Welcome to a brand new series here at The Hockey Writers called “Road to the Draft.” In this series, our draft contributors will count down from 32nd overall all the way to 1st overall and revisit each player taken with that pick between 2010 and 2020.
The goal of this series is to reflect on some of the biggest steals and some of the biggest busts taken in the first round over the past ten years, as well as to shine a light on some players who could potentially see themselves taken with the corresponding pick at the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
After recapping picks 32 through 23, the series continues with the 11th piece, where we’ll take a deep dive into the entire history of the 22nd overall pick.
While most of the pieces we’ve tackled so far have been composed mainly of forwards, this one is arguably the most diverse one we’ve seen, positionally. Between 2010 and 2020, six forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender have been selected with the 22nd pick. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have each had the 22nd overall pick twice, and all but two players have played at least one NHL game.
2010 – Jarred Tinordi (D, Montreal Canadiens)
Tinordi was drafted as high as he was for one reason and one reason only. Size. Not a slight to him by any means, as teams favored tough, gritty players much more back then. But if you were to stick a defenseman who finished his draft year with a combined 17 points in 64 games for the USNTDP into a modern draft class, odds are they won’t be selected until the second round, at least.
While Tinordi hasn’t been able to live up to the hype of a first-round pick, the 6-foot-6, he’s managed to play for several different NHL teams over the course of his career. After carving out two years with the OHL’s London Knights after being drafted, he spent parts of four NHL seasons with the Canadiens before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2016-17.
After spending three years in the AHL between the Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Nashville Predators’ organizations, Tinordi found his way back to the NHL in 2019-20, where he scored his first NHL goal for the Predators at the age of 27. He was claimed off waivers by the Boston Bruins in 2020-21.
2011 – Tyler Biggs (RW, Toronto Maple Leafs)
Don’t ever mention Biggs’ name to a Leafs fan unless you want them to unlock some bad, bad memories. Former general manager Brian Burke was a big fan of truculence, as we all know, and he backed up this fandom by trading the 30th, and 39th picks to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for the 22nd overall pick. The 30th pick ended up being forward Rickard Rakell, and the 39th pick ended up being star goaltender John Gibson. Enough said.
After serving as the USNTDP’s team captain and registering a combined 42 points in 75 games, the Binghamton native spent one season with Miami University (Ohio) and then joined the OHL’s Oshawa Generals the following year. His 53-point campaign through 60 games provided a little bit of hope, but Biggs outright hit a wall as soon as he made the jump to the pros.
After two seasons with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, where he finished with a combined 14 points in 104 games, he was dealt to the Penguins as part of the Phil Kessel trade. He legged out three seasons in the ECHL before spending the 2018-19 season with the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL in England. He remains an unrestricted free agent.
2012 – Olli Maatta (D, Penguins)
After moving to North America to play in the OHL, the Penguins selected Maatta after an impressive draft season with the London Knights. He finished with 32 points in 58 games, along with an incredibly impressive playoff run where he exploded for 23 points in 19 games. Maatta returned to London for the 2012-13 season and slightly upped his totals, improving to 38 points in 57 games.
The next year, Maatta joined the Penguins and hasn’t looked back. The Finnish defenseman had a solid rookie season with 29 points in 78 games and soon found himself in a role where he logged crucial top minutes, often playing alongside Kris Letang. He was a member of the Penguins’ Cup-winning teams in 2016 and 2017 and remained a staple on their defensive core up until the 2019 offseason.
In June of 2019, Maatta was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick. He spent one season in Chicago before he was once again traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Brad Morrison. Maatta just wrapped up his first season with the Kings, finishing with four assists in 41 games.
2013 – Emile Poirier (LW, Calgary Flames)
Having spent his entire junior career with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques, Poirier was the second of three first-round picks the Flames had in 2013. The Montreal native finished the 2012-13 season with 70 points in 65 games and 10 points in 10 playoff games. He returned to Gatineau for one final season in 2013-14 and upped his totals with 87 points in 63 games, and impressed in his first small sample size in the AHL with four points in two games.
