It’s hard to believe that this is my first official prospect rankings for the 2022 NHL Draft, but this is in fact it.
It’s been another wild year – both on and off the ice – and for some a little bit refreshing having small sliver of normalcy back in the hockey world. At least most of the junior ranks got their seasons started this year – with the CHL, and most notably the OHL, finally getting some hockey played. That alone has added more stock to the players vying for a spot in this year’s NHL Draft, and has given analysts and scouts a better idea of what they’re getting this time around.
Still, with the IIHF World Junior Championship now cancelled (or postponed), what better time to get my official top-64 New Years rankings out having had a small taste of what some of these players have to offer?
While things will surely change over the next month or so now is a better time than ever for fans to get a good look at the next crop of talent that could see themselves in the NHL someday. And for me, at least for now, Canada is leading the charge in 2022.
Wright, Savoie Have Canada Leading the Charge
Seeing as this is my first rankings released this year, I should mention that the number one spot is likely an unanimous choice for many around the hockey world. Shane Wright. He’s been projected there for a number of years and remains the likely candidate to go number one.
While last season was obviously a write-off for the 17-year-old with the OHL shutdown thanks to COVID, Wright’s kicked off the 2021-22 season with 11 goals and 30 points in 22 games as the captain of the Kingston Frontenacs.To have those numbers following a year off in which there was so much uncertainty surrounding the league and the game, shows just how complete Wright is as a player. He’s dynamic and can contribute in multiple ways regardless of the situation.
Like this season, Wright was off to a slow start at the World Juniors prior to its cancellation and it caused some to question whether or not he’s still the consensus pick atop this year’s draft. Let’s put it this way – yes, he is. After all, this is a tournament of top prospects from around the world with Canada being one of the strongest year in and year out. While he wasn’t a top offensive dog on that team, yet, he contributed in other ways and that should be considered when discussing his game this season and the couple of games he played at the tournament.
Matthew Savoie rounds out my top two picks and top two Canadian prospects in 2022. Savoie is playing out west with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice following a year that saw him play with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders and USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2020-21.
To start they year, he may not have been my second overall pick in this draft, but his 17 goals and 51 points in 32 games this season for the Ice has changed the complexion of my top five – Savoie making some real noise as a potential top prospect in the process.
To give you an idea of just how dominant he’s been in the WHL this seasons, he ranks first in assists (34) and points (51) and sits second behind only Jake Neighbours in points per 60 minutes (1.59).
His consistent play is nothing new to those who’ve watched him over the years. In fact, Savoie – like Wright – has been a highly-touted prospect over the years because of his work ethic and the way he sees the ice.
He’s a hard-nosed center that finds seams in the offensive zone and plays a solid two-way game which makes him such impressive player and part of the reason why most mock drafts should see him somewhere in the top five – if not the top three.
Even with not cracking Canada’s World Junior team, Savoie still has 13 points over his last 10 contests and seven over his last five. He’s got something to prove and that could separate him as the number two overall in 2022 if it continues.
From Canada to the U.S., Logan Cooley sits in the third spot in my rankings. While he’s committed to Notre Dame of the NCAA next season, Cooley has impressed with the U.S. National Development Program with 30 points in 20 games and another eight points through seven USHL games with the program.
Behind Wright and Savoie, Cooley could be one of the better puck handlers in the game and it gives him the ability to control the pace of play. That, along with his skating, opens up a number of possibilities for him when he possesses the puck. As for his two-way game, Cooley’s performed well at both ends, being a force in his own end and find ways to turn the puck back up ice quickly when opportunities present themselves.
Like Wright, he was chosen to represent his country at the World Juniors and played well prior to the tournament being cancelled.
As for top-end scorers, Joakim Kemell should be considered an incredibly skilled goal scorer and the top Finn in this year’s draft. He currently slots in fourth in my rankings, but likely has teams’ interest peaked already with his 12 goals and 18 points in 21 Liiga games with JYP.
He’s tied for sixth in Liiga goal scoring and has proven that he can be a go-to option for his club having averaged just under 17 minutes per game through 21 games this season. His speed is explosive and his ability to drive the play is unlike many around him. He’s a finisher by trade and he’s not afraid to go into the tough areas on the ice to help generate chances. Don’t sleep on Kemell, he could develop into quite a dangerous option for someone.
