Michael Buchinger, Defenseman (Pick No. 88) (6-foot-0, 185 pounds)
Central Scouting Ranking (North America): 30th / THW Ranking: 67th (Baracchini)
The rankings for Buchinger look fantastic, especially since the Blues were able to select him with the 88th pick. He was once viewed as a possible first-round pick, but a sluggish second half for the Storm set him back a bit.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
The Blues took defenseman Leo Loof with the 88th pick last year and decided to take another defenseman in the exact same spot in 2022. The Blues also took Colton Parayko with the 86th overall pick in 2012, and that has worked out pretty well.
Overview: What Buchinger Does Well
The first thing that is brought up when watching Buchinger is his skating ability. Having that skill as a defenseman should make developing him easier, as being mobile on the backend is essential in today’s NHL. He is an offensive-minded defenseman, but he has the tools to become more of a two-way defender.
His shot doesn’t stand out as much as other parts of his game. His ability to create and drive offense on the attack is key and his work ethic is off the charts. That makes me believe that developing him to the next level shouldn’t be all that hard for the Blues, an organization that develops players as well as anybody right now.
He had 44 points in 63 games for the Storm last season, including three playoff points in five games. He was productive but could have been more productive. I’m expecting a major performance from him in the OHL next season. It’s time for a huge breakout. He was a part of the First All-Rookie Team in the OHL last season and should build on that for next season.
Overview: What Buchinger Needs to Work On
It’s clear that Buchinger has some work to do on his game, starting with getting a little bit bigger and becoming a more physical defenseman. He has the skating ability to be a top-four defenseman, but becoming more physical could make him a horse for the Blues down the road.
He also needs to become more responsible in the defensive zone and be a little tighter with the puck. He thinks offense a lot and makes plays, which is great, but this can lead to turnovers and high-danger chances at the next level. While I don’t view his shot as elite, he could use it more often. He would be an even more dynamic player if he became a playmaking and goalscoring threat.
Scout and Draft Analyst Thoughts
“Highly effective snuffing out zone entries, defending with some edge, and transitioning the puck up ice with clean, crisp passes. Super competitive player who challenges the opposition from the offensive zone blue line right back to his own net front.”–Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
“If you’re looking for a defenseman in this draft, it’s a good year to be doing it. There are a lot of big guys, a lot of right-shot players with offensive upside for first-round options. In the second and third rounds, you’re going to see a lot of variety, too, including offensive dynamos like Lane Hutson, Ty Nelson, and Michael Buchinger, just to name a few.”–Chris Peters, Daily Faceoff
“Buchinger is a smooth skating two-way defender. His mobility is a plus as he has great movement east to west, pivoting to skating backwards, great edgework, and an ability to turn on a dime. However, I believe he needs to work on his first few steps. He can lead the breakout with his skating or a first pass, but that added speed would give him an edge.”–Dominic Tiano, OHL Writers
Buchinger’s Overall Upside
I consider his upside far higher than some may think. He has a ton of tools to work with and was undervalued by a lot of teams, allowing him to fall to the 88th spot. The skating and hockey IQ alone make him a player that should make it to the NHL. I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t eventually get there.
This was a great pick by general manager Doug Armstrong. The value and potential are sky-high for a third-round player, and I believe that Buchinger will be ready for the NHL within the next three to four seasons. Don’t be surprised if Buchinger rises up the ranks of the Blues prospect pool within the next couple of seasons.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.