Well folks, the 2022 Playoffs are officially over. The Stanley Cup has a new owner, and every team is now in offseason mode. And just like that, we’re already only a few days away from the 2022 NHL Draft. While this year’s edition doesn’t have a generational name like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews at the top, it’s a very deep draft class with a plethora of talent to choose from. Furthermore, for the first time since the Toronto Maple Leafs won the draft lottery in 2016, the first overall pick will belong to a Canadian team, this time the Montreal Canadiens.
When you compare it to a draft like the ones with McDavid or Matthews, the first overall pick for this year’s draft class is technically still up in the air. By my own estimation, I would say about 90 percent of prospect rankings have the same player going first overall, with the next two best players rounding out the top three in some way, shape or form. There’s lots of time to speculate between today and Thursday, and I’m going to add to that with my take on how I think the first round will shape up. Without further ado, here’s my full, 32-pick, first round mock draft.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Shane Wright (C, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
Like I said early on, there’s always going to be a few people looking to play devil’s advocate, but in the case of this draft, I don’t really think there’s any debate. Shane Wright will never be a 60-goal scorer or 120-point player, but in selecting the Burlington native, the Canadiens are adding a brand new No. 1 centre into the fold.
With Wright and Nick Suzuki up the middle, the Habs have arguably the best two-way centre punch in the league and will be a tough duo for the teams of the stacked Atlantic Division to handle.
2. New Jersey Devils: Juraj Slafkovsky (LW, TPS Turku, SM-Liiga)
The Canadiens winning the draft lottery and using it to select Wright could arguably be the best-case scenario for the New Jersey Devils. For a team that already employs a pair of first overall picks in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier up the middle, adding a dynamic winger in Juraj Slafkovsky probably would have been the way to go, anyways.
While the Devils are still a few pieces away from being a legitimate contender in the Metropolitan Division, the big Slovak would be an elite addition to a forward core that already features the likes of Hughes, Hischier, and eventually Alexander Holtz, too.
3. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley (C, USNTDP, USHL)
There are legitimate arguments to be made that Logan Cooley has more upside than both Wright and Slafkovsky, and while I still think the top-two will shake out how it has in this mock, he would be a very welcomed addition to the Arizona Coyotes’ prospect pool.
Cooley posted a combined 111 points in 75 games between the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the United States Development Program (USDP) last season and is committed to the University of Minnesota for next year. The Coyotes will be looking to make good with their three first round picks, and adding a dynamic playmaking centre like him would be a great start.
4. Seattle Kraken: Simon Nemec (D, HK Nitra, Slovakia)
The Seattle Kraken used their first-ever draft pick as a franchise to select their hopeful future number one centre in Matty Beniers last year, so it only makes sense for them to add a blue-chip defenseman this season. And in terms of complete players, Simon Nemec is just about everything you could ask for.
The 6-foot-1 right-handed blueliner had 27 points in 36 games playing in Slovakia’s top pro league this season, with 26 of those points being assists. Nemec has a stellar two-way game and would fit in perfectly with the Kraken’s plans.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: Cutter Gauthier (C/LW, USNTDP, USHL)
I don’t know what it is, but something about a player named Cutter putting on a Philadelphia Flyers jersey just feels right. In all seriousness, though, Cutter Gauthier would be a very solid addition to the Flyers’ left side and could make for a very nice one-two punch with Joel Farabee in the top six.
Gauthier is an elite goal scorer, can throw the body and has a strong defensive game as well. His 53 goals in 76 games this season back up the former sentiment, and though he’s committed to Boston College for next season, I don’t think he’s too far away from the NHL.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: David Jiricek (D, HC Plzen, Czechia)
As THW’s own Mark Scheig put it in a well-informed Twitter thread about his take on the top-10, the Blue Jackets would love to bring in another Seth Jones-type of player, and with the sixth overall pick, there’s a very real chance they could find their new Jones if David Jiricek slips to them.
Jiricek suffered a knee injury in his first game at the 2022 World Juniors, but will have another chance to show the world what he’s got with the tournament rescheduled to August. He’s easily the second most well-rounded defenseman to Nemec in this draft, and will be a very strong addition to the Blue Jackets’ prospect pool if they take him.
7. Ottawa Senators: Joakim Kemell (RW, JYP, SM-Liiga)
A high-octane right wing with a knack for scoring goals could be a big add to a young Senators forward group that already features a power forward in Brady Tkachuk and a playmaker in Tim Stutzle, and there may not be a player that fits the bill better than Joakim Kemell.
