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NHL Draft: Ranking the top 32 prospects

·Writer
·15-min read

Once Shane Wright goes off the board as the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, nothing is certain. The remainder of the first round is far from predictable. If you were to ask 20 experienced NHL scouts to provide a first-round breakdown, you'd certainly get dozens of varied lists with differing opinions on almost every player. After Wright, the second tier of 5-6 players are the only first-round “guarantees.”

One predictable portion of the opening round of the draft will be the absence of a goaltender. No netminder will earn consideration until much later in the event. The first round of the 2022 NHL draft could include players from as many as 10 nations, and has a depth of solid prospects with parity between picks 15-40, making this a draft that will be judged for its hits and misses for years to come.

Here is Yahoo Sports’ final 2022 NHL Draft ranking.

The first round of the 2022 NHL Draft is wide open. (Photos via Getty)
The first round of the 2022 NHL Draft is wide open. (Photos via Getty)

1. Shane Wright - F - Kingston Frontenacs, OHL - In the past, top prospects have been all about their offensive flair. Wright brings elite skating, leadership, and scoring skills to the table, but perhaps most notably, he is a two-way threat. His best NHL comparison is often Patrice Bergeron, who is a four-time Selke Trophy winner, Mark Messier Award and King Clancy Award winner, and Stanley Cup champion. Not a bad comparison for Wright, who is a future No. 1 NHL center.

2. Logan Cooley - F - U18, USNTDP - The top scoring threat from the US National Team Development Program, Cooley enters the draft as a likely top-line center who plays an intelligent two-way game. He plays as well away from the puck as with it, driving play and generating offense for his linemates. In the offensive zone, Cooley uses pace changes to create space, allowing him to distribute the puck or step into open space for shot attempts.

3. Juraj Slafkovský - F - TPS, Liiga - The Olympic MVP and standout for Slovakia at the men’s World Championships, Slafkovský has size and scoring prowess. Benefiting from his frame and puck protection skills, Slafkovksy has unique upside. The expectation for immediate impact is reminiscent of Jesse Puljujarvi. He has played his way into a top-five spot, but how patient a team is willing to be with his development could determine his immediate and short-term impact at the NHL level.

4. Simon Nemec - D - HK Nitra, Slovakia - Whether it is Nemec, or the soon-to-be-mentioned David Jiricek, a European defender will be the top blueliner selected in this draft. Nemec's game is mature and balanced. Against his peers, and at the pro level, he has shown offensive upside, but it’s his consistency as a teenager playing against adults that has helped his star to rise. He had 26 points in 39 games in Slovakia’s top pro league, placing him eighth among defenders. When the playoffs rolled around, Nemec showed his season-long development, putting up 10 points in 13 games to top all blueliners.

5. David Jiricek - D - HC Plzen, Czechia - Some people see a little bit of Moritz Seider in the young Czechian defender. Mobile, assertive, and capable of generating offence from the back end, Jiricek could be the first defender selected. An injury earlier in the year cooled some scouts, but upon his return, he looked dominant beyond his years playing in Czechia’s top pro league.

6. Matthew Savoie - F - Winnipeg Ice, WHL - When early projections for the 2023 draft came out a few years ago, Matthew Savoie was a player everyone spoke of in the same breath as Shane Wright. Savoie has since been usurped by other players, but the talent that first tantalized remains. Perhaps the most endearing portion of Savoie’s game is his relentless puck pursuit and competitiveness. He is rarely outworked. A team could easily reach forward and select Savoie higher, or he could slip. What an NHL club is getting, however, is a future top-six forward who will drive offense.

7. Joakim Kemell - F - JYP, Liiga - The Finnish finisher spent most of the season as Central Scouting’s top European skater, and for good reason. Depending on organizational need, Kemell could easily be a top-five pick. He scored 15 goals this season for JYP in Liiga, an impressive performance for a draft-eligible prospect, but about average for recent Finnish first-round picks. The interesting thing about this draft is that after Wright and perhaps Cooley, anything can happen. Kemell projects as a top-six forward at the NHL level.

8. Danila Yurov - F - Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL - What we know about Yurov is that very few weaknesses appear in his game. What we don’t know, based on Russia’s war against Ukraine, is if, or when Russian players will be able to leave the country for North America. In 37 regular season and playoff games in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Yurov did not register a point, but he was dynamic in the MHL. How the Russian conflict and the inability to see Yurov against peers outside of Russia this season impacts where he goes in the draft will soon be seen

9. Frank Nazar - F - U18, USNTDP - Beyond Cooley, judging the next best player from the USNTDP is like throwing darts blindfolded. With that, it’s difficult to predict where Nazar will land in the draft. The first thing any onlooker will notice about him is his elite speed. He uses his skating to relentlessly pursue the puck. Committed to play for the University of Michigan, a program that seems happy to bring in high-end NHL talent and watch them leave school early, Nazar will look to round out his game and develop physically. His play at the men’s U18 World Championships was impressive.

