The 2022 NHL Draft is filled with Ontario Hockey League (OHL) prospects that are not getting the attention they deserve. Whether it be because they are in their second year of draft eligibility or they did not put up eye-popping numbers, these prospects have shown through their play that they deserve to be drafted this year.
This list contains the top-10 underrated OHL players that should go in the 2022 NHL Draft. These are players that most likely won’t go until the third round or later, yet have the potential to be players that make an impact in the future. Here are the ten players fans should hope their team roll the dice on.
10. Brett Brochu – Goaltender
NHL Central Scouting: 31st (NA Goaltenders)
Despite being the 31st-ranked North American goaltender, do not be surprised if Brett Brochu‘s name is called in this year’s draft. Not only was he named to the OHL All-Rookie team last season, but he also won the Jim Rutherford award handed out to the OHL’s best goaltender. Other players that have won this award include Alex Nedeljkovic and Craig Anderson. In 43 games this season, he recorded a 29-11-2 record with a .911% save percentage (SV%) and a 2.75 goals-against average (GAA).
Brochu has good lateral movement and rebound control which allows him to make cross-crease saves without giving up second chances. Although he is only 5-foot-11, he makes up for it with his athleticism and quick reflexes. He has good potential and is playing for the London Knights, which has proven to have one of the best development programs in the OHL. A team should seriously consider drafting him as he has the tools needed to succeed at the pro level.
9. Kai Schwindt – Left Wing
NHL Central Scouting: 196th (NA Skaters)
Kai Schwindt had a good first OHL season with 12 goals and five assists in 68 games. While he is not the most offensively talented player in the draft, he makes up for it with his defensive play. Whether it is chasing the puck on the forecheck or getting to a loose puck in his own zone first, he has developed into a strong forechecker at the OHL level.
While Schwindt’s offensive game is not fully developed, he does have good puck control in tight spaces. He isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, as evidenced by his 118 shots and showed improvements as the season progressed. Definitely, a name to watch as the sixth and seventh rounds approach.
8. Nolan Lalonde – Goaltender
NHL Central Scouting: 14th (NA Goaltenders)
Nolan Lalonde took control of the Erie Otters’ net this season, recording a 24-25-3 record with a .877 SV% and a 3.62 GAA. He also was named to Team Canada at the WJC U-18 where he stopped 33 of 36 shots in a win versus Germany. Although his OHL record may look concerning, it is actually a testament to how well he could handle the pressure this season.
Erie had issues on and off the ice in 2021-22 which led to a coaching change midway through the season, but the one constant was Lalonde keeping them in games, as he faced the sixth-most shots in the entire OHL and was one of six goalies to make at least 1,500 saves. Being a goalie that is good under pressure, teams should be interested in adding him to their prospect pool.
7. Gavin Bryant – Center
NHL Central Scouting: 179th (NA Skaters)
Gavin Bryant finished his first OHL season by scoring nine goals and adding 29 assists in 63 regular-season games. He also played in five playoff games finishing with one goal and an assist. The Owen Sound center is a mobile playmaker who can find teammates with quick passes.
A strength of Bryant’s is his defensive game, as he understands where to be on the ice and how to get the puck out of the zone quickly. One reason he is so effective is that he never stops moving around. He is always tracking the puck and looking to get to a position where a play can be made. A very smart player, he should entice teams when the draft commences in July.
6. Brady Stonehouse – Right Winger
NHL Central Scouting: 152nd (NA Skaters)
In his first season with the Ottawa 67’s, Brady Stonehouse scored 18 goals and added 17 assists in 68 games. During his four playoff games, he managed one goal while directing 11 shots on goal. At 5-foot-9, he isn’t the biggest player but that does not stop him from playing a physical game on the forecheck.
What separates Stonehouse from others is his speed. Whether is trying to beat out an icing call or carrying the puck into the zone, he is able to get by defenders due to his quick feet. Lastly, he is one of the most competitive players on the ice and is rarely seen giving up on a play. He is a low-risk, high-reward prospect with “NHL player” written all over his future.