The young Finnish winger lacks size, standing at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, but makes up for it with electricity in other areas of his game such as his shooting and puck handling. After going way off the board with the selection of Tyler Boucher last season, the Senators would be wise to play it safe with somebody like Kemell.
8. Detroit Red Wings: Jonathan Lekkerimaki (RW, Djurgardens IF, SHL)
Remember what I said earlier about how Cutter Gauthier as a Flyer just felt right? Well, you can apply the same feeling to Jonathan Lekkerimaki as a Detroit Red Wing. The Swedish winger is similar to Kemell in that they’re both undersized goal scorers, and he would be a treat for them at No. 8.
After drafting defenseman Moritz Seider in 2019, forward Lucas Raymond in 2020, and defenseman Simon Edvinsson in 2021, I have them going back to a forward in 2022. Lekkerimaki might be a few years away from the NHL, but with 20 goals in 26 Swedish junior league games this season, he’s ready to take the next step in Sweden and turn pro.
9. Buffalo Sabres: Marco Kasper (C, Rogle BK, SHL)
The country of Austria has been producing some quality prospects of late, with Marco Rossi going ninth overall to the Minnesota Wild last season, and Marco Kasper now looking to be a top-10 pick himself. He made a late jump after an impressive draft combine, and the fact that he’s a 6-foot-2 centre will undoubtedly have teams taking a second look at him.
With the departure of Jack Eichel last season, the Buffalo Sabres will be looking to restock the pipeline at centre, and Kasper would instantly become their strongest prospect up the middle.
10. Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Korchinski (D, Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)
Like Kasper, Kevin Korchinski is a player who was once ranked all over the first round, but now likely finds himself closer to the top-10 rather than the bottom-10. An impressive second half saw him finish the season with 65 points in 67 games for the Western Hockey League (WHL)’s Seattle Thunderbirds, and he enjoyed a nice playoff run with 19 points in 25 games along the way.
Korchinski has established himself as a strong two-way defenseman, and would fit in nicely on the left side of their defensive corps alongside right-handed Jamie Drysdale.
11. San Jose Sharks: Pavel Mintyukov (D, Saginaw Spirit, OHL)
After selecting a pair of forwards in back-to-back drafts in William Eklund and Ozzy Weisblatt, I have them taking a defenseman this year in Pavel Mintyukov. The 6-foot-1 Russian defender’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL) debut was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he had a textbook definition of a breakout season with 17 goals and 62 points in 67 games in 2021-22.
The San Jose Sharks don’t really have many defensive prospects of note outside of Ryan Merkley, and drafting Mintyukov would give them a blue-chip prospect on the back end as they attempt to rebuild and become competitive again.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Matthew Savoie (C, Winnipeg Ice, WHL)
If the Blue Jackets are lucky enough to select Jiricek with their sixth overall pick, then having Matthew Savoie fall into their lap at 12 would make them big winners in the first round for the second year in a row. He might fall down in some people’s rankings because of his size, but there is an abundance of talent in his game.
Savoie had 90 points through 65 games for the Winnipeg ICE last season and would join a very promising looking group of young forwards that already includes the likes of Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger.
13. New York Islanders: Brad Lambert (C/RW, Lahti Pelicans, SM-Liiga)
If the New York Islanders were to select Brad Lambert here, it wouldn’t be the first time they took a gamble on a once highly-ranked player who took a slide. They did that last season with fellow Finnish prospect Aatu Raty, who was also once a top prospect before a lacklustre draft season tanked his draft stock. Lambert was once thought to be the second best prospect in this draft class after Wright, but a lack of a step forward in his development last season has seen his draft stock fall.
Lambert split the 2021-22 season between two teams, starting with JYP and finishing with the Lahti Pelicans, tallying ten points in 49 games on the year. Those totals weren’t bad for the level he was playing at, but considering he had 15 points in 46 games in 2020-21, there was an obvious step back. His WHL rights were traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds recently, so perhaps a move overseas could spark a fresh start.
14. Winnipeg Jets: Conor Geekie (C, Winnipeg Ice, WHL)
With Pierre-Luc Dubois looking to test free agency in 2024 and Mark Scheifele under some similar rumblings (from: ‘Where could the Winnipeg Jets trade Mark Scheifele’ The Athletic, 6/10/22), the Winnipeg Jets could be in need of a big number one centre, and if he’s available when they pick, they’d be far-fetched to find a better option than Conor Geekie.
