Unless your team is picking first or second in a given draft, you can never know for sure who will be on the board when it’s your team’s turn to make a selection. Draft rankings will give you a good idea of the order players will come off the board, but you never know when a team is ready to make a pick that throws everybody’s draft boards out the window. The only way to even come close to having an idea of who will be available at any given pick is to determine which players the teams picking ahead might target.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Luckily for the Detroit Red Wings, they don’t have a ton of teams picking ahead of them. While eighth overall is their lowest first round selection since they held the ninth pick in the 2017 draft, there should still be plenty of talent left on the board after the first seven teams make their picks. In order to determine which players the Red Wings have a realistic shot at drafting, let’s take a look at the state of the seven teams picking ahead of Detroit, and which players they might be targeting in next week’s draft.
Montreal Canadiens – 1st Overall
Team Needs: Franchise Cornerstone
The Montreal Canadiens seem to have two options here: Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovský. The former has been ranked as the top prospect of this year’s class going back to when he was just 15 years old, but the latter has seen his draft stock soar this year after representing his country in several international tournaments. Bob McKenzie recently named Slafkovský his top prospect in this year’s class, and McKenzie’s rankings have correctly predicted the top pick of the draft in every year going back to 2008.
It seems like the Canadiens’ choice comes down to these two players. Do they take Wright, who has top line potential and could become a captain later on in his career, or do they take Slafkovský, the rising star who might be the most NHL-ready prospect in this class and could become a top-tier power forward in the NHL? Regardless of who they choose, both of these players should come off the board well before Detroit is on the clock.
THW Mock Draft Pick: Shane Wright
New Jersey Devils – 2nd Overall
Team Needs: Top Line Winger, Top Pairing Defenseman
Right away, things could get crazy in this year’s draft. With Jack Hughes (21 years old) and Nico Hischier (23) already in place down the middle, the New Jersey Devils have their centers to build around. If the Canadiens pick Slafkovský first overall, Devils general manager (GM) Tom Fitzgerald will likely be glued to his phone as almost every other team will be making offers to acquire the second pick. Furthermore, there are some interesting names floating around the rumor mill, and the Devils could move this pick to acquire a high-end talent to make their team better right now.
If the Canadiens take Wright first overall, the Devils seems like a great fit for Slafkovský – he would bring a combination of power and skill that their lineup and prospect pool is missing. Alternatively, the Devils could also shock the hockey world by taking on of the top two defensemen in this year’s class: Šimon Nemec or David Jiříček. If Luke Hughes is their future anchor on the left side of their defense, one of Nemec or Jiříček could be their future anchor on the right side.
It’s rare that things start to get spicy as soon as second overall, but that seemed like a foregone conclusion ever since the lottery awarded the Devils the second pick.
THW Mock Draft Pick: Juraj Slafkovský
Arizona Coyotes – 3rd Overall
Team Needs: Everything
For Red Wings fans, the best way to describe the Arizona Coyotes’ situation is what Steve Yzerman inherited when he was named GM of the Red Wings back in 2019. There are some good, young players in place, and there’s even a promising prospect or two in the system, but the Coyotes are a long time away from being a threat in the Western Conference. Because of that, expect the Coyotes to keep things simple and take the best player available.
If Wright is somehow still on the board, the Coyotes will likely race to the podium to make him the third pick. Same thing goes for Slafkovský, though their top prospect (Dylan Guenther) is a winger, so they might still prefer a center or a defenseman. If they would prefer a defenseman, one of the top two defenders will be the pick.
All of that being said, look for Logan Cooley to be the pick here. Ranked by some as the second-best prospect in this class, the American-born center is wildly creative and has “top line center” written all over him. Even if he’s not the pick, the Coyotes really can’t go wrong unless they go way off the board.
THW Mock Draft Pick: Logan Cooley
Seattle Kraken – 4th Overall
Team Needs: Top Line Winger, Top Pairing Defenseman
It goes without saying that a team entering its second draft in franchise history does not have a ton of depth in their prospect pool. Their top prospect, Matty Beniers (picked second overall in the 2021 draft), seems poised to become the top center for the Seattle Kraken next season after posting nine points in 10 games late this season. Once you factor in his graduation, the Kraken’s prospect pool goes right back to needing impact players at every position.
