As we continue with the draft content here at The Hockey Writers, it’s time for the annual tradition of where we get our writing team involved and take part in the writer’s mock draft.
Similar to last year, we got together with our team and they made their selections through two rounds. This post will cover the first-round and the second-round will be posted at a later date. I will also be giving my thoughts on each selection on why the writer made that pick. Enough of the chatter, let’s get into the results of our first-round mock draft!
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Note: At the time that this mock draft started, the top-16 is set based on the draft lottery results and place holder positions before the start of the second round of the playoffs. Positioning may have already changed and will continue to change after this post is published.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Shane Wright – C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
THW Writer: Blain Potvin
The Canadiens entered the draft with a need for speed, offence, skill and size. They didn’t try to galaxy brain things to start the draft off. With Wright, the Canadiens will be adding a strong 200-foot player who can impact the game, play a leadership role and display a high hockey IQ, all aspects of the game the Canadiens are looking for in a prospect. The best all-around prospect with the potential to have the largest impact is Shane Wright. So, they pick him. Add Wright to Suzuki and the Canadiens top-six looks to have two really intelligent, defensively capable centers who could both become point per game players.
With their first overall selection since Doug Wickenheiser in 1980, this comes as no surprise that the Canadiens should take Wright. Despite the early season struggles and inconsistencies to his game, Wright went on an absolute tear offensively in the second half. For an 18-year-old to already possess excellent IQ and awareness, you know you have a great prospect on your hands. He’s not going to be the next Connor McDavid, but he’s successful in his own right as a reliable two-way centreman that can still hurt you offensively with his shot and playmaking abilities.
2. New Jersey Devils: Juraj Slafkovsky – LW, TPS (Liiga)
THW Writer: Alex Chauvancy
If I were the Devils’ GM, my pick would be Logan Cooley in this spot. But I’m not, and unless Slafkovsky goes first overall, I don’t see a world where the Devils pass on him. I wouldn’t call Slafkovsky a reach at second overall, but there’s surely some risk given his boom or bust potential. With that said, it’s hard not to see the upside with him. He’s made noticeable improvements in his game, and it’s rare to see a player with his skill at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He gets the Mikko Rantanen comparison quite a bit, but I think that’s unfair. He seems closer to a Valeri Nichushkin-type or Jesse Puljujärvi but with more scoring upside. It’s a bet on upside for sure, but it could pay off if the Devils continue developing their prospects as they have over the last couple of years. If it does pay off, he could play first-line minutes alongside Jack Hughes.
While you would love to have a centre depth of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Logan Cooley, there’s more of a need for a big-body and skilled power forward. Imagine a top line of Hughes, Slafkovsky and Alexander Holtz? The power Slafkovsky has in his stride, shot, play along the boards and ability to attack the middle of the ice makes him a very impactful player. The way that he has performed at senior level tournaments like the Olympics– where he was named MVP– the World Hockey Championships and improvement in his overall play, he definitely made a case to be a top-two player.
3. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley – C, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Andrew Forbes
With Wright and Slafkovsky off the table, Logan Cooley was the best choice for the Coyotes. He’s smaller when it comes to size up the middle, but his skill trumps any of the old storylines regarding how big you have to be to play in the NHL. He had 75 points in 51 games with the U.S. U18 team and 36 points in 24 games with the development program in the USHL and there was next to no slowing him down. Add to that his ability in the face-off circle and his persistence in his own end and Cooley will sure up the Coyotes at center for years to come.
Like the first two picks, this is a no brainer. Like Wright, Cooley plays a very reliable and sound two-way game although with just a touch more creativity and physicality. He’s a great skater with strong edges and soft hands. When going through a rebuild, the top priority should be a top tier centreman. Cooley checks off all the boxes that they need in order to kick things off and put together a competitive team for the future.
4. Seattle Kraken: David Jiříček – RD, HC Plzen (Cezchia)
THW Writer: Adam Kierszenblat
The Seattle Kraken will need to make the tough decision between Simon Nemec and David Jiříček. In the end, they should go with Jiříček. Not only does he have a higher ceiling, he fits their scheme better. Although he is known for his defensive presence, he can bring some offense. He has a powerful shot and his skating ability allows him to move along the blueline to get in a better position. In the defensive zone, he can use his big frame to lean on players and steal the puck while then transitioning the play from offense to defence. Overall, he is a solid defenseman that will make the Kraken better.