The 6-foot-4 centre is the younger brother of Kraken forward Morgan Geekie, and he had 70 points in 63 games for the ICE this season, playing alongside fellow prospect Matthew Savoie. He’s a Manitoba native as well, so the Jets making a hometown pick to bolster them up the middle would be a solid bit of work.
15. Vancouver Canucks: Liam Ohgren (LW, Djurgardens IF, SHL)
Fresh off of a bounce-back season for Elias Pettersson and re-signing Brock Boeser to a three-year extension, the Canucks will have an opportunity to add to an already-exciting young forward corps by drafting Liam Ohgren. But don’t let his two points in 25 Swedish Hockey League (SHL) games fool you – he absolutely tore up the Swedish junior league at a pace of nearly two points per game.
Ohgren also captained Team Sweden to a gold medal with nine points over six games. He’s signed to play for Djurgardens in Sweden’s second-tier pro league next season and could give the Canucks a really nice left wing option in the top six down the line.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from VGK): Frank Nazar (C/RW, USNTDP, USHL)
The Sabres have three first round picks in 2022, so as long as they don’t pull a 2015 Boston Bruins and go way off the board, they can afford to have some fun with their picks. If they can manage to grab a player like Frank Nazar with their second pick on top of a player like Kasper, the first round will already be a win for them.
Nazar has all the makings of a future top-six forward and can play both centre and wing. He lacks size and could slip in that regard, but I would go as far as to say that he’s a top ten talent in this draft, and would be a great addition to a young Sabres team trying to right the ship.
17. Nashville Predators: Denton Mateychuk (D, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
The Nashville Predators have spent the last couple of seasons padding their prospect pool with some really nice offensive talent including the likes of Fedor Svechkov, Zachary L’Heureux, Phillip Tomasino, and Luke Evangelista, just to name a few. Having moved on from longtime puck-moving defenseman Ryan Ellis prior to the 2021-22 season, perhaps Denton Mateychuk could be his replacement down the line.
The offensive talent is there without a doubt, as he was nearly a point-per-game in the WHL with 64 points in 65 games, but he does have some holes in his defensive game. Nevertheless, the Predators are an organization known for developing some great defensive players, and Mateychuk could be the next one with the right guidance.
18. Dallas Stars: Owen Pickering (D, Swift Current Broncos, WHL)
The Dallas Stars have been cleaning up in recent drafts, to say the least. 2021 first round pick Wyatt Johnston absolutely snapped in 2021-22 to lead the OHL in points by a large margin, and they managed to grab another first round talent in the second round in Logan Stankoven, who did something similar in the WHL.
The Stars have some very nice pieces up front, but they also like their athletic defensemen and could use a boost on the back end. Owen Pickering has been a steady riser in the second half of the season, and standing at 6-foot-5, there’s potential for him to have that unique combination of size and mobility on Dallas’ back end.
19. Minnesota Wild (from LAK): Danila Yurov (RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL)
There’s a lot of question marks around whether or not general managers (GM) will be keen to select players out of Russia due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, concerns about military service, and obtaining work visas to leave the country, among other things. I’m not going to speculate on how GMs will approach this on draft day, but it wouldn’t shock me to see some Russian players slide. Danila Yurov is a perfect example.
I think Yurov could be a top-ten talent, and if Russian players playing overseas do end up slipping in the first round, I think he will be the first name off the board. He had 36 points in 23 games for Russia’s junior league, and he would give the Minnesota Wild a bonafide top-six goal scoring right winger if his development goes smoothly.
20. Washington Capitals: Noah Ostlund (C, Djurgardens IF, SHL)
The Washington Capitals’ longtime No. 1 centre faces a long road to recovery after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery following the end of the 2021-22 season. To deem Noah Ostlund as Nicklas Backstrom’s eventual replacement would be completely unfair, but after taking a defenseman with each of their first three picks last year, they might be inclined to select a centre in this year’s draft.
Ostlund is a member of the Swedish top prospect factory in Djurgardens IF, playing alongside fellow first round hopefuls in Ohgren and Lekkerimaki this season, and his combination of skill and work ethic could make for a great pick at 20th overall.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins (from BOS): Seamus Casey (D, USNTDP, USHL)
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a playoff contending team almost every year since Sidney Crosby entered the league, so, naturally, they’re not often known for having a strong prospect pool. Yet, despite never picking high in the draft, they’ve been able to turn previously unknown players into key contributors, such as Bryan Rust and John Marino.
