When you think of centremen in the NHL, you automatically think of top draft picks like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.
It’s hard to find strong centres with the potential to be your go-to player and be a key piece for success. While there’s no elite level, generational talent this time around, the 2022 draft class still boasts quality names that project to still be valuable players up the middle.
There are endless options. From highly creative play makers to smart and highly competitive, two-way pivots, this is still a great class for teams looking to fill out their centre depth. Here are the top-10 centres for the 2022 NHL Draft.
10. David Goyette, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 13th (among NA skaters)
David Goyette had a phenomenal season on a Sudbury Wolves team that struggled throughout with a number of rookies on the team. Despite the record, Goyette was a bright spot as he finished first in goals (33) and points (73) and second in assists (40) among rookie skaters in the Ontario Hockey League.
Related: THW 2022 Draft Guide
Goyette possesses some of the best hands, creativity and skillset in this draft class. He has great puck control and is able to make moves in tight spaces with ease. Even the most difficult plays appear easy for him. He’s quick on his edges while evading pressure and making plays at a very quick pace. There is some risk with his game as he does tend to overdo it with his moves and will attack into a crowd instead of making a safe play, leading to a broken play or turnover.
Overall, it’s hard not to be excited with the high-end puck skills that he owns. There will be many teams looking for a speedy, agile and strong playmaking centreman.
9. Brad Lambert, Pelicans (Liiga)
Central Scouting Ranking: 10th (among EU skaters)
There is a great divide with Brad Lambert lately, as he’s the most polarizing player in this draft class. On one hand, he has the skating stride, speed and hands that can make him a top-10 pick. His upside is great as he has the skillset to be a strong offensive centreman. While he has impressed at times even with low production this season, the inconsistencies in his game have been extremely glaring as the season progressed and with little improvement as a result.
There were times where he would be floating around, wouldn’t be hard on the puck, not making the smart play and tried to do too much with the puck. While the IQ was there early on, his decision making has come into question. Once thought of as the biggest challenger to Shane Wright for first overall, scouts are hesitant to take him higher up in the draft, making his draft stock fall.
He definitely has the skillset to be a great player, but his work ethic and processing of the game is a big question mark that might throw some teams off. If you’re willing to bet on that he might find his game and develop extremely well, he will be a steal in the draft.
8. Owen Beck, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 10th (among NA skaters)
As the season wore on, Owen Beck became more noticeable with the Steelheads. Even with a missed season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beck’s game was not affected at all as he was a catalyst every time on the ice.
The thing that stands out when you watch Beck is his IQ and attention to detail at both ends of the ice. He’s always in the right position to make or disrupt a play and has the speed and agility to quickly transition the other way. He plays the game at such a quick pace, taking control of a shift and maintaining that presence and mindset every time he has control of the puck. He’s got great vision to spot the cross seams and locate his teammates with a perfectly executed pass.
At the NHL Combine, he tested extremely well when it came to the VO2 max, agility and balance and long jump segments. With his physical conditioning in top form as well as his on ice two-way play, Beck is definitely a centreman that should garner some attention.
7. Jiri Kulich, HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czechia)
Central Scouting Ranking: 13th (among EU skaters)
If there was anyone who improved their draft stock after the World U18 Championship, it was definitely Jiri Kulich. The captain of Czechia led the tournament with nine goals and seven power play goals while taking home MVP honours.
A competitive two-way centreman, Kulich possesses a lethal shot with great power and accuracy. He’s extremely competitive every shift, making an impact in all three zones. He’s quick on the attack and is always moving, looking to hunt down the puck. Whenever you need to get something going, he’s a player that can rise to the occasion with his intensity and work ethic. He’s always battling for possession of the puck, getting into great position to protect it and always attacking the middle of the ice.
While the U18s helped, Kulich’s strong all-around game was already a big reason why he has vaulted into being a first-round pick. Whichever team selects him, they’ll be reaping the benefits of his play.
6. Conor Geekie, Winnipeg ICE (WHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 5th (among NA skaters)
Consider Conor Geekie in the polarizing prospects category along with Lambert. Though it’s not in regards to his consistency and overall play. It’s his projection at the next level and foot speed that is concerning as there are players with higher upside that should be taken before him.
Aside from that, Geekie does have a lot of positive qualities that makes him a first-round pick. He’s got great awareness on both sides of the puck as a reliable two-way centre. Despite the lack of speed, he’s still an offensive threat given his size to win puck battles. He has a quick shot and great power behind it, but it’s his hands and puck control that is impressive for his size. He has soft hands to make moves in tight spaces and executing them perfectly while making timely passes to his teammates.
If Geekie can continue to work on his skating and mobility, he will be a valuable pick. He’ll have a number of teams line up for sure.