After taking a top line centreman in Matty Beniers in 2021, the Kraken add a defenseman with top pairing potential fourth overall. Jiricek plays a high octane and in your face game as he has everything that you want in a defenseman. He’s strong in transition and on the rush, displays great mobility and has a powerful shot from the point. Defensively, he has great gap control but still needs to work on his positioning and pinches. As the Kraken continue to obtain draft picks, they’re building for the future. Getting Jiricek here is another great step in that direction.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: Simon Nemec – RD, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
THW Writer: Colin Newby
Nemec was the best choice for the Philadelphia Flyers with the fifth-overall pick as the most talented player left on the board who also aligns with a need that the organization has been unable to address in their recent history. The 6-foot-1 defenseman would bring an all-around game to the blue line in Philadelphia for a team that has struggled to move the puck out of their own end over the past two seasons. He has also demonstrated an active stick and an ability to force turnovers in the defensive zone. His professional experience in Slovakia will help him transition to the NHL quickly. The timeline provides an incentive for a team looking to move back into contention without a long-term rebuild like several other teams picking at the top of the draft.
Personally, I think Nemec is the top defender in the draft. The Flyers struggled defensively this season, so to say they could use some help on defense is an understatement as they draft one of the top defenders. With Nemec, the Flyers now have a potential top pairing defender for the future that’s already keeping up with men at the senior level in Slovakia. He is extremely mobile, shows great confidence when leading a rush and possesses a very sound defensive game getting into lanes and does a great job to keep opponents to the outside. While his reads could be a bit better, he possesses a steady overall game that will benefit the Flyers.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Chicago Blackhawks): Matthew Savoie – C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
THW Writer: Mark Scheig
With both top defensemen off the board, the Blue Jackets turn their attention back to center ice. In Savoie, they continue their recent trend of adding players with high-end skill as they continue to add to their future core. As one of the most skilled and dynamic players in this draft, Savoie instantly becomes their top prospect who has yet to appear in the NHL. He and Kent Johnson could be one of the most dynamic duos in the league in a few year’s time.
The Blue Jackets added an extremely crafty and skilled player in Kent Johnson fifth overall in 2021, they doubled down and select Savoie sixth overall. He has soft hands and has the ability to dictate the pace of the game extremely well. He’s great along the boards and his skating and speed allows him to cut out and power through to the middle of the ice for an opportunity. The Blue Jackets are going with skill and Savoie has an abundance of it.
7. Ottawa Senators: Jonathan Lekkerimäki – C, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
THW Writer: Dayton Reimer
The Senators have several holes that need to be filled before they can compete for a playoff position, and if they decide to hold on to their pick, few prospects fit better with the organization than Lekkerimäki. The speedy right wing scores goals in droves, and in Sweden’s U20 league, only teammate Liam Öhgren had a higher goal-per-game than him. He also has incredible vision and can capitalize on his opponent’s mistakes to create scoring opportunities. Most importantly for Ottawa, however, is his ability to finish a play. Future all-star Tim Stutzle took some big steps forward this season but suffered from constantly shifting lines. Putting someone like Lekkerimäki on his wing could create a dangerous duo on the Senators’ second line, making him the best choice available in this draft.
As if the Senators weren’t already lethal up front, they add one of the best shooters in the draft class in Lekkerimäki. He excels at finding the open ice and releasing his strong and accurate shot. When you give him time to set up, that is trouble for defending players. Even when he doesn’t have a good lane to attack, he takes the time to curl back and assess his options. The patience and deception make him extremely lethal every time he’s on the ice.
8. Detroit Red Wings: Marco Kasper – C, Rögle (SHL)
THW Writer: Devin Little
Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is no stranger to surprising people on the draft floor. People scratched their heads when Moritz Seider went sixth overall in 2019, and plenty of jaws were on the floor when Yzerman made Sebastian Cossa the first goaltender off the board with the 15th overall in the 2021 draft. While Marco Kasper does not immediately jump out as the best player available, would it be all that surprising if a player like him became one of the draft’s best in a few years? This year while playing against men in the SHL, the Austrian center produced 11 points in 46 games. With a solid foundation to build on including great speed, strong awareness at both ends of the ice, and a willingness to muck it up in the corners, Kasper projects to be a do-it-all center at the NHL level. The goal of this mock draft is to embody our team’s drafting tendencies, so while this maybe isn’t the player I would take at eighth overall, I can easily see this being the type of player Detroit targets with their first pick.
Seider selection 2.0? It certainly feels like it. As Devin mentions, no one expected the Seider selection and look how well it’s benefiting the Red Wings now as he’s a Calder finalist. Even though Kasper’s production this season was low, it’s still impressive as an 18-year-old at the senior level. A responsible and competitive centreman, he plays with a high level of energy and has a great work ethic. He’s a really strong skater with great speed and he does everything well in all aspects of the game. Given how he could be in the 15-20 range, it’s a surprise, but it makes sense given the history.