Either way, the Penguins have only made one selection in the first round since 2014 (Samuel Poulin in 2019), and since their draft capital has mostly consisted of forwards, I have them taking a puck-moving defenseman in Seamus Casey at 21st overall. With Kris Letang’s future in Pittsburgh being unknown, he would be a nice project to eventually fill a similar role for the team down the line.
22. Anaheim Ducks: Rutger McGroarty (C/RW, USNTDP, USHL)
After taking Korchinski with their first pick, I have the Ducks going with a forward in Rutger McGroarty with the second of their two first-round picks. While some outlets have him ranked as late as the early second round, others are very high on him and consider him to be a top-15 talent.
Either way, the Ducks can’t lose if they walk out of this draft with Korchinski and McGroarty. The 6-foot-1 Nebraska native can play both centre and wing and could become the fourth Nebraskan ever to make it to the NHL. With their talented forward group including the likes of Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry, he would be a nice fit as they look to take a step forward in a weak Pacific Division.
23. St. Louis Blues: Ivan Miroshnichenko (LW, Omskie Krylia, VHL)
It would be hard to talk about this pick without first addressing the elephant in the room. Hockey took a backseat to life for Ivan Miroshnichenko this season as he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in March. He has since been cleared to play, but the time missed due to recovery, as well as the uncertainty around his diagnosis, has seen his draft stock drop a bit.
However, he was once a projected top-10 pick, and his skill is very much still there. I know I’ve said a couple of players have top-10 talent, but the 6-foot-1 winger does more so than the others, and he would be an excellent addition to St. Louis’ prospect pool.
24. Minnesota Wild: Ryan Chesley (D, USNTDP, USHL)
Ryan Chesley was born in Minnesota, is committed to the University of Minnesota, and could potentially see himself putting on a Wild jersey on July 7. If the Wild take Yurov like I have them doing, or at least somebody like him, then Chesley would be the perfect type of player to balance out the Wild’s picks in the first round.
Chesley will never blow you away with his offensive totals, but he has all the makings to be a stable, reliable defenseman at the NHL level. His positioning and defensive game are above-average compared to other defensemen in his draft class, and he would be a nice complement to more offensive counterparts like Calen Addison and Carson Lambos.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs: Owen Beck (C, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)
After going out in the first round for the sixth year in a row, there will be a good fraction of the fanbase that doesn’t even want to think about the draft. But for the rest of us who treat the draft like it’s a second Christmas, it seems like there’s a perfect fit between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Owen Beck.
The 6-foot-tall centre is from just outside of Toronto and was one of four players the Maple Leafs interviewed a second time after the Draft Combine (the others being Jagger Firkus, Owen Pickering, and Matyas Sapovaliv). He may never be a point-per-game player, but he plays a very solid two-way game and could be the perfect type of player to centre a second line behind Matthews one day.
26. Montreal Canadiens: Calle Odelius (D, Djurgardens IF, SHL)
Another member of the Djurdardens IF prospect factory, Calle Odelius is another one of those players that plays a safe, reliable game. Wright is undoubtedly going to get the majority of the attention from Montreal media on draft day, but a selection of Odelius should not be overlooked either.
The Canadiens have added some nice prospects on the back end in recent years such as Kaiden Guhle, Justin Barron, and Mattias Norlinder, and Odelius would fit in very nicely with this group. They may have won the Draft Lottery, but they’ve got enough pieces in place that their road back to playoff contention might not take as long as other teams who have drafted first overall in the past.
27. Arizona Coyotes (from CAR): Jagger Firkus (RW, Swift Current Broncos, WHL)
The Coyotes need all the help they can get at this point, and for a team in a situation like theirs, the draft should be about getting the best player available and nothing else. And if Jagger Firkus is available at 27th, he should absolutely be regarded as such. He’s on the smaller side at 5-foot-10 and 154 pounds, so putting on weight will be a necessity if he wants to make the NHL. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for with skill.
Firkus scored 36 goals en route to 80 points in 66 games for the Moosejaw Warriors, and the flaws in his game can easily be corrected throughout his development. He would be a very nice addition to the Coyotes’ prospect pool, no matter how you look at it.
