We’re just under a month away from the 2022 NHL Draft, and the prospect chatter is beginning to heat up with only two teams left in the fight for the Stanley Cup. Kingston Frontenacs centre Shane Wright is the consensus No. 1 overall pick, and players like Slovak power forward Juraj Slafkovsky and American playmaker Logan Cooley have rounded out the projected top three. But, as always, the draft is full of trades, surprises, and other questions that make the event so exciting.
In the latest THW draft feature piece, I’m going to be profiling who I believe are the top-10 left wing (LW) players in the 2022 Draft class. Some of the highest-ranked left wingers in recent years include 2021 seventh-overall pick William Eklund, 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, and 2020 fourth-overall pick Lucas Raymond.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
The 2022 Draft class is notably deeper than the 2021 class was, so to get you ready for the festivities on July 7 and 8, here are the top-10 ranked left wings set to be drafted this year.
10. Adam Sykora – HK Nitra (Slovak)
NHL Central Scouting: #36 (among EU skaters)
As players like Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara, and Marian Gaborik aged and/or retired, the influx of Slovak talent somewhat slowed down. Well, at least until 2022. Now, Adam Sykora is one of a handful of Slovak players expected to go in the early rounds of the 2022 NHL Draft. Although he’s not getting quite the same attention as somebody like Slafkovsky or Simon Nemec, Sykora had a sneaky good season overseas that should get him some looks in the second round.
A native of Piestany, which is a town just Northeast of Bratislava, Sykora has been playing in the HK Nitra system ever since his hockey career started. Born in Sept. 2004, the 17-year-old Sykora is one of the youngest players in the draft class. He had 10 goals and 17 points in 46 games for HK Nitra this season, and had five points in 16 playoff games. These numbers may seem low on the forefront, but considering he was playing against grown men, they’re impressive for somebody his age.
Standing at 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, his size and physicality obviously aren’t a strength of his, but he makes up for it with speed and skill. His defensive game is solid for a player with his skillset, and if he can round out his physical game, he has clear NHL potential. He’s a safe bet to be a third-round pick, but since he’s only one week ahead of the age cutoff, he should definitely earn some looks in the second round.
9. Julian Lutz – EHC Munchen (DEL)
NHL Central Scouting: #33 (among EU skaters)
Less than two years after Tim Stutzle, Lukas Reichel, and John-Jason Peterka were drafted in the top 60 of the 2020 Draft, Germany has another exciting young prospect representing them in an NHL Draft. Julian Lutz may not have the same namesake as Stutzle or Reichel, but much of that could be attributed to the fact that he missed a lot of time with an undisclosed injury obtained during the 2020-21 season. Because of this, he didn’t make his pro debut until February of this year. Better late than never.
Like Sykora, Lutz’s numbers this season don’t jump off the page at you. He finished the season with one goal and three points in 14 games. But on top of the fact that it was his first pro season, it also took him a little bit to get going because of how much time he missed with injury. Scouts were able to get a better read on his game at the 2022 U18 World Championships, where he finished the tournament with four points in four games for the Germans.
On the ice, there’s lots to like about Lutz’s game. He possesses that ever-so-valuable combination of size and skill, and to complete the trio of valuable traits in a hockey player, he’s an intense player who will give you 110 percent whenever he’s on the ice. The offensive potential is certainly there, and while his stickhandling and shot could both use some work, his speed and intensity on the forecheck will make him an attractive target for teams picking in the late first round or early second round.
8. Jani Nyman – Koovee (SM-Mestis)
NHL Central Scouting: #19 (among EU skaters)
As THW’s own Devin Little put it, Jani Nyman loves to score goals. This is a blanket statement that you could probably apply to any hockey player, but Nyman has the production to back up the statement. After finishing the 2020-21 U20 Liiga season with 23 points in 36 games, he leveled up to join Koovee of Finland’s Mestis league, which is essentially their version of the American Hockey League (AHL). There, he proved there was no need to return to the juniors, scoring 18 goals en route to 35 points in 34 games.
On the forefront, Nyman looks like the type of player that any team would want, especially in the later rounds. He already has good size, standing at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, and he has a booming shot that makes him a serious threat from the hash marks on the power play. Truth be told, the only things keeping the big Finn from being a surefire first-round pick are the holes in his defensive game. On top of that, he tends to shy away from using his size.
But as is the case with most young players, these are issues that can be fixed, and if these holes are enough to cause him to slip through the second and third round, he’s definitely the type of player scouts could look back on one day as a steal. I would personally expect to see him go sometime in the second round, because that combination of size and shooting is hard to ignore. But whether NHL scouts view him the same way is a question to be answered on July 7.