Related: Red Wings 2022 Draft Coverage
The general consensus among prospect writers is that the Kraken will target a franchise defenseman to go along with their already established franchise centerman. That would, of course, point to one of Nemec or Jiříček as the pick here. If Seattle has a surprise in store, a player such as Cutter Gauthier could go this high (McKenzie has him ranked as the fifth-best prospect in this draft class.) All things considered, the Kraken could be one of the wild cards picking before the Red Wings simply due to the fact that Seattle hasn’t had the time to build up their prospect pool, and therefore you can make an argument for just about any of the top-10 prospects to go fourth overall.
THW Mock Draft Pick: David Jiříček
Philadelphia Flyers – 5th Overall
Team Needs: Players with Top Line/Top Pairing Potential
The Philadelphia Flyers are an interesting case because their roster probably isn’t as bad as their record this season suggests. Losing their top center (Sean Couturier) and a top-pairing defenseman (Ryan Ellis) for the majority of a season definitely wreaked havoc on their win-loss record, and now they have the opportunity to add a blue chip prospect to their organization. To that point, the word “retool” is being thrown around the Flyers rather than “rebuild”. This pick is an opportunity for them to add an impact player that can eventually become a key part of their core.
If one of the two top defensemen are still on the board, they could very well be the pick. The Flyers are pretty well set on the left side of their blue line, but they don’t really have an ace on the right side, especially considering Ellis is 31 years old and is coming off of an injury that cost him most of the season. While they have a solid group of young forwards, this is also a suitable landing spot for a player like Gauthier or even Matthew Savoie. Expect Philadelphia to go best player available here and allow another team to potentially go way off the board.
THW Mock Draft Pick: Šimon Nemec
Columbus Blue Jackets – 6th Overall
Team Needs: Impact Prospect
After picking fifth and 12th overall in last year’s draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets enter the first round of the 2022 draft with the sixth and 12th picks. They selected two forwards in the first round last year (Kent Johnson at fifth, Cole Sillinger at 12th) and then went on to select a handful of defensemen in the following rounds of the draft. This is an organization that has good, even great players at all positions, but they still have a need for top-tier prospects to build around. With the sixth pick, expect the Blue Jackets to add an impact player at one of two positions: center or defense.
If Nemec or Jiříček are still on the board here, they probably don’t make it past the Blue Jackets. If Columbus can head into the future with one of those two and Zach Werenski on the blue line for the foreseeable future, that’s something to get excited about. Otherwise, expect them to target a player that could be their top line center of the future, whether that’s Gauthier, Savoie or even Brad Lambert. GM Jarmo Kekäläinen is no stranger to surprising people on the draft floor, so this pick has to be seen as something of a wild card when predicting who will be available for the Red Wings.
THW Mock Draft Pick: Matthew Savoie
Ottawa Senators – 7th Overall
Team Needs: Scoring Forward
The Ottawa Senators are going to be a dangerous team soon. They’ve got a good collection of defensemen, led by Thomas Chabot and 2020 draftee Jake Sanderson, they’ve got good skill players in Tim Stützle and Josh Norris (to name a couple), and they’ve got a healthy dose of abrasiveness in Brady Tkachuk and 2021 draftee Tyler Boucher. What this team needs now is a player that excels at putting the puck in the back of the net.
In our mock draft here at THW, the Senators selected Swedish forward Jonathan Lekkerimäki, and he certainly fits the mold of a goal-scorer (McKenzie has him ranked as the eighth-best prospect in this draft class.) Other mock drafts have projected the Senators to take a player like Finnish forward Joakim Kemell, and he would satisfy their need for a goal-scorer as well. That being said, Gauthier is another player to watch here because he fits the mold of what type of players the Senators have been targeting in recent years (blend of size and skill, tenaciousness).
THW Mock Draft Pick: Jonathan Lekkerimäki
Based on all of this, here’s the likelihood of certain prospects being available to the Red Wings at pick eight:
Long Shot: Cutter Gauthier
Maybe: Matthew Savoie, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Joakim Kemell
Most Likely: Brad Lambert, Frank Nazar, Marco Kasper, Kevin Korchinski, Conor Geekie
Which player do you hope is still on the board when the Red Wings make their pick at eighth overall?
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.