5. James Hardie – Left Wing
NHL Central Scouting: 148th (NA Skaters)
The third time may be the charm as James Hardie looks to be selected after being passed over in the last two drafts. The Mississauga Steelheads winger had his best season in the OHL scoring 41 goals and adding 36 assists in 77 games. He continued his strong play into the playoffs with six goals and eight points in 10 games.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
With Hardie, teams are getting a player that can jump right into the American Hockey League (AHL) next season. This season showed he was determined to prove teams made a mistake passing on him as he became one of the top goal scorers in the league. He has earned the right to be drafted as he has shown improvement despite missing an entire season due to the COVID shutdown.
4. Samuel Mayer – Left Defenceman
NHL Central Scouting: 139th (NA Skaters)
Samuel Mayer comes into the draft at 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds. The Peterborough Petes defender finished his first OHL season with 11 goals and 26 assists in 68 games. He was passed over in last year’s draft, but that was due to him missing the entire season, as was the case with many Ontario-based prospects.
What sticks out with Mayer is obviously his size, but also his ability to connect on passes. He knows how to find teammates leaving the zone and can get the puck out of his own end at a consistent rate. When in his own zone, he is able to use his size effectively to force turnovers and deliver hits. It is never a bad idea to add size on the backend to an organization, especially when they are mobile like he is.
3. Jackson Edward – Left Defenceman
NHL Central Scouting: 123rd (NA Skaters)
Whichever team selects Jackson Edward is getting a shutdown defender who is great at preventing controlled zone entries. In 54 games with the London Knights, he recorded six assists and also played in all seven of their playoff games. While he may not have put up points this season, he did finish with 54 shots and wasn’t afraid to pinch down to create an offensive scoring chance.
The reason a team will draft Edward however is his defensive game. He has all the tools to become an effective shutdown defender in the NHL that is proactive on plays. Rather than sitting back waiting for the opposition to make a move, he attacks taking away time and space. He definitely has the potential to play a long time in the NHL.
2. Liam Arnsby – Center
NHL Central Scouting: 115th (NA Skaters)
Liam Arnsby spent the entire 2021-22 season as captain of the North Bay Battalion. In 46 games, he finished with nine goals and 17 assists. He was also a key part of the Battalion’s playoff run adding six assists in 13 games. Known for his defensive game, he has intrigued scouts with his physical play despite a smaller stature at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds.
Arnsby could be a very effective fourth-liner in the NHL. He is strong defensively, engaging the opposition in board battles across the ice. While his skating needs some work, he brings a lot of energy whether it is through throwing hits or making simple, consistent plays that lead to scoring opportunities. He should be able to provide an NHL team with gritty-hardworking minutes in the future.
1. Matt Maggio- Right Wing
NHL Central Scouting: 103rd (NA Skaters)
Matt Maggio exploded this season for a career-high 38 goals and 47 assists with the Windsor Spitfires. During the playoffs, he helped them to within one game of the Memorial Cup, scoring seven goals and adding ten assists in 25 games. He has already been passed over in the draft before, but his productive season makes him a can’t-miss prospect this time around.
What makes Maggio different than most is he has shown he can play at the pro level. During the COVID shutdown, he played for SK Lejon in Sweden’s third division. There, he scored three goals and added eight assists in 19 games. A speedy player who isn’t afraid to get a shot off, he led all OHL players in the playoffs with 122 shots. As a result, he should hear his name called this season, especially after his strong playoff run.
This 2022 Draft is very deep when it comes to OHL talent. In total, 63 players were named to NHL Central Scouting’s year-end list, with five projected to go in the first round. While the players listed above may not be first-rounders, they are value picks with potential that teams should consider selecting in the later rounds. It is very possible one of the players above could be the next Jake Muzzin, Andrew Mangiapane or Philipp Grubauer. A team just has to give them the opportunity by selecting them on July 7 or 8.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.