9. Buffalo Sabres: Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
THW Writer: Matthew Zator
With the twin-towers of Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power leading their blue line for the next decade coupled with the departure of Jack Eichel, the Buffalo Sabres need forwards, specifically top-line forwards. They get one of those with Finnish sniper Joakim Kemell. A goal scorer through and through, he will add an instant threat to any line he is put on. Whether it be with Dylan Cozens or Peyton Krebs in the future, he might become as lethal as Thomas Vanek one day. Once thought of in the same vein as Shane Wright and Logan Cooley for the top-three, the Sabres were happy to see him still available at ninth.
This is a pick that the Sabres shouldn’t pass up on if they have the chance. As Matthew pointed out, the Sabres are set on the left side of defense with Power and Dahlin. They have two promising centres in Cozens and Krebs and Jack Quinn on the wing along with JJ Peterka. Add in a pure sniper and offensive threat in Kemell to an already balanced group gives the Sabres an abundance of wealth up front.
10. Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Korchinski, LD, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
THW Writer: Alex Hobson
After the Ducks established themselves as one of the most exciting young up-and-coming teams in hockey with talent like Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, and Jamie Drysdale on display, I have them adding to the crop with a left-handed defenseman in Kevin Korchinski. The Saskatoon native finished the Western Hockey League season with 65 points in 67 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds, and only had four goals, which can be taken as a playmaking strength or a goal scoring weakness. Either way, Korchinski’s job won’t be scoring goals, and if his development goes smoothly, he could develop into a top-4 defenseman. He would join Drysdale as well as 2021 second round pick Olen Zellweger in a talented pool of young defensemen in the Ducks’ system.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft’s 10 Big Risers
Korchinski has taken the scouting community by storm as he’s continued to impress all season, gaining a lot of fans including myself. The one thing that sticks out is his play making abilities as his assist tally shows. Whether it’s on the rush, a long breakout pass or connecting on give-and-go’s, the play is always starting with him. While he’s a factor offensively, he does a great job in taking lanes away and has good gap control defensively. Having a strong puck mover and defensively sound defender on the back end is a great pickup for the Ducks.
11. San Jose Sharks: Pavel Mintyukov, LD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
THW Writer: Devin Little
With the likes of Daniil Gushchin, Brandon Coe and, of course, William Eklund already in the Sharks’ prospect pool, the quality of their defensive pool pales in comparison. By adding Mintyukov, the Sharks get a left-handed defenseman that plays an aggressive offensive game from the blue line. When he activates in the offensive zone, he’s almost like a power forward on the ice, similar to what the Sharks have enjoyed for years now with Brent Burns. Mintyukov’s game still has some maturing to do, and he’ll likely need a couple of years before really announcing himself as an NHLer. With that said, he addresses a big need in their prospect pool and could become a pillar of their franchise as they head into a new era.
With the uncertainty of Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns being part of this team’s future, why not look ahead and draft the top ranked defenseman from the Ontario Hockey League? Mintyukov plays a high-octane game as a result of his skating, agility and offensive mindset. He’s still raw defensively, but he has done a great job to improve with his decision making and positioning. Once he develops, he could be a steady two-way defender.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ivan Miroshnichenko – LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
THW Writer: Mark Scheig
By this point in the draft, you draft the best available player, period. In Miroshnichenko, the Blue Jackets do just that. His situation is well documented. He will need time to recover from his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but they’re not drafting someone for immediate help. They’re thinking of their future. Once thought of as a slam dunk top-10 pick, the Blue Jackets couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome him to the fold. The reward outweighs the risk especially given that this is their second first-round pick. The last two drafts will be remembered for a long time if this is how it works out.
Miroshnichenko’s strength and NHL caliber goal scoring abilities alone make him a top pick. With his diagnosis, that might change his draft positioning. First and foremost, it is curable as it was the same diagnosis that Mario Lemieux had. Second, as Mark mentioned, the Blue Jackets would be thinking ahead. He has time to recover and get his strength back as he would be a great offensive powerhouse on the wing. A Patrik Laine 2.0? To take that chance on him with their second pick in the first round is a good one.
13. New York Islanders: Brad Lambert – C, Pelicans (Liiga)
THW Writer: Logan Horn
I have the Islanders selecting Brad Lambert at 13, following the example that they set out last year when they drafted Finnish forward Aatu Räty in the second-round after he fell down the draft board in his draft season. For the last several years Lambert has been viewed by many as a lock for the top-five in the 2022 draft, but his lack of production in the Liiga this year has seen him lose favour among talent evaluators. Lambert flashed his potential in two dominant performances at this year’s World Junior Championship before it was cancelled, and he returned to the Liiga. He has shown that he can dominate against his age-group but needs to show growth at the professional level next season to become a true blue-chip prospect. Lambert has real star-potential and would have a better chance to flourish with a team like the Islanders who are in no rush to get him to the NHL.
