The 2022 NHL Draft is upon us and while Shane Wright is the odds-on favorite (according to Draft Kings Sportsbook) to be selected first overall, prospect pundits are not so sure as some have Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley going ahead of him. In the end, it will be the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Canadiens alone, that know for sure who they are going to choose. Unless they trade the pick away, which is pretty unlikely at this point.
So without further ado, after pitting the two best defenders in this class against each other in the first draft showdown, let’s do the same with the two best pivots in Wright and Cooley. Let the battle begin!
The Case for Shane Wright
Wright has been discussed as being the number one pick in 2022 for a few years now, and for good reason. His combination of size, leadership, and two-way skill has been marveled at since he ripped up the U16 leagues with the Don Mills Flyers AAA team to the tune of 97 goals and 222 points in only 105 games. Since then, all he’s done is dominate the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Kingston Frontenacs where he already has 71 goals and 160 points in 121 games. That includes a career-high 32 goals and 94 points during his draft year in 2021-22. Oh, yes, he also captained Team Canada at the 2021 U18 World Championship where he finished with nine goals and 14 points in five games while sporting a plus-12 in the plus/minus column.
Wright may not have destroyed the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) like Sidney Crosby did in 2004-05, but his skill set is just as worthy of first-overall, despite the “pedestrian” numbers.
“Wright is a highly skilled and very responsible two-way center that possesses an offensive flare. The one thing that stands out immediately in his game is high level hockey IQ and decision making. He has a keen eye as he thinks and reads the game at a quick pace, being able to make snap decisions and catch his opponent off-guard, while rarely making a mistake in the process. Every decision he makes, it’s always the right one.” – Peter Baracchini, The Hockey Writers
Wright is also a great skater with a lethal wrist shot and silky-smooth hands. Basically, he can do it all, both on the ice and off of it, as his leadership and intangibles are just as elite as his skills in all zones of the rink.
The Case for Logan Cooley
Then, we have Cooley, Wright’s American counterpart and near-clone in terms of skill set and playing style. Similar to his Canadian twin, he dominated his respective league with a combined 40 goals and 111 points in 75 games split between the U.S. National U18 Team and the USNTDP Juniors in the United States Hockey League (USHL). He also was a prominent piece of his country’s entry at the U18s where he put together three goals and 10 points in six games en route to a silver medal.
A two-way monster if there ever was one, Cooley has the potential to be a dominant top-line center that won’t only match up against the best of the best, but also be part of the group the other team has to shut down. Think of a smaller Ryan O’Reilly, Patrice Bergeron or Anze Kopitar. The coach that gets the privilege of coaching him in the NHL won’t think twice about throwing him out in any and all situations. That’s how mature and sound his overall game is. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see him play some games in the big leagues this coming season.
Here is an excerpt from his prospect profile that I wrote in March:
“Cooley’s hands, playmaking and explosive skating make him a perpetual threat as he can skate the puck into the attacking zone or pass it to an onrushing winger for a scoring chance. He also has a wicked wrist shot which he uses often on the power play and of course on the rush when he blows past the opposition with his speed.
“There are not many weaknesses to Cooley’s game as he is as well-rounded as they come. The only thing that may hold him back is his size, but even that shouldn’t matter too much when he makes it to the NHL. He’s just too smart and shifty to have that be the thing that holds him back. Throw in his work ethic and never-quit mentality, and his lack of size should be rendered almost moot when it comes to being a weakness.”
Related: THW’s FREE 2022 NHL Draft Guide
All in all, the Canadiens, New Jersey Devils or Arizona Coyotes will be getting a pivot that will anchor their team’s top line, power play and penalty kill for the next decade. He might even win a few Stanley Cups along the way too.
Wright & Cooley: Side-By-Side Comparison
Similar to Simon Nemec and David Jiricek, Wright and Cooley have a lot of the same attributes. I’m not really sure a side-by-side comparison will help make the decision on who wins this showdown, but here it is anyway (courtesy of their THW prospect profiles):
|Shane Wright||Logan Cooley|
|Strengths||Strong two-way game|
Strong playmaking abilities
Powerful Wrist shot
Great work ethic
|Under Construction||Offensive consistency||Size|
As you can see from the above table, there’s not much that separates this duo of two-way behemoths. In fact, you really can’t go wrong with picking either of them. As such, this will be an interesting battle to watch unfold over the next few seasons.
Almost as tough as the Nemec and Jiricek showdown – may be even tougher actually – this battle will come down to intangibles. Considering his leadership skills and the fact that he’s 6-foot-1 compared to 5-foot-10, this one goes to Wright in a photo finish that required multiple looks to determine the winner. They are just so similar that we had to go down to the smallest of details. In the end, they both will become superstars in the NHL at some point. But for the sake of this exercise, it’s the Burlington, Ontario native that comes away with the win this time.
Who would you choose if you were a GM faced with the decision between Wright and Cooley? Let us know in the comments!
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.