Welcome to my first edition of NHL Draft rankings here at The Hockey Writers. Joining my fellow prospect gurus, Peter Baracchini and Andrew Forbes, my set will round out the trio as we have all released at least one set of rankings this season.
Unlike last year, hockey has been a little more normal when it comes to watching prospects and evaluating their talent. All the leagues have gone off without a hitch, except for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) which will now be cancelling the rest of the regular season and skipping right to the playoffs. The COVID-19 pandemic is still unfortunately a hurdle many teams have to jump over as positive tests have benched players and in some cases postponed games.
The site of the 2022 NHL Draft could also be in jeopardy as provincial restrictions may force Gary Bettman and the NHL to move the festivities to somewhere in the United States or postpone it to later in the year. If that ends up happening, the city of Montreal will have missed out on hosting the draft two years in a row. Last year, the draft was done virtually from the NHL offices in New York for the second straight time. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen and the first-round prospects can fulfill their dream of pulling on an NHL jersey in front of family and friends instead of at home in front of the computer.
Wright Leading the Way With Cooley Nipping At His Heels
Having said all that, let’s get into the rankings. Leading the way is none other than Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs. The two-way dynamo is still the top prospect in this draft regardless of what North American Scouting’s Mark Seidel said in a recent interview with the Toronto Sun (from “TRAIKOS: Why Shane Wright is no longer the top prospect heading into the NHL Entry Draft”, Toronto Sun, 1/20/22). His leadership, hockey IQ, work ethic and complete game are part of a package that every NHL general manager would want to be delivered to them as a first-overall pick. He may not be a generational talent like Connor Bedard and Connor McDavid, but he is someone that will help win you a Stanley Cup one day.
Having said all that, Cooley is catching up to Wright when it comes to the race for being selected first overall. The 5-foot-10 pivot does not have many weaknesses as he can both rack up the points and defend at an elite level. From skating to shooting to hockey IQ, he’s got a bit of everything in his toolbox. As of this writing, he has seven points in his last four United States Hockey League (USHL) games including a three-assist effort against the Muskegon Lumberjacks that also saw him in the penalty box for 15 minutes. So, he’s not afraid to engage in the physical game either. If he was just a little bit bigger, he would be the complete package.
Before Joakim Kemell, there was Brad Lambert. Now there’s just Kemell. Despite Lambert’s impressive performance at the truncated 2022 World Juniors, Kemell is still the man when it comes to Finnish prospects at this year’s draft. In fact, there are some scouts that have him ahead of Wright for first overall. Like Patrik Laine, he has a lethal one-timer on the power play that he often uses to score highlight-reel goals. He is also smart on the forecheck, quick in transition and can make goaltenders look silly with his slick hands and accurate wrist shot. Basically, he’s a natural goalscorer in every sense of the word.
Narrowly missing the cut for the top-three is Winnipeg ICE center, Matthew Savoie. He’s a bit on the small side, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and tenacity. He’s also not afraid to attack the net even though he’s only 5-foot-9. Combine all that with his pinpoint accurate wrist shot, and the NHL might have another Alex Nylander or Brayden Point on their hands.
Rounding out my top five is Slovakian defender Simon Nemec. Like most successful blueliners these days, his strengths lie in his skating, mobility and hockey IQ. He is also a right-shot, which makes him that much more valuable. Throw in the fact that he can defend as well as create offence, he might be the best option when it comes to defenders in this year’s draft class.
As always, my rankings will probably change by the time I expand this list in a couple of months or so. But for now, here are my top-64 prospects for the 2022 Draft.
2022 NHL Entry Draft Rankings
1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2. Logan Cooley, C, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
3. Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
4. Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg ICE (WHL)
5. Simon Nemec, RHD, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
6. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga)
7. Frank Nazar, C/RW, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
8. Brad Lambert, C/RW, JYP (Liiga)
9. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg ICE (WHL)
10. Seamus Casey, RHD, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
11. David Jiricek, RHD, HC Plzen (Czechia)
12. Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
13. Rutger McGroarty, C, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
14. Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
15. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, C, Djurgardens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)
16. Gleb Trikozov, RW, Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
17. Noah Östlund, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)
18. Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)
19. Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK (SHL)
20. Ryan Chesley, RHD, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
21. Filip Mesar, C/W, HK Poprad (Slovakia)
22. Denton Mateychuk, LHD, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
23. Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
24. Ty Nelson, RHD, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
25. Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
26. Isaac Howard, LW, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
27. Cutter Gauthier, C/LW, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
28. Tristan Luneau, RHD, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
29. Elias Salomonsson, RHD, Skellefteå AIK J20 (J20 Nationell)
30. Nathan Gaucher, C, Québec Remparts (QMJHL)
31. Maveric Lamoureux, RHD, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
32. Kevin Korchinski, LHD, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
33. Lian Bichsel, LHD, Leksands IF (SHL)
34. Matthew Seminoff, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
35. Calle Odelius, LHD, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
36. Lane Hutson, LHD, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
37. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
38. Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern University (NCAA)
39. Owen Beck, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
40. Matthew Poitras, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
41. Owen Pickering, LHD, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
42. Mats Lindgren, LHD, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
43. Ludwig Persson, C/LW, Frölunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
44. Mattias Havelid, D, Linkoping HC (SHL)
45. Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
46. Rieger Lorenz, C, Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
47. Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
48. Hunter Haight, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
49. Adam Ingram, F, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
50. Jiri Kulich, C, HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czechia)
51. Matyas Sapovaliv, LW, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
52. Vladimir Grudinin, D, CSKA Moskva (KHL)
53. Jordan Gustafson, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
54. Filip Bystedt, C, Linkoping HC (SHL)
55. Simon Forsmark, D, Orebro HK (SHL)
56. Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
57. Julian Lutz, LW, EHC Munchen (DEL)
58. Jack Devine, RW, University of Denver (NCAA)
59. Artyom Duda, D, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
60. Tomas Hamara, D, KeuPa HT (MESTIS)
61. Paul Ludwinski, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
62. David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
63. Mathew Ward, RW, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
64. Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Vinzenz Rohrer, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL); Viktor Neuchev, F, Avto Yekaterinburg (MHL); Thomas Milic, G, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL); Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, C, HIFK (Liiga); Cruz Lucias, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
2022 Draft Has Its Share of Elite Talent
Everyone is looking forward to the 2023 Draft when generational talents Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov will take center stage. Though, let’s not forget about the 2022 Draft which still houses a ton of talent especially in the pivot and right-shot defence categories. In the top-15 alone, at least in mine, there are seven potential game-breaking top-line centers and two first-pairing right-shot defenders. If that’s not a top 15 to get excited about, I don’t know what is.
As for the rest of the first round, I would keep an eye on another right-shot defender in Seamus Casey (10th) of the United States National Development Program (USNTDP). Watching him, I can’t help but think of Quinn Hughes. There were times that I forgot I was watching Casey instead of him. His skating stride and smooth edges are very similar to his and he’s got great offensive instincts as well. While I don’t think he will usurp Nemec, he might jump up and be selected over Jiricek.
Jumping into the second round, Matthew Seminoff (34th) has caught my eye as someone that could surprise and become a top-six mainstay in the NHL one day. His elite speed and intense forecheck are the first two things that jump off the page, but it’s his overall work ethic that has me excited for the future. His determination and willingness to put in the minutes to get better will serve him well when (not if) he makes it to the NHL. Work ethic is a skill that many people take for granted when looking at a player’s ceiling. It often determines what makes a good player, great, and he is well equipped to become just that someday.
Who has caught your eye early on for the 2022 NHL Draft? Have your say in the comment section.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.