The Islanders take advantage of another Finnish player that dropped as a result of poor production. No doubt, Lambert is the biggest risk of this draft. Once viewed as a top-two prospect, Lambert’s draft year has been one of just not finding his footing at the senior level, not getting his opportunities and being on a poor team. And he knows that this was a tough season. He still has great upside as he possesses the smarts, hands, speed and drive of a player that should go in the top-five. Once he regains his confidence, lookout.
14. Winnipeg Jets: Conor Geekie – C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
THW Writer: Dayton Reimer
There arguably isn’t an NHL team more familiar with Geekie than the Jets, so, with teammate Matthew Savoie already gone, it makes sense for the Jets to grab the big 6-foot-4 center from the Winnipeg ICE. He’s been one of the most productive draft prospects in the Canadian Hockey League with 70 points in 68 games, plus another 10 points in 12 playoff games. At one point, he was considered a lock for the top-10, but some have cooled on him a bit due to concerns over his skating. However, if he can add a bit more mobility, he’ll be a great fit for a big Jets roster.
If there was a team to take a swing on Geekie, I had a feeling it would be the Jets. They have shown to like big and skilled players, like acquiring Pierre- Luc Dubois. While not as physical, Geekie does a great job to use his size to his advantage, protecting the puck very well and combining that with his hands to make moves in tight spaces. His skating is still a work in progress. Drafting Chaz Lucius 18th overall in 2021, they look to have strong centre tandem with Geekie as a potential second line centreman.
15. Vancouver Canucks: Denton Mateychuk – LD, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
THW Writer: Matthew Zator
The Canucks need almost everything in their prospect pool right now with most of their high-end talent having graduated to the NHL. Their biggest being on defence with Quinn Hughes as the only elite blueliner currently in their system. So, I was ecstatic to see an offensive dynamo like the Moose Jaw Warriors Denton Mateychuk still available at 15. Leading his team with 13 goals and 64 points, his vision, mobility and hockey IQ rival some of the best in this draft. Despite the Canucks needing help on the right-side most of all, the otherworldly offensive instincts he has were just too tantalizing to pass up. Hughes and Mateychuk anchoring the top-four will be deadly for the opposition in a few years. All they need now is a pair of Chris Tanev’s to round it out.
I probably would’ve taken a forward, but I can see the need for another defender on the backend for the Canucks. Although the way that Mateychuk plays, he kind of acts as one already. He’s always active on the rush and is always moving around in the offensive zone. He’s extremely dynamic, but he’s a big risk taker with his decisions. If he can slightly improve in that regard then the Canucks have a lethal dynamic duo that can carry the offense on defense.
16. Buffalo Sabres (via Vegas Golden Knights): Frank Nazar – C/RW, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Matthew Zator
With their second first-round pick of the 2022 Draft, the Sabres continue to add offence and depth to their forward group with Frank Nazar. Probably one of the most well-rounded prospects in this year’s draft class, he will, as Patrick Brown put it in his prospect profile, “likely find himself in the NHL sooner, rather than later.” Known for his vision, speed and knack for scoring goals, he models his game after Brayden Point and Patrice Bergeron, two of the best two-way players in the league. If becomes even half as good as them, I think the Sabres will take it as they continue to bolster a prospect pool that is quickly becoming the envy of the NHL.
If getting Kemell ninth overall was a great selection, the Sabres drafting Nazar before he drops any further is. His skillset and ability to play with a quick pace alone should make him a highly sought-after prospect. Many rankings, including here at THW, are high on Nazar with his talent and smarts. Once again, the Sabres did well to add another skilled player to their prospect pipeline.
17. Nashville Predators: Cutter Gauthier – C/LW, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Shawn Wilken
Heading into this year’s draft, the thought process behind who the Nashville Predators should target was an impact player up front. The prospect pool has a few solid names coming along, like Zachary L’Heureux and Luke Evangelista, but they could use some extra firepower. Cutter Gauthier brings an element the Predators sorely need for their future; a dependable power forward. He brings the physicality that fits in well with Nashville’s brand of hockey, and he’s comfortable playing wherever the coach puts him in the lineup. With how much scoring potential this team has for the future, and the 2022 NCAA defensive forward of the year in Jachym Kondelik, the prospect pool is one to be reckoned with.