Rounding out my top five spots is Danila Yurov who, while he’s struggled in 21 games in the KHL this season, can still be a force for a team out there. In six games in the MHL he had three goals and 12 points – it just hasn’t translated to the next level yet.
I may be a little high on Yurov’s overall abilities, but I think he’s going to make a solid power forward at the NHL level. He protects the puck well and the strength he has in the lower half should help him develop in the right situation. For him, only time will tell.
While that’s all I have for you when it comes to my top five, here’s a full look at my top-64 prospect rankings for the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft.
Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Logan Cooley, C, USA U18 (USHL)
Joakim Kemell, LW, JYP (Liiga)
Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Simon Nemec, RHD, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS Turku (Slovakia)
Frank Nazar III, C, USA U18 (USHL)
Brad Lambert, LW, JYP (Liiga)
Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (MHL)
David Jiricek, RHD, HC Plzen (Extraliiga)
Seamus Casey, RHD, USA U18 (USHL)
Filip Mesar, LW, HK Poprad (Slovakia)
Isaac Howard, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
Denton Mateychuk, LHD, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)
Noah Östlund, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
Tristan Luneau, RHD, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Ty Nelson, RHD, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Rutger McGroarty, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
Ryan Chesley, RHD, USA U18 (USHL)
Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
Pavel Mintyukov, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Gleb Trikozov, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
Elias Salomonsson, RHD, Skellefteå AIK J20 (Nationell)
Cutter Gauthier, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
Paul Ludwinski, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Simon Forsmark, LHD, Örebro (SHL)
Filip Bystedt, C, Linköping HC J20 (Nationell)
Lane Hutson, LHD, USA U18 (USHL)
Calle Odelius, LHD, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
Lian Bichsel, LHD, Leksands IF (SHL)
Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Matthew Poitras, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USA U18 (USHL)
Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern University (NCAA)
Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Kevin Korchinski, LHD, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Owen Pickering, LHD, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Jirí Kulich, C, HC Karlovy Vary (Czech)
Mats Lindgren, LHD, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Mattias Hävelid, RHD, Linköping HC J20 (Nationell)
Rieger Lorenz, C, Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Julian Lutz, LW, EHC Müchen (DEL)
Hunter Haight, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Pano Fimis, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Jani Nyman, LW, Ilves U20 (SM-sarja)
Cruz Lucius, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
Alexander Suzdalev, LW, HV71 J20 (Nationell)
Devin Kaplan, RW, USA U18 (USHL)
Michael Buchinger, LHD, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Maveric Lamoureaux, RHD, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Vladimir Grudinin, LHD, CSKA Moskow (KHL)
Artyom Duda, LHD, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
Tyler Duke, LHD, USA U18 (USHL)
Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, C, HIFK U20 (SM-sarja)
Gavin Hayes, RW, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
Owen Beck, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Tomas Hamara, LHD, Tappara U20 (SM-sarja); Ludwig Persson, C/LW, Frölunda HC (SHL); Spencer Sova, LHD, Erie Otters (OHL); Jack Devine, RW, University of Denver (NCAA); Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
With more hockey being played, we’ve had the opportunity to see a little more of these prospects over what we had to judge last year’s draft eligible players. As such, there’s more diversity in leagues for this year’s top 64 – with some coming out of Slovakian leagues while we get the usual suspects out of the CHL and U.S. Development Program.
Now, some had Ivan MIroshnichenko ranked as a top five pick early in the year and rightfully so. He had a hot start in the VHL, but a slight dip in production consistency has his name a little lower going into the new calendar year. That’s just how volatile these rankings can be. However, a quick fall can also mean a quick climb and Miroshnichenko shouldn’t be counted out just yet as a potential top-five pick in 2022.
He can skate. He has the size and uses his body to engage physically at times. Add to that his heavy shot and he’ll have teams knocking on his door early in this draft.
Keep an eye on Owen Beck as the OHL forward was just bumped up by NHL Central Scouting to an A rating along with Matyas Sapovaliv. Beck – another sizeable centre – has 11 goals and 24 points in 27 games for the Steelheads and sits second in rookie scoring in the OHL next too Ty Nelson, who should also make some noise this draft.
While he does sit at the end of the second round right now, Beck has the potential to move up the list and earn himself higher recognition come draft day. Still, regardless of where he’s drafted, Beck will hear his name called at some point and this is just the beginning for all the players taken in this year’s selection process.
Missing anyone you’ve got your eye on this season for the 2022 NHL Draft? Be sure to get involved in the conversation in the comments below.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.