Despite a successful rookie season in the AHL, where he finished with 42 points in 55 games, Poirier seemingly fell off a cliff. He only appeared in eight total NHL games, all with the Flames, and never broke more than 31 points in his next three seasons with the Stockton Heat. He wound up signing a professional try-out with the Manitoba Moose, the affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, but after two seasons, he ended up signing overseas. He spent the 2020-21 season with HC Kosice of the Slovakian League and is under contract with Dinamo Riga of the KHL for 2021-22.
2014 – Kasperi Kapanen (RW, Penguins)
While most of the teams’ picks I’ve covered in this piece so far left a lot to be desired, the Penguins actually managed to draft not one but two regular NHL players. The son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, Kasperi was selected 22nd overall after registering 14 points in 47 games for KalPa of the SM-Liiga.
After spending his post-draft year with KalPa and improving to 21 points in 41 games, Kapanen was traded to the Maple Leafs as the key piece in the package that brought Kessel back to Pittsburgh. The following season, he made the full-time transition to the AHL, where he registered 25 points in 44 games in his rookie season. He also represented Team Finland at the 2016 World Juniors and scored the overtime winner in the gold medal game.
In three seasons with the Maple Leafs, Kapanen established himself as a speedy middle-six winger with a knack for scoring in clutch situations. Along with the aforementioned golden goal, Kapanen scored the tying goal in the game that saw the Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot in 2016-17, the double-overtime winner in Game 2 of the playoffs that year, and the tying goal in Game 7 against Boston in 2018. Kapanen was traded back to Pittsburgh before the 2020-21 season and had a career year with the Penguins with 30 points in 40 games.
2015 – Ilya Samsonov (G, Washington Capitals)
In a 2015 draft that was absolutely stacked for talent, Samsonov ended up being the first goaltender selected in a draft that included names like New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and Bruins goaltender Daniel Vladar. He had a record of 11-4-1 with a save percentage (SV%) of .918 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.66 for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk of the MHL in his draft year.
After three KHL seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk that saw him post stellar numbers, Samsonov made the move to North America to join the AHL’s Hershey Bears for the 2018-19 season. He jumped up to the NHL in 2019-20 to serve as backup to Braden Holtby and had an impressive rookie season with a record of 16-6-2 to go along with a 2.55 GAA and .913 SV%. He won the starter’s job in 2020-21 but wound up splitting the crease with Vitek Vanecek.
2016 – German Rubtsov (C, Philadelphia Flyers)
Contrary to his first name, the Russian center spent the 2015-16 season playing for Team Russia of the MHL, where he finished the season with 26 points in 28 games. After being drafted by the Flyers, he returned to the MHL, where he spent the 2016-17 season with Russkie Vityazi Chekhov and put up 15 points in 15 games. He finished the season in the QMJHL with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
After starting the 2017-18 season with the Sagueneens, he was traded to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, where he finished the season with a combined 43 points in 49 games. He also represented Russia at the World Juniors in 2018, putting up four points in five games. He’s spent the past two seasons primarily with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, including a four-game stint with the Flyers in 2019-20. With the 2020-21 NHL season being delayed to January of 2021, Rubtsov returned to his native Russia to play for HK Sochi, finishing the season with 11 points in 46 games.
2017 – Kailer Yamamoto (RW, Edmonton Oilers)
A story that every youth hockey player dreams of, Yamamoto had the chance to play for his hometown Spokane Chiefs. He came into the WHL guns blazing, putting up 57 points in 68 games during his age 16 season, and jumped to 71 points in 2015-16. He then took things a step further in his draft year, finishing the season with 99 points in 65 games, good enough for the Oilers to select him with the 22nd overall pick.
After heading back to Spokane for one more season, the 5-foot-8 winger made his NHL debut in 2017-18, registering three assists in a nine-game stint with the Oilers. He split the following season between the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors and the Oilers and broke out in 2019-20 with 26 points in 27 games in the NHL. Yamamoto’s production dipped in 2020-21 with only 21 points in 52 games, but he remains a key part of the Oilers’ young forward core.