The Predators are going to be fun to watch. With Evangelista and L’Heureux as top prospects plus Fydor Svehckov, you add in Cutter Gauthier to the mix and you have a great balance of skill, power and strength. Gauthier is smart positionally as he’s responsible in all three zones with his decision making and intensity to gain possession. With Phil Tomasino graduating to the NHL, the future continues to look bright for the Predators.
18. Dallas Stars: Liam Öhgren – LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Naionell)
THW Writer: Devin Little
After adding the likes of Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven in last year’s draft, the Stars continue to build their offense of the future by adding one of the most well-rounded players in the 2022 draft: Liam Öhgren. With a future top-six they project to feature those three as well as Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, few teams possess the kind of firepower the Stars look to have. Öhgren is the type of player that you can plug into almost any role and he will find ways to be effective. He has the skill to be a top-six scorer, he can make plays with the best of them, and he has a strong work ethic that any coach could appreciate. At his peak, he’ll play on both the power play and the penalty kill, and he’ll log big-time minutes as one of his team’s most trustworthy players. The rich get richer with a pick like this, but the Stars and their fans surely won’t complain.
Nothing will beat Johnston at 23rd overall in 2021, but this might be up there. I’m a big fan of Öhgren’s game as he plays with a high level of pace and has a great compete level, excelling in any situation. He’s extremely skilled as he can be a strong playmaker, while also being a sharp shooter with his lightning quick release. His head is always moving and always appears to be one step ahead of his opponent. The Stars can complete a top line for the future with this selection.
19. Los Angeles Kings: Lian Bichsel – LD, Leksands IF (SHL)
THW Writer: Austin Stanovich
The Kings are in need of a big, left-shot defenseman in their pipeline, and they get that player in Lian Bichsel. The 6-foot-5, Swiss defensemen put together an impressive season in Sweden and checks a lot of boxes for the Kings. A physically imposing player with decent mobility for his size, a good first pass, and a booming shot from the point. I was picking between Bichsel and Owen Pickering for this spot, but Bichsel’s added physicality gave him the edge. He has genuine top-four potential and would fit perfectly on the Kings’ blue line.
This pick kind of threw me off, but I love it. If the Kings didn’t have a strong enough defense core with Brock Faber, Brandt Clarke, Helge Grans and Jordan Spence, Bichsel solidifies it. They have a great balance on defense and having the two-way, physical presence with Bichsel makes them much deeper. He moves extremely well for his size and isn’t fun to go up against. Although I have him lower in my rankings, this is still a great spot to select him.
20. Washington Capitals: Danila Yurov – RW, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
THW Writer: Mark Scheig
The Capitals stay patient through the early draft process and a top prospect in Yurov falls to them at 20. He would be a great fit given his skating and skill set coupled with being able to learn from the great Alex Ovechkin. While there is some question about his overall production, there’s not much question about his upside. He projects to become the latest prospect that will ultimately become a top-six forward in DC.
Pretty surprised to see Yurov fall as much as he did. Yes, he didn’t produce in the KHL, but when given the ice time and opportunity, he’s an extremely dangerous playmaker. He has explosive speed and a smooth skating stride in transition and he has no problem taking the puck and going end to end. He’s very shifty with his movements and displays excellent hands in tight spaces. With Hendrix Lapierre still in the system, Yurov would give the Capitals another high-end player with great skill.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Jagger Firkus – RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
THW Writer: Mark Scheig
It’s not often a team drafting in the backend of the first round gets the opportunity to land one of the most dynamic offensive players available in the draft.
The Penguins do just that in drafting Firkus. He instantly becomes their top prospect and could ultimately find his way to a spot on Sidney Crosby’s wing near the end of his career. His creativity and skill will help quiet some of the questions about his size and strength.
Mark describes Firkus perfectly– dynamic. He has the skillset and shot to be an extremely dangerous scorer in the NHL. He’s extremely feisty when battling for the puck and knows how to make himself open. His play style is very reminiscent to that of Jake Guentzel, who was once undersized and turned out to be a great shooter. He could look to add some more weight, but he has the potential to be a difference maker with his upside.
22. Edmonton Oilers: Isaac Howard – LW, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Eugene Helfrick
When you look at Isaac Howard’s play over the last few seasons, you see a player who could be a perfect fit for the Edmonton Oilers in two to three years. Sure, he is a bit undersized, but the 5-foot-10 forward is an offensive playmaker with a great shot and fantastic skating ability. Not only that, but he plays well above his frame, laying down hits and getting his nose dirty along the boards. Also, as a commit to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he will have up to four seasons to refine his game playing at one of the top hockey universities in the United States.