7. Alexander Perevalov – Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
NHL Central Scouting: #10 (among EU skaters)
Alexander Perevalov broke out in a big way in 2021-22, and although he was mostly a first-half hero this season, there’s enough talent in his game for him to crack the rankings. He only had six points in 17 games in his debut MHL season in 2020-21, but clearly he wanted scouts to pay some more attention to him. He came out guns blazing in 2021-22, registering 13 goals and 27 points in his first 15 games.
His production somewhat dropped off as the season progressed, but he still finished the season with an impressive 50 points in 42 MHL games. Granted, his playoff performance was rather quiet with only four points in nine games, but his regular-season performance was good for fourth in team scoring, which is impressive considering he was among the youngest players on the team.
Despite Perevalov’s game having all the usual traits of a young Russian forward such as a heavy shot and slick hands, his defensive game is underrated, too. He’s currently projected to go anywhere between 15th overall and 50th overall, but his combination of skill up front and stability on defense should get him some looks closer to the first round than the mid-to-late second round.
6. Gleb Trikozov – Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
NHL Central Scouting: #12 (among EU skaters)
A victim of the early season slump, Gleb Trikozov has worked his way up from a second-round hopeful to a likely first-round candidate. He split time this season between Omskie Yastreby of Russia’s top junior league as well as Omskie Krylia of the VHL, Russia’s second-tier pro league. It was obvious that Trikozov’s game wasn’t quite ready for pro hockey, as he registered 45 points in 35 junior games versus only two points in 11 VHL games.
Be that as it may, Trikozov still has a lot to like about his game, and his long-term trajectory makes him perfect to go in the late first round. Much like just about any young forward, the offensive skills are there, whereas the defensive skills are still a work in progress. But he’s already got some good size at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, and he can dictate the pace of a game when he’s on top of his own.
Like any Russian playing overseas, there’s going to be the question of how long the development will take. Some players leave their home country to develop in North America almost immediately, others wind up spending a few seasons in the Kontinential Hockey League (KHL). Either way, I see Trikozov as a long term project, but one who could reap potentially big rewards. He’s a good player for a contending team to take a flyer on, or even just a team that wouldn’t need his help in the immediate future. Expect him to go sometime in the back half of the first round.
5. Isaac Howard – USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
NHL Central Scouting: #12 (among NA skaters)
Simply put, Isaac Howard has tons of skill offensively. Not only is he a gifted goalscorer, but he’s also coming into his own as one of the better playmakers in this draft class. If you look at his Elite Prospects page, the goalscoring totals throughout his career, whether he was playing AAA or with the US National Team Development Program, remain staggering. He had 49 goals in 53 games as a 14-year-old, 31 goals in 38 games as a 15-year-old, and 27 goals in 34 games as a 16-year-old. No matter where he plays, the puck hits the mesh more often than not.
This season, his goalscoring total wasn’t as mind-blowing, but that’s only because he decided to expand his skills to the playmaking side of the game. He finished the season with a combined 75 assists and 109 points in 87 games, and made sure to turn heads at the U18 World Championships as well. He potted six goals to go along with 11 points in six games, good for the team lead in both goals and points for the Americans.
For some fans, primarily old-school fans, his size at 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds might be a bit of a warning sign at first. But if you watch him play, those signs evaporate almost immediately. He plays much bigger than he actually is, and while he’s not towering over his opponents, it’s a safe bet that you’ll find him in the corners or in front of the net. While some rankings don’t have him going until the second round, I believe any team selecting him outside of the first round would be getting a steal.
4. Ivan Miroshnichenko: Omskie Krylia (VHL)
NHL Central Scouting: #8 (among EU skaters)
While just about every prospect commits their full focus to preparing for the draft in hopes of being selected, hockey took a backseat to life for Ivan Miroshnichenko in 2021-22. In the middle of an impressive season for Omskie Krylia of the VHL in which he had 10 goals and 16 points in 31 games, he was suddenly diagnosed with Hodgkins-Lymphoma in March, causing him to miss the remainder of the season and immediately begin treatment.
Miroshnichenko’s development has stalled since then, given that priority No. 1 was his health and ensuring a full recovery. There’s since been a positive update on the young Russian’s health, as he completed treatment at the start of June and was given the green light to begin training and working out once again, with sights set on a return during the 2022-23 season.
As far as where Miroshnichenko could go in the draft, it entirely depends on how teams view the impact of his development following the diagnosis. He was originally projected to be a top-10 pick in this draft, and easily has the skill to go in the first round once again. But teams might put the status of his development over his skill, and should that be the case, he could be a late first-round pick. Either way, his shot and skillset will ensure he gets selected in the first round, in my opinion.
