21. Jonathan Lekkerimäki, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
22. Elias Salomonsson, D, Skellefteå AIK J20 (Nationell)
23. Ryan Chesley, D, USA U18 (USHL)
24. Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)
25. Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
26. Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
27. Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
28. Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USA U18 (USHL)
29. Bryce McConnell- Barker, C, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
30. Matthew Poitras, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
31. Filip Bystedt, C, Linköping HC J20 (Nationell)
32. Gleb Trikozov, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
33. Simon Forsmark, D, Örebro HK (SHL)
34. Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
35. Paul Ludwinski, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
36. Cutter Gauthier, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
37. Rieger Lorenz, C, Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
38. Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands IF (SHL)
39. Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
40. David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
41. Lane Hutson, D, USA U18 (USHL)
42. Julian Lutz, LW, EHC München (DEL)
43. Hunter Haight, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
44. Calle Odelius, D, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
45. Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
46. Pano Fimis, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
47. Cruz Lucius, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
48. Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
49. Mats Lindgren, D, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
50. Artyom Duda, D, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
51. Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, C, HIFK U20 (SM-sarja)
52. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
53. Mattias Havelid, D, Linköping HC J20 (Nationell)
54. Jiri Kulich, C, HC Karlovy Vary (Czech)
55. Owen Beck, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
56. Tomas Hamara, D, Tappara U20 (SM-sarja)
57. Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern Univ. (NCAA)
58. Spencer Sova, D, Erie Otters (OHL)
59. Matthew Seminoff, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
60. Janni Nyman, LW, Ilves U20 (SM-sarja)
61. Alexander Suzdalev, LW, HV71 J20 (Nationell)
62. Alexander Pelevin, D, Chaika Nizhny Novgorod (MHL)
63. Gavin Hayes, RW, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
64. Arseni Koromyslov, D, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
Antonin Verreault, LW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL), Maddox Flemming, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL), Ludwig Persson, C, Frölunda HC (SHL), Otto Salin, D, HIFK (Liiga), Devin Kaplan, RW, USA U18 (USHL), Justin Cote, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL).
Brad Lambert looked to be a sure bet to challenge Wright for the top spot in this year’s draft. However, his play this season hasn’t been there, leading him to fall just inside my top-10. He has been very inconsistent as he has only five points in 22 games. He earned a spot on Finland’s World Junior team, even though it may have been in jeopardy. However, he still has excellent speed and puck-skills that makes him a threat offensively. The hope is that he’s able to turn it around otherwise he could see a similar situation that Aatu Räty went through in 2021.
Considering that there was no OHL season in 2020-21, North Bay Battalion defender Ty Nelson definitely doesn’t look like the missed time affected his play. Previously 28th on my preseason rankings, Nelson has been a standout in his draft year. Despite being a smaller defender at 5-foot-10, he definitely plays a bigger game with great energy, intensity and work ethic. He currently sits fifth among OHL defensemen with 20 points in 24 games.
He has great physical strength, situational awareness, excellent speed to join and lead the rush and is always a shooting threat from the blueline as he has great power in his shot. He’s an exciting player that I’ve kept an eye on with the Jr. Canadiens in the GTHL and he’s definitely making a case to be taken as a first rounder.
Along with Nemec and Slafkovsky, Mesar could very well make it a hat-trick in terms of Slovak players being drafted not only in the first-round, but within the top-20. He was just inside my top-32, but he’s continued to impress throughout the season.He’s always in high gear and plays with a high level of pace. He has quick hands and strong awareness to spot his teammates with a perfect, crisp pass. He was a major standout for Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with eight points in five games and will be relied heavily at the World Juniors.
Who has caught your eye early on for the 2022 NHL Draft? Have your say in the comment section.
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.