Howard was an offensive dynamo at the World U18 Championship. Although, I think he could be drafted higher after his performance, the Oilers getting him in the late stages of the first-round is an excellent pick up. Much like 2020 first-round pick Dylan Holloway, Howard plays with a high level of energy and speed as opponents try to keep up with his movements and reads. When the puck is on his stick, it’s hard to contain him as he’s so quick, utilizing all areas of the ice. Imagine Howard on McDavid or Leon Draisaitl’s wing? That’ll be fun!
23. Anaheim Ducks (via Boston Bruins): Rutger McGroarty – RW, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Alex Hobson
After drafting a defenseman with their first pick of the draft, I have the Ducks going with a forward in Rutger McGroarty at 23rd overall. While the aforementioned Zegras and Terry provide lots of entertainment on the skill front, McGroarty serves a different purpose up front. He stands at 6-foot-0 and 201 pounds, and has all the strengths to be an effective forward in just about every situation at the NHL level. With the Ducks having recently drafted Mason McTavish, McGroarty would give them another potential top-six forward option down the line. He’s seen by many as a top-15 talent, so if the Ducks can manage to select him at 23rd overall, it would cap off an excellent first round for them.
McGroarty seems to be projected as a 20-25 pick. While this fits the projection, I kind of feel like he deserves to be selected higher based on his wicked shot and playmaking abilities. The fact that he fell to the Ducks here, makes them even richer with their prospect pool. With McTavish playing a power forward style, adding another one in McGroarty makes the Ducks extremely deep at the forward position. Size, skill, compete and a heavy shot, what more could you ask for?
24. St. Louis Blues: Seamus Casey – RD, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Dayton Reimer
The Blues are in a great position in this draft, as the core of their team is relatively young and primed to make another deep run in the playoffs next season. So, with their 24th overall selection, they’ll grab Casey, a smaller puck-moving defenceman who had a great season with the United States Development Program, scoring 33 points in 40 games, plus another six points in six games at the U18 World Juniors. He has some defensive issues to iron out but after a few seasons at the University of Michigan alongside Luke Hughes and Jacob Truscott, he’s sure to be a top-four NHL defenseman.
This is probably where I would take Casey. He’s been known to go higher or lower in this draft, but for his skillset, the Blues pounce on the opportunity to add a dynamic defenseman. He’s excellent with his ability to carry the play and join an attack as he’s such a strong and fluid skater. He’s confident when the puck is on his stick. While he attacks like a fourth forward, Casey plays a very sound game defensively and is great defending in transition.
25. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jimmy Snuggerud – RW, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Eugene Helfrick
As a team that trades their first-round picks more often than using them on draft day, the Tampa Bay Lightning have to make their only first-rounder over the next few seasons count. By selecting Jimmy Snuggerud, Tampa Bay will have put themselves in a great position to do just that. The 6-foot-2 forward has one of the best shots in the entire draft and has an offensive toolkit that a team like the Lightning could mold into a dominant top-six forward. Plus, he’s committed to playing hockey at the University of Minnesota starting in 2022-23, so he’s in the perfect position to grow his game at Minnesota before making that jump to professional hockey three or four years down the line.
With a prospect pool that is bare, Snuggerud instantly becomes the Lightning’s top prospect. A player that plays a hard-nosed game and possesses a quick and accurate wrist shot; he definitely has the potential to be a dangerous goal scorer. He’s active on the forecheck and does a great job to find the middle of the ice for a high danger chance. With the Lightning dealing with a revolving door of players coming in and out of the lineup, Snuggerud could be a steady top-six option for them in the future.
26. New York Rangers: Jiri Kulich – C, HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czechia)
THW Writer: Matthew Zator
Brennan Othmann and Jiri Kulich, what a dynamic duo that could be one day. Starring at the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship, the latter wowed everyone with his goal scoring, hard one-timer and proficiency on the power play with Team Czechia. Leading all players with nine goals and 11 points, including seven on the power play, he rose up many draft boards to become a first-round pick.
The Rangers decided to make him one with their 26th selection, and they will be glad they did in a few years. His versatility and ability to create offence in a myriad of ways will make him a dangerous specimen to deal with, no matter who he ends up playing with. Add in the fact that the Rangers needed depth down the middle, and Kulich was a no brainer here at 26.
Matthew nails this on the head. I was Othmann’s biggest fan in the 2021 draft and Kulich is up there as one of them in 2022. That duo would do a lot of damage offensively for the future if in fact the Rangers take him. I would’ve thought that Kulich would be gone at 20-22, but the fact that he fell to the Rangers, that’s a big win.
