Maple Leafs’ 2022 Draft Class Recap

The plan for the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the 2022 NHL Draft was pretty simple. To continue to stock pile prospects who display high IQ and skill.

Heading into the draft, they had their first-round pick, but eventually moved it to the Chicago Blackhawks with Petr Mrazek. It was a move that needed to be done, but one that’ll benefit the Maple Leafs in the long run. In the end, it still benefitted the Maple Leafs as they got the player they wanted and accruing more picks later on in the draft. 

Related: Maple Leafs Find Value in Mrázek Trade

At the combine, the Maple Leafs valued video and “what to do” scenarios. With the players they got, it’s evident that they achieved their goal in selecting intelligent players with great potential. Here is the Maple Leafs draft class of the 2022 NHL Draft. 

Fraser Minten, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): 38th Overall

A piano player of almost 10 years when he’s not on the ice, Kamloops Blazers forward Fraser Minten was selected with the 38th overall pick by the Maple Leafs. Watching the Vancouver Canucks growing up, he is excited to be joining one of the top franchises in the league and to potentially suit up for the Maple Leafs. 

“It was unbelievable, the Leafs especially,” Minten said. “It’s one of the best organizations in the NHL and the most fun to watch. It’s amazing, I’m super excited about this opportunity.”

Fraser Minten Kamloops Blazers
Fraser Minten, Kamloops Blazers (Allen Douglas / Kamloops Blazers)

A sharp and effective two-way centreman, Minten has great poise and confidence when on the ice. He isn’t alarmed when dealing with pressure as he’s always calm when in tough situations, making great reads with the puck. He does a great job of making his way to the high danger area and generate quality shots and scoring opportunities. When getting around defenders, he excels in dropping his shoulder to maintain separation and make that drive to the net.

“I think I’m a smart hockey player, a good two-way player,” Minten said. “I think I can defend really well and good at offense as well. I think I’m very versatile as a player and can bring a lot to all the areas of the game.”

Seeing the Canucks quite a bit, he’s watched a lot of Bo Horvat and likes to emulate his game as well as Mikael Backlund on the Calgary Flames. He already has great size to be effective in the gritty areas of the ice and smarts and compete level is his biggest asset.

“I think I’m hard to play against. I battle hard, I got a high compete level,” Minten explained. “I read the play really well and anticipate what the other team is going to do, I think that allows me to be on the right side defensively and capitalize and create offensively.”

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In his second season with the Blazers, Minten had great production with 55 points in 67 games, finishing fifth in team scoring. Of those points, 45 were primary and he had an even strength goals for percentage of 63.86. He went on a deep playoff run adding another six goals and 10 assists in 17 games. As the season progressed, so did his overall game.

“I think that I came a long way throughout the season,” Minten said. “A lot stronger, faster, more confident… I think my playoffs was my best hockey and throughout the year I think I continued to get better.”

Minten had a lot of great conversations with the Maple Leafs and they’ve shown interest at the end of his season and up to the draft, leading to the notion that he could be selected. Trading down made the selection possible.

“They were really positive,” Minten said. “Right away, they kind of told me that they had me really high on their list and very interested in getting me in this draft. From the start, I knew they were quite interested.”

Fraser Minten Kamloops Blazers
Fraser Minten, Kamloops Blazers (Allen Douglas / Kamloops Blazers)

Although he’s excited for the chance to be a Maple Leaf, Minten is setting expectations for when he’s NHL ready. With some extra time in juniors and potentially in the American Hockey League, Minten feels that there’s no rush to join the Maple Leafs right away. 

“I think I got lots of room to develop physically still, I think there’s lots of areas in my game where I can continue to improve before I’m ready to jump to the pros,” Minten said. “Hopefully, continue to get better throughout the seasons and summers and make the jump sooner than later.”

With his vision and work ethic on the ice and the ability to play a sound two-way game, this is a pick that could pay off.

Nicholas Moldenhauer, C/RW, Chicago Steel (USHL): 95th Overall

With their third-round pick, the Maple Leafs took a hometown name, long-time fan and a possible gem in the draft with Nicholas Moldenhauer form the Chicago Steel. 

Moldenhauer was over a point per game for the Steel this season with 43 points in 41 games, being named to the USHL All-Rookie Second Team. He also played extremely well for Canada at the World U18 championship with three points in four games. He missed games early on in the season due to an illness and then a suffered a major laceration from a skate to his face. To hear his name called by the Maple Leafs, it was a memorable moment. (from ‘Freak injury behind him, Chicago Steel’s Nick Moldenhauer riding explosive spring into NHL Draft’, Chicago Sun Times – 3/7/22)

Related: Q&A About Nick Moldenhauer with Chicago Steel Coach Brock Sheahan 

“It was an awesome experience,” Moldenhauer said after getting his name called by the Maple Leafs. “I’ve been a Leafs fan growing up. I lived in Toronto my whole life so to be able to be chosen by my hometown team is just super cool.” 