28. Buffalo Sabres (from FLA): Lian Bichsel (D, Leksands IF, SHL)
The Sabres, at this point of my mock draft, have a surefire top-six centre in Kasper and a surefire top-six winger in Nazar. So, if there’s an opportunity for them to cap off the first round with a 6-foot-5, 225 pound defenseman with strong defensive and physicality skills in Lian Bichsel, they should absolutely take it.
The Swiss defender spent the majority of the season with Leksands IF, and while he only had three points in 27 games, he impressed offensively in a short stint with Leksands’ junior team, putting up seven points in 11 games. A defensive corps consisting of him, Power, and Rasmus Dahlin would not be one to take lightly down the line.
29. Edmonton Oilers: Luca Del Bel Belluz (C, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)
Luca Del Bel Belluz had a very similar season to that of teammate and fellow centre Owen Beck, so it only makes sense that he would be drafted a few picks later. He was born in November 2003, so he’s one of the older players in the draft class, but he had an impressive season with 76 points in 68 games and could be a nice option up the middle for the Edmonton Oilers.
After years of picking first overall themselves and generally finding themselves in the top 10, the Oilers have done a good job turning their prospects into NHL players, and it will be interesting to see what they make of this pick. If Del Bel Belluz does end up being the guy, it will be interesting to see the type of role they develop him into.
30. Winnipeg Jets (from NYR): Filip Mesar (C, HK Poprad, Slovakia)
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a chance the Jets could be without both Scheifele and Dubois two years from now, so I have them taking a second centre here in Filip Mesar. The Spisska Bela native would be the third Slovak taken in the first round, further fuelling the comeback Slovakia is making in terms of hockey talent.
Mesar is a versatile forward who can play both centre and wing, and his speed will help him translate nicely to the NHL level assuming there aren’t any massive roadblocks in his development. While it would be a reach to deem Geekie and Mesar as the next 1-2 punch at centre in Winnipeg right now, these two would certainly be a pair of nice gets for the Jets at the draft.
31. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jiri Kulich (C, HC Energie Karlovy Vary, Czechia)
Considering the Tampa Bay Lightning just now saw elimination from the playoffs for the first time since they were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018-19, it would be borderline unfair to gift them a player like Jiri Kulich late in the first round. But, that should just tell you how deep this draft is. He spent this season playing in his home country of Czechia where he totaled 14 points in 49 games.
Kulich is described as a player with a never-ending motor, which will fit in perfectly with a Lightning team that preaches the culture of buying into a winning mentality. They could go in many different directions with this pick, but considering the team they already have, he seems like a logical pick at this point in the draft.
32. Arizona Coyotes (from COL): Lane Hutson (D, USNTDP, USHL)
For anybody who says 5-foot-8 is too small for a defenseman, I urge you to look at the career Torey Krug has carved out. Okay, Krug is 5-foot-9, but still – we’re splitting hairs at this point. Either way, it would make sense for the Coyotes to turn to a defenseman after using their first two picks on forwards, and Lane Hutson’s impressive point totals in the USNTDP helped him become one of the risers in this draft class.
Hutson had a combined 95 points in 77 games and was Team USA’s highest-scoring defenseman at the U18 World Championships. He’s committed to Boston University for next season and likely needs a few years in college before he gets a look at the NHL, but regardless, he has first round talent.
The main takeaway after looking at this draft class is the lack of first round talent on the goaltender front. This draft has the potential to be the first since 2018 without a goalie taken in the first round. The top-ranked goaltender per NHL Central Scouting is Prince George Cougars’ netminder Tyler Brennan, but he likely won’t go until the middle rounds. There are some teams who likely could have used a goaltending prospect more than anything else, such as the Maple Leafs, but there weren’t really any names worth reaching for in the first round.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Regardless, the draft is one of the most exciting times of year for some fans, and this year there appears to be more craziness and chaos than previous years. The top two prospects are more than likely guaranteed, but after that, anything goes. It’s going to be interesting to see who this year’s Yegor Chinakhov is, which team ends up selecting a Moritz Seider-type in the top ten, and which players will slip out of the first round and turn out to be gems, a la Brayden Point or Alex DeBrincat. Either way, now that the playoffs are all wrapped up, all teams and fans are now focused on the same thing, and we’re only two days away from the festivities.
Which picks do you agree or disagree with? Sound off in the comments and let me know.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. 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.