27. Minnesota Wild: Noah Östlund – C, Djurgårdens J20 (Nationell)
THW Writer: Logan Horn
Noah Östlund is one of the biggest risers in this draft following the U18 World Junior Championship this May. He went from likely going in the middle of the second round to someone that I was surprised to see had fallen to the Minnesota Wild at 27. The 18-year-old dominated in the Swedish U20 league this season with his advanced playmaking, speed and work ethic standing out as his greatest assets. His speed and effort level specifically make him an exceptionally valuable player in both the offensive and defensive ends. His two-way game is quite mature for his age meaning he will likely be an impact player in the NHL sooner than later, perfect for a Minnesota team desperate for some immediate help on the cheap as they navigate a massive cap crunch.
Like Logan, I was very surprised to see Östlund fall as much as he did, considering he was an absolute offensive dynamo at the World U18s winning gold for Sweden. Once again, this will go well for the Wild as they took advantage of another Swede that fell last year in Jesper Wallstedt. Östlund has a high-end work ethic and dictates that pace of every game and shift when he’s on the ice. He’s extremely crafty and elusive with the puck on his stick as he is a very creative and accurate playmaker. Sounds a lot like 2020 ninth overall pick, Marco Rossi.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs: Calle Odelius – LD, Djurgårdens J20 (Nationell)
THW Writer: Alex Hobson
The worst part about the Maple Leafs’ repeated first round exits is the fact that because they’re always such a strong regular season team, their first pick is always near the end of the first round. But when the team is able to find first round talents such as Matthew Knies in the second round, it’s not the end of the world. The Maple Leafs have added forwards with their last three top draft picks in Knies, Rodion Amirov, and Nick Robertson, so I have them going in a different direction this season. The Swedish defenseman is about as safe as a defensive prospect can get, and he has strengths in just about every area of the game. With Timothy Liljegren and Topi Niemela manning the right side of the back end, Odelius and Sandin would give the Maple Leafs lots of safe, promising options down the line on the back end.
The Maple Leafs could’ve selected a forward, but you can never have enough defensemen and Odelius is a great one. Since the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, I was always drawn to Odelius’ crisp passing and ability to stretch the play forward. He’s strong in transition, has great poise and provides a steady presence in his own end. Alex mentions the two-way talent the Maple Leafs have on the back end, adding another one in Odelius is an added bonus making them a threat offensively and defensively.
29. Montreal Canadiens (via Calgary Flames): Ryan Chesley – RD, USNTDP (USHL)
THW Writer: Blain Potvin
With the Flames first-round pick from the Tyler Toffoli trade, the Canadiens look to right-handed defender Ryan Chesley. Committed to the University of Minnesota, Chesley projects to be a top-four two-way defender. He likes to play physically and is not afraid to attack the dangerous areas of the ice to make a play. He uses his excellent edge work and mobility to cover a lot of area in his own zone, but also to drive offence. He will need all four years of NCAA eligibility to develop his offensive game and overall consistency.
I absolutely love Chesley’s game and his play at the U18s showed why. He’s not known as a point producer and it may not translate to the NHL level, but he’s always engaged on the play offensively, making timely jumps and reads in the offensive zone to keep plays alive. Defensively is where he shines as he can jump up to break up plays in the neutral zone or make timely blocks or stick checks in his own end. He’s fierce a competitor and plays with such conviction every time he’s on the ice.
30. Arizona Coyotes (via Carolina Hurricanes): Owen Beck – C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
THW Writer: Andrew Forbes
Looking at their second pick of the draft, the Coyotes have a chance to secure another solid center prospect in Owen Beck. With their organizational depth at the position very limited, Cooley and Beck will quickly boost their future down the middle. Beck offers a little more size than Cooley and put up some solid numbers in his first OHL season with the Mississauga Steelheads — with 51 points in 68 games. He sees the game well and plays tough at both ends of the ice which makes him a viable option at 2C or 3C when he finally cracks the lineup. He has areas of development inside the offensive zone, but given another year or two to piece everything together, his numbers will only climb with better decision making with the puck.
The Coyotes drafted a top line centreman, why not add another one for depth down the middle? Beck likes to play at a high level and dictate the pace of the game. He has great awareness, he’s agile and has great hands making it tough to box out and contain. While he can work on his shot selection, his work ethic is noticeable every time he’s on the ice as he never backs down from a play. Drafting another all-situation centreman in Beck is definitely not a bad thing.