5. Luca Del Bel Belluz, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 8th (among NA skaters)
Much like Geekie, skating and speed was the one thing that was impeding Luca Del Bel Belluz’s game. Though, there are two things to consider.
One, he made up for that with his ability to read the play to open things up for his teammates. Two, he has made tremendous steps throughout the season to work on his stride and foot speed. He’s always shown the offensive capabilities to be a steady point producer since his days in the GTHL. It showed this season as he was second in team scoring with 76 points and goals with 30. He has a quality shot and great play making abilities with his hands and puck control. He has the second-best primary points per game average among OHLers in their draft year with 0.88.
Del Bel Belluz isn’t just a factor offensively. He has the smarts to play a strong and responsible 200-foot game as he’s great when transitioning to defense and defending against the rush. He’s risen up the rankings with his overall play and improved skating as he’s now a name that could be taken in the first round.
4. Marco Kasper, Rögle BK (SHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 5th (among EU skaters)
If there’s one player to really keep an eye on, it’s Marco Kasper. Most rankings have him as a player being selected between the 17-25 range. However, he can rise as high as the top-10. It may not be the right decision, but it’s something that is possible.
Kasper really impressed this season playing at the senior level with Rögle BK in the SHL. Though the production may not show it (11 points in 46 games), you took note of his steady overall play. Immediately, you’re drawn to his work ethic and competitive edge when he’s on the ice. He plays with a high level of energy and physicality, being persistent and active on the forecheck, hunting down loose pucks and engaging in battles along the boards or in the corners.
To show that kind of intensity at a young age is impressive. Not only that, he was another player to test extremely well at the NHL combine, displaying his strength and conditioning.
3. Matthew Savoie, Winnipeg ICE (WHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 4th (among NA skaters)
To kick off the final three of the top centremen, Matthew Savoie is the most offensively talented player of the bunch. And he’s really fun to watch when he has the puck.
Savoie had a dominating season in the Western League finishing seventh in points with 90. He has excellent speed, hands and control to move in tight spaces and the relentless ability to engage in battles and regain possession. He’s constantly in motion and he’s always on the go tracking down loose pucks or staying on top of the puck carrier to gain an inside edge.
Despite his 5-foot-9 size, he doesn’t let that get in the way as he’s very competitive in that regard. Whether it’s on the power play or at even strength, he will make his presence felt as he’s a high-octane player that’ll do a lot of damage with his offensive production. There was talk about his production relying heavily on the power play, but he has shown to be just as impactful at even strength. He had a strong even strength primary point per game average of 0.65 and his power play primary points was 0.35.
He’s a dual threat as he can distribute the puck flawlessly or unleash a wicked release with his great shot and accuracy, even on an impossible angle. He can snipe it from long range or he can sneak his way to the middle of the ice when he spots his opportunity.
2. Logan Cooley, USNTDP (USHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 2nd (among NA skaters)
No one gave Shane Wright more of a run for first overall in this draft class than the energetic and highly skilled Logan Cooley. He’s definitely got some nods for first overall in recent draft rankings, including Daily Faceoffs’ Chris Peters.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft’s Top 10 Left Wingers
Cooley was just dominant for the National Development team as he had 111 points combined with the program and in the USHL. He shares the same qualities that Wright has as he’s an extremely competitive centreman, plays with a higher level of intensity in terms of physicality and might have a touch more creativity with the puck than Wright. He’s a strong playmaker and can attack the open ice without any issue with his skating and speed. He is smaller in terms of stature (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), but he doesn’t play like it’s a disadvantage.
Cooley projects to be a top-line centre who can play in all situations. His ability to activate in transition is among the best in this class. He made his case to try and dethrone Wright and he came very close to doing so.
1. Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
It should come as no surprise that Wright is the top centreman in this draft class. Although Cooley, may have closed the gap between the two, Wright remains on top.
It is tough to find a prospect at a young age that possesses, the smarts, IQ and awareness that Wright has shown throughout his career. While it was difficult the last two seasons because of the pandemic and his point production and ability to take charge may have been lower than expected to start the season, Wright maintained his consistency by displaying his smart decision making with or without the puck.
When Wright produces, he’s hard to slow down as his late season surge showed, finishing with a strong 94 points. He had the best primary point per game and EV P1/GP game P1/GP in the OHL among draft-eligible players at 1.04 and 0.76, respectively. While he may not be as flashy or have a number of aspects that stand out as past number one picks, Wright is definitely effective at what he does as he has a very balanced skillset. He plays at a high pace every shift, possesses a lethal shot and is a very smart playmaker as well. He’s an all-around threat in all three zones and still shows a competitive nature every time.
Whatever the noise around Wright is, he doesn’t let it get the best of him as he’s controlling what he can control. With all the pressure on him this season, he’s handled it perfectly.
Statistics from Pick 224.
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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.