2018 – K’Andre Miller (D, New York Rangers)
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Miller spent two seasons with the USNTDP of the USHL, putting up a combined 45 points in 80 games in his draft year. Having committed to the University of Wisconsin, the 6-foot-4 forward-turned defender impressed in his freshman season with an offensive breakout, finishing with 22 points in 26 games. He returned to Wisconsin for his sophomore season, putting up 18 points in 36 games.
Two NCAA seasons and two World Junior appearances later, Miller signed his entry-level contract in March of 2020 and made the Rangers’ roster out of training camp. He had a solid rookie season, registering 12 points in 53 games for the team, and made the NHL’s All-Rookie Team.
2019 – Tobias Bjornfot (D, Kings)
After the Kings parted ways with longtime defenseman Jake Muzzin, they used the first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in the trade to select Bjornfot. The Swedish defenseman spent his draft year with Djurgardens IF of Sweden’s J20 league, putting up 22 points in 39 games.
Bjornfot immediately transitioned to North America to join the AHL’s Ontario Reign, where he finished his rookie season with 19 points in 44 games. He also got a small three-game stint in the NHL. After starting the delayed 2020-21 season in the SHL with Djurgardens, Bjornfot stepped into a full-time NHL role sooner than people may have expected. He finished the season with six points in 33 games for the Kings.
2020 – Hendrix Lapierre (C, Capitals)
A Gatineau native and the owner of one of my favorite names from the 2020 draft, Lapierre spent his draft year with the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens but didn’t have much to scout from. Still, the Capitals took a chance on him and selected him after a 17-point campaign through 19 games.
Lapierre returned to the QMJHL and improved upon his 2019-20 totals, finishing the season with 31 points in 21 games. He has since been traded to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and will start the 2021-22 season with them.
Players Who Could Be Drafted 22nd Overall in 2021
ALL-TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 22ND OVERALL
1968 – Glen Lindsay (G, Minnesota North Stars)
1969 – Art Quoquochi (RW, Bruins)
1970 – Errol Thompson (D, Maple Leafs)
1971 – Rick Kehoe (RW, Maple Leafs)
1972 – Tom Cassidy (C, California Golden Seals)
1973 – Peter Marrin (C, Canadiens)
1974 – Bryan Trottier (C, New York Islanders)
1975 – Brian Engblom (D, Canadiens)
1976 – Reed Larson (D, Detroit Red Wings)
1977 – Jeff Bandura (D, Vancouver Canucks)
1978 – Curt Fraser (LW, Canucks)
1979 – Blake Wesley (D, Flyers)
1980 – Joe Ward (C, Colorado Rockies)
1981 – Scott Arniel (C, Jets)
1982 – Brian Curran (D, Bruins)
1983 – Todd Charlesworth (Penguins)
1984 – Greg Smyth (D, Flyers)
1985 – Ken Spangler (D, Maple Leafs)
1986 – Adam Graves (LW, Red Wings)
1987 – Brad Miller (D, Buffalo Sabres)
1988 – Troy Mallette (LW, Rangers)
1989 – Adam Foote (D, Quebec Nordiques)
1990 – Ryan Hughes (C, Nordiques)
1991 – Dean McAmmond (C, Blackhawks)
1992 – Curtis Bowen (LW, Red Wings)
1993 – Anders Eriksson (D, Red Wings)
1994 – Jeff Kealty (D, Nordiques)
1995 – Brian Boucher (G, Flyers)
1996 – Jeff Brown (D, Rangers)
1997 – Nikos Tselios (D, Carolina Hurricanes)
1998 – Simon Gagne (C, Flyers)
1999 – Maxime Ouellet (G, Flyers)
2000 – David Hale (D, Devils)
2001 – Jiri Novotny (C, Sabres)
2002 – Sean Bergenheim (LW, Islanders)
2003 – Marc-Antoine Pouliot (C, Oilers)
2004 – Lukas Kaspar (RW, San Jose Sharks)
2005 – Matt Lashoff (D, Bruins)
2006 – Claude Giroux (C, Flyers)
2007 – Max Pacioretty (LW, Canadiens)
2008 – Jordan Eberle (RW, Oilers)
2009 – Jordan Schroeder (C, Canucks)
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 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 Maple Leafs Lounge Podcast, presented by THW. 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.