Moldenhauer is a very versatile offensive threat that oozes skill with every move he makes. He has a quick and accurate shot and as well as the hands to make moves in tight spaces and the ability to locate his teammates with crisp, cross ice passes. However, it’s the way he thinks and processes the game to utilize the ice and work ethic that always makes him a factor in all three zones. As result, he will have the advantage as he’s always one step ahead of the competition.

Nick Moldenhauer, Chicago Steel
Nick Moldenhauer, Chicago Steel (Image courtesy of Chicago Steel)

“One of my biggest strengths is my IQ,” Moldenhauer described. “I see the ice really well, just my ability to make plays and read off my teammates is really high end.” 

Originally, Moldenhauer could’ve played in the OHL as he was drafted 20th overall by the Ottawa 67’s in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection Draft. With the missed season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wanting to go to college, that led him to playing the last two seasons with the Chicago Steel and looked impressive from the very beginning. 

“I wanted to go to college, especially when the COVID year happened and nothing was going on in Ontario. I wanted to be able to keep doing what I love and play hockey. I headed down to the States and kind of just ran with it from there.” 

Moldenhauer added that he talked with newly appointed assistant general manager Ryan Hardy, who was the general manager of the Steel when Moldenhauer started off. Moldenhauer says that he has been a big help with the transition in terms of helping him feel relaxed and improving his play. If he can continue this trajectory with his development, he could be a very valuable piece to the Maple Leafs middle-six in the future. 

Dennis Hildeby, G, Färjestad BK (Naitonell/ SHL): 122nd Overall

The Maple Leafs have selected great names at the goaltending position, but injuries haven’t helped out Ian Scott or Joseph Woll in regards to their development. Taking an over-aged goaltender in Dennis Hildeby is one to shore up that prospect depth in goal.

Hildeby has been passed over before, but he had strong numbers at the J20 level and it even translated to the SHL. In seven games in the senior league, he had a strong .931 save percentage (same in the Nationell) and a 1.93 goals against average. It’s a small sample, but promising numbers and a strong showing nonetheless for a goalie that continued to take strides in his development.

Automatically, you’re drawn to Hildeby’s size as he stands at 6-foot-6, 234 pounds. He fills out the next extremely well, has great lateral movements, positioning and the ability to track and locate the puck with such ease. As Nick Richard from Dobber Prospects states, the fact that he’s further in his development is a big reason why the Maple Leafs took him. 

Time will tell if he can be a consistent homegrown talent in net. Though there is a lot to like with his game as he’s been able to improve each season.

Nikita Grebenkin, RW, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL): 135th Overall

Another over-age player, Nikita Grebenkin was selected in the fifth round and could very well be an underrated pick down the line. Playing on the same team as Danila Yurov, who was taken by the Minnesota Wild in the first-round, Grebenkin finished second in team scoring with 64 points in 58 games and first in assists with 47, being an alternate captain.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Knies, Minten & New Draft Strategy?

Even in his rookie season, he had decent production with 34 points in 54 games.

If there’s one thing that you notice from Grebenkin, is that he plays with a lot of power, speed, force and determination. He is absolutely relentless and is always dialled in when hunting down the puck to regain possession. He is an extremely skilled playmaking winger that displays great hands and control of the puck to make moves around opponents with ease, while displaying great vision and awareness. He opens up the ice really well to draw in defenders and spot his teammates with a timely pass.

Grebenkin definitely has a lot of tools and upside to make him a great selection in this range. Wes Clark, director of amateur scouting for the Maple Leafs even describes him as being “machinelike” as a result of his strength and presence.

Brandon Lisowsky, LW, Saskatoon Blades (WHL): 218th Overall

Remember Ty Voit being selected in the sixth round of the 2021 draft? I’m getting the same vibe with this selection with Brandon Lisowsky. He had a strong offensive season scoring 33 goals and finishing with 58 points in 68 games with the Blades. 

Lisowsky resembles that same player with high upside and offensive skillset that gets selected later than he should’ve. I had him as an early fourth-round pick in my final rankings, the fact the Maple Leafs got him towards the end of the draft, could be one of those picks that could very well have an impact later on in his career. There’s even the possibility he could breakout in his draft plus one year like Voit did.

Lisowsky plays with such energy and pace. He’s a quick and strong skater that displays a shooters mentality every time he’s on the ice. He has some work to do as his skating mechanics aren’t the best, but the promise is there.

Final Thoughts

Considering the Maple Leafs had only three picks going into the draft, they came out with five prospects with great upside and bright futures. From smart two-way players with great IQ to compete hard and drive, the Maple Leafs made the most of what they had and they once again did a great job in possibly getting players that could make a major impact down the line.

Draft Grade: B-

Statistics from Pick224.

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