With the 2022 NHL Entry Draft already gearing up there’s a lot of scenarios that could play out. Will Shane Wright go first overall after Juraj Slafkovsky closed the gap? Who would be the first defenseman gone? Will size play a factor with some of the smaller, more skilled players as they can rise or fall?
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
There are a lot of situations that can unfold during the draft. Things can get unpredictable and crazy at times as we all remember the Yegor Chinakov selection in 2020 and Tyler Boucher being a top-10 pick in 2021. Which is why this article will aim at some bold predictions that could happen during the draft that might surprise us all.
Cooley Goes First Overall
We all hear the talk about Wright going first overall– more recently Slafkovsky– but what if Logan Cooley of the National Development Team Program shocks us all and gets picked before both of them? For most of the season, Cooley was the one challenging Wright for first overall given that he provides the same strong hockey sense and offensive awareness.
Cooley would be an excellent first overall selection as Chris Peters from Daily Faceoff has him first in his rankings. He possesses the energy, skillset and work ethic that any team would want in a centreman. Like Wright, he’s extremely talented but displays a little more physicality with his ability to pressure opponents and battle for the puck in the corners or faceoff circle. Among players in his draft year, he produced the fourth best primary points per game of 1.21.
Cooley definitely has great potential to be a top line centre in his career, if he continues to be a work horse and offensive dynamo every time he’s on the ice. While it’s probably going to come down to Wright or Slafkovsky, and the odds aren’t in Cooley’s favour, it’s still possible that the Montreal Canadiens could surprise us all and Cooley will vault over both of them to be the first overall pick.
Miroshnichenko Goes Top-15
Once thought of as a top-10 or even a top-five pick in this draft, Ivan Miroshnichenko’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis created a lot of questions if this would hamper his draft positioning. He only fell three spots between the mid-term and final rankings among European skaters from Central Scouting. There was good news as his cancer is in remission and that he completed his treatment and was given the okay to resume on-ice training.
News like this always puts things into perspective. I’m, as well as many others in the hockey community, are glad that he recovered and that he is doing well. While Miroshnichenko might take some time to build up his strength and get back to the form he had before the diagnosis, he has the skillset to be a very strong first-round selection as a result of his physicality, goal scoring and ability to drive hard to the net. The way that he plays, he always looks like a bully on the ice, powering his way through the opposition. He looked great at times against older competition in the VHL with 10 goals and 16 points in 31 games.
There’s a great chance that Miroshnichenko may slide down to the later part of the first-round as a result of his health. Given his upside and potential he will fall, but not as much as I think he will. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to still see a team take a swing on him within the top-15 that are looking for a power forward with great speed and shot to boot. To see a talent like that fall further would be a huge mistake and a team lower in the draft would be jumping for joy if that ever happened.
Lambert Falls to Second Round
Raise your hand if you’ve heard Brad Lambert’s name more than 100 times this season. Once thought to be a top-three pick, Lambert is in a difficult scenario as one of the most interesting and polarizing players in the draft. After a respectful 15 points in 46 games with JYP in the Liiga as a rookie, Lambert didn’t excel at taking the next step in his game this season, even though he wanted to play a more well-rounded style. He failed to surpass that this season with 10 points in 49 games.
On one hand, Lambert possesses some of the best skating, speed and hands in this draft class as he’s a very creative and dangerous offensive threat. On the other, his awareness and play away from the puck has continued to gain attention for all the wrong reasons. He didn’t gain top minutes with JYP and was transferred to a Pelicans team that wasn’t strong overall, hampering his play even more. You noticed these errors and laid-back style of play quite often. He wasn’t as engaged as he usually was, which is kind of a surprise given how he was dominant the previous season.
This isn’t the first time where a top prospect sees their draft stock fall drastically and it won’t be the last either. As a result of his struggles this season similar to Aatu Räty in last year’s draft, there’s a good chance that Lambert may not fall just to the later part of the first round, but into the second. Given his offensive skillset, will a team avoid this from happening and see his true potential now that he may play in the Western Hockey League? Or will his inconsistencies overshadow the positives with the scouts and teams take him later in the draft.
Kasper Goes Top-10
We always rave about a prospect’s compete level and willingness to constantly battle for the puck. Out of all the players in this draft class, Rögle BK’s Marco Kasper is the best in that category as he’s displayed that consistently at the pro level in Sweden and in international events.
Ranked fifth among European skaters by Central Scouting, Kasper displays great speed, body positioning and awareness with and without the puck. Some mocks and rankings have him in the 10-20 range, while some have him as a top-10 pick. If there’s one bold prediction, I’m confident that there’s a possibility that this one could happen where a team could reach for Kasper and take him in the top-10. It could pay off in the end. We’ve seen the development of Moritz Seider– who was a major reach and drafted sixth overall by the Detroit Red Wings– in 2019 and he’s a Calder Trophy winner.
In the right system, Kasper has the potential to be an impactful centreman. While his production in this first full season in the SHL (11 points in 46 games) was low, it was expected given how he has to work his way up the lineup. It’s always possible that his offensive game could break out at some point. If that happens, one team could be like the Red Wings and have a potential star on their hands.
Hutson Goes in First Round
For years, teams are wary of selecting smaller players in the first round. Especially smaller defenders who tend to get pushed around. NTDP defender Lane Hutson checks in at 5-foot-8, 159 pounds, not the typical size of a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman that you would see in defenders in the NHL. This isn’t the case with him as he was still productive, finishing with 95 points combined with the USDP and in the USHL.
Despite his size, Hutson does use that to his advantage and does a great job at protecting the puck and gaining that inside edge with his skating positioning. He’s an extremely dynamic and smart puck moving defender. He displays great awareness poise and confidence with his decision making and has a quick and smooth stride when in transition. With his mobility he’s able to shake off attacking players with his edgework, evading pressure with ease and showing great patience with the puck.
His work ethic and intensity alone should have teams line up. While he’s projected to be a second-round selection, Hutson possesses first round talent. If he was taller and had more strength, he would definitely be higher up. But if he’s able to continue to grow and add muscle, then don’t be surprised to see a team select him in the first round.
What are some of your bold predictions? Have your say in the comment section.
Statistics from Pick224.
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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.