3. Liam Ohgren – Djurgardens IF (SHL)
NHL Central Scouting: #11 (among EU skaters)
Not only did Liam Ohgren have a stellar draft season, he did so with a team chock full of fellow draft hopefuls including Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Noah Ostlund, and Calle Odelius. While his 2020-21 season was limited to 16 games split between two different teams, he wasted no time introducing himself to scouts this season. His goalscoring was on full display throughout the season, finishing with 33 goals and 58 points in 30 games, which was good for the highest goal-per-game average followed by Lekkerimaki.
His game was also stellar enough to earn him almost as many games with Djurgardens’ top pro team in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He only had one goal and two points in 25 games with the big club, but as I’ve said both in this piece and elsewhere, you should never look at points when evaluating the skill of young European prospects. Pro teams in Europe are more concerned about winning championships than developing prospects for NHL teams, so the players can only do so much with the ice time they get.
He has an elite shot, and at 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, he’s strong on the puck and a tough opponent for opposing defenders. His skating could use some work as well as his aggressiveness and urgency on the defensive side of the game, but to me, there’s no doubt that Ohgren will be a mid-first-round pick this year. Whichever team drafts him could definitely have a potential top-six goalscorer on their hands, provided his development is smooth.
2. Cutter Gauthier – USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
NHL Central Scouting: #6 (among NA skaters)
If nothing else, Cutter Gauthier has, without a doubt, one of the most elite names in this draft, putting him in contention for best name alongside fellow USNTDP draft hopefuls Rutger McGroarty and Jimmy Snuggerud. But that’s enough about his name. If scouts evaluated players based on their names, Jeff Beukeboom would have been a first overall pick. Luckily for Gauthier, he has top-15 talent to go along with a top-5 name.
Like many other players in this draft class, Gauthier loves to score goals. He finished the season with a combined 53 goals and 93 points in 76 games, good for fifth in team scoring and second in goals only behind McGroarty. Not only is he a natural goalscorer, he’s also a strong defensive player and can be relied on for shorthanded situations as much as he can for power plays. To go along with his stellar USHL performance, he was also a key driver for Team USA at the U18 World Championships, tying McGroarty and Frank Nazar for third on the team in scoring with nine points in six games.
If there were any negatives to take away from Gauthier’s game, it would be that he can sometimes get careless with his best weapon. Although getting shots on net is always a good thing, there are times when he can abuse that notion, and some of his shots, if taken from a bad angle, will miss badly. But if that’s his biggest issue, he’ll be a treat for whoever drafts him. I think, at this point, it’s pretty safe to say that he will go in the top 15.
1. Juraj Slafkovsky – TPS (SM-Liiga)
NHL Central Scouting: #2 (among EU skaters)
Originally a projected top-10 prospect in early rankings, Slafkovsky has cemented himself as a surefire top-five pick and possibly the second pick in this year’s draft. He had eyes on him after scoring eight goals en route to 13 points in 16 games with TPS’ U20 team last season, and he made good with his time on TPS’ senior team this season, finishing the season with 10 points in 31 games.
Although Slavkovsky’s performance in Finland’s top men’s league was impressive, what really turned scouts’ heads was his performance at the 2022 Olympics. With NHL players not taking part in the games this year, many young players were given an opportunity to represent their countries this year, and Slavkovsky took that opportunity and ran. He led the tournament in goals with seven in seven games, and he was named Slovakia’s MVP en route to helping his country win their first Olympic medal, taking the bronze over Sweden, all of this at the age of 17 years old.
The hype surrounding Slafkovsky is warranted. He boasts the golden combination of size and skill, standing at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and he’s a physical player as well. He has great hands, and though his skating could use some work, this is common for players of his size. The bottom line is that the potential is there for him to be a top-line power forward at the NHL level, and with the aforementioned Wright almost certainly a lock to go first overall, Slafkovsky might be the world’s best consolation prize.
The Final Word on Left Wings
For lack of a better term, the left wingers in this draft will be a crapshoot after Slafkovsky goes. There could be teams who value Ohgren more than they value Gauthier. There could be a team that takes Miroshnichenko’s skill for what it was before the diagnosis and uses a top-10 pick on him. There could be a team that values Adam Sykora more than half of the players I just listed and chooses to use their first-round pick on him. The unknowns around these players are what makes the draft so exciting, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the first round shapes up.
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Alex Hobson is a writer and a radio producer for 610 CKTB. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.