31. Arizona Coyotes (via Colorado Avalanche): Owen Pickering – LD, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
THW Writer: Andrew Forbes
With the back-to-back picks, the Coyotes should be looking at Pickering to bolster the future of their back end. A left-handed defenceman, Pickering had 33 points in 62 games in his first full season with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and could be a major asset for the team given the rumours swirling about Jakob Chychrun’s future with the franchise.
He’s six-foot-five and just under 180 pounds, but likely will put on some weight as he develops into an NHL defenceman. When it comes to his game, his skill and numbers speak for themselves. With his size, it’s safe to say you’d like to see a little more from him physically, but he is an active stick in his own end and can break plays up that way while he finds that physical game.
If the Coyotes are looking for a defenseman to be their go-to, Pickering has the potential to be one. He’s a very raw defender, but there’s a lot of untapped potential. He has all the qualities and tools you want in a two-way, puck moving defender. He’s got great mobility, sound positionally, a crisp and clean passer and has a strong shot from the point. He can improve on his decision making with the puck, but once he does, he can be a difference maker on the backend.
32. Buffalo Sabres (via Florida Panthers): Luca Del Bel Belluz – C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
THW Writer: Matthew Zator
Rounding out the top-32 was once again the Sabres as they made their third first-round selection of the day in hard-working center Luca Del Bel Belluz. After taking two offensively-inclined wingers, they decided to grab a solid two-way center with their final pick of the opening round. While he might not be the best skater, he makes up for it in work ethic, faceoff ability and puck handling skills. With the Sabres set with Cozens and Krebs as a solid one-two punch, Del Bel Belluz will add a two-way presence at the bottom of the lineup who could move up and provide value in the top-six when needed. Who knows, he might even become a Bo Horvat and step into a second-line role as a do-it-all pivot. He had similar concerns with his skating when he was drafted, and look at him now.
The improvements to Del Bel Belluz’s skating alone makes him a strong option as a first rounder. He had everything else going for him, but his first few steps and agility was lacking as I wasn’t high on him before. However, in the second half of the season, you can notice the work he put in to be a much better skater. A two-way centre with decent scoring upside, I’m making this a hat trick for the Sabres with their picks.
Currently, there are five players on my list that could be first rounders that remain on the board. We’ll see where they go in the second, but there are just as many surprises as there were in the first round.
There were quite a few selections that stood out for me in the first round. Aside from Montreal getting a great haul and the Coyotes making their picks count, the Columbus Blue Jackets did well taking Savoie and Miroshnichenko with their second pick. The Dallas Stars and New York Rangers might have potential steals with Öhgren and Kulich.
It was an eventful first round. Will the second be just as exciting? You’ll find out very soon. Here’s a recap of all the selections.
What do you think of the selections made? Have your say in the comment section.
THW 2022 NHL Mock Draft Recap – Round 1
|1||Montreal Canadiens||Shane Wright|
|2||New Jersey Devils||Juraj Slafkovsky|
|3||Arizona Coyotes||Logan Cooley|
|4||Seattle Kraken||David Jiricek|
|5||Philadelphia Flyers||Simon Nemec|
|6||Columbus Blue Jackets (via CHI)||Matthew Savoie|
|7||Ottawa Senators||Jonathan Lekkerimäki|
|8||Detroit Red Wings||Marco Kasper|
|9||Buffalo Sabres||Joakim Kemell|
|10||Anaheim Ducks||Kevin Korchinski|
|11||San Jose Sharks||Pavel Mintyukov|
|12||Columbus Blue Jackets||Ivan Miroshnichenko|
|13||New York Islanders||Brad Lambert|
|14||Winnipeg Jets||Conor Geekie|
|15||Vancouver Canucks||Denton Mateychuk|
|16||Buffalo Sabres (via VGK)||Frank Nazar|
|17||Nashville Predators||Cutter Gauthier|
|18||Dallas Stars||Liam Öhgren|
|19||Los Angeles Kings||Lian Bichsel|
|20||Washington Capitals||Danila Yurov|
|21||Pittsburgh Penguins||Jagger Firkus|
|22||Edmonton Oilers||Isaac Howard|
|23||Anaheim Ducks (via BOS)||Rutger McGroarty|
|24||St. Louis Blues||Seamus Casey|
|25||Tampa Bay Lightning||Jimmy Snuggerud|
|26||New York Rangers||Jiri Kulich|
|27||Minnesota Wild||Noah Östlund|
|28||Toronto Maple Leafs||Calle Odelius|
|29||Montreal Canadiens (via CGY)||Ryan Chesley|
|30||Arizona Coyotes (via CAR)||Owen Beck|
|31||Arizona Coyotes (via COL)||Owen Pickering|
|32||Buffalo Sabres (via FLA)||Luca Del Bel Belluz|
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.