10. Jonathan Lekkerimäki - F - Djurgardens, SHL - A great shooter, Lekkerimäki has been a consistent climber this season. His upward trajectory could cause a team with more robust European scouting and intel to reach for him. One knock has been his skating, although this aspect of his game has improved as well, and won’t be as evident on North American ice, especially when you see his hands and creativity. With another season in the SHL, the longtime Djurgårdens forward could develop into a steal.

11. Brad Lambert - F - Pelicans, Liiga - When the first looks at the 2022 draft class started a few seasons ago, Brad Lambert was a top-five slam dunk. Perhaps no player receives such variance when it comes to rankings. You can see Lambert inside the top 10, and you can see him outside the first round. When you watch him, you’ll see elite speed and agility, especially through the neutral zone. Still, some scouts want to see his decision-making catch up to his tantalizing mobility. He’s a first-round talent. How high or low he goes, however, will be a fun topic to analyze for years to come. Someone will either look like a genius, or teams will be kicking themselves for the next decade.

12. Conor Geekie - F - Winnipeg Ice, WHL - There is consensus around Geekie. He looks like a sure-fire NHLer with long-term upside. With great size and reach as a 6-foot-4 forward, Geekie adds puck control and a pro-level shot to his arsenal. Filling out this frame, and continuing to work on his stride are all that remain in turning Geekie into a dominant NHL forward.

13. Cutter Gauthier - F - U18, USNTDP - Another USNTDP headliner, Gauthier uses his 6-foot-3 frame to push his way into scoring positions. Once he’s there and the puck arrives, Gauthier uses a quick and accurate release to score. He projects as a top-nine winger, but still needs to learn to apply his physical skills to different areas of the ice. The Boston College-bound player will play in the NHL, but scouts’ assessment of his ceiling will determine how early Gauthier goes in the first round.

14. Pavel Mintyukov - D - Saginaw Spirit, OHL - His ability to provide offense from the back end is impressive. Mintyukov will need to further develop his defensive game, a fact that was highlighted on a bad Saginaw Spirit team in the OHL. Still, 17 goals and 62 points as a draft-eligible defender is eye-popping. He’s worth the risk.

15. Isaac Howard - F - U18, USNTDP - He loves to score and does so often. He has the unteachable instinct to finish plays, and can be deceptive with the puck. At times, Howard has held the puck too long, failing to utilize teammates. He’s learning to play more of the team game, and will continue that development next season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth

16. Marco Kasper - F - Rögle, SHL - He has gifted vision. While Kasper had a decent regular season in the SHL, the Austrian kicked it up a notch in the playoffs for Rogle. His postseason performance should be enough to see his draft stock remain stable despite the fact he struggled at the men’s World Championships. He likes to play the game on his edges, which opens passing lanes and enables him to maintain possession and generate chances.

17. Kevin Korchinski - D - Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL - One of the biggest risers in the second half of the season, Korchinski could easily jump into the top half of Round 1. This will be a matter of preference for NHL teams. His skating shines as a selling feature, and the improvement he showed this season makes it hard to predict if it’s true development or an apparition a team will regret later. His performance in the postseason, specifically quarterbacking the power play was another impressive feat. He just keeps getting better.

18. Owen Pickering - D - Swift Current Broncos, WHL - The toolkit Pickering brings to the table is tempting. His raw potential, including the six-foot-four frame oozes upside. Pickering will need seasoning and time to continue his development, but he skates well, highlighted by a long, smooth stride, and put up decent numbers for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. He is a project, but one an NHL team will gladly take on.

19. Ivan Miroshnichenko - F - Omskie Krylia, VHL - Based on skill alone, Miroshnichenko is a top-five pick. Due to his battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma, and the ongoing question marks about Russian players, teams will likely take a more hesitant approach to him. If a team entering the 2022 draft with two or more first-round picks wants to swing for the fences on talent, however, Miroshnihenko could become the steal of the draft.

20. Denton Mateychuk - D - Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL - A consensus first-round pick, there is a lot to love about Mateychuk. His game from the blue line can actually be exciting at times, a statement rarely used about defenders not named Cale Makar. One of Mateychuk’s selling features is his ability to drive offence at even strength, and also to quarterback a power play.

21. Rutger McGroarty - F - U18, USNTDP - The Michigan commit can be bullish at times. He doesn’t shy away from using his body to protect the puck or separate opponents from it. Physicality is an important component of McGroaty’s productivity. He gets to the middle lane with the puck to give himself prime scoring opportunities, and it showed this season with the USNTDP, where he racked up 70 points in 48 games and was MVP of the Biosteel All-American Game. He’s the type of player that thrives in the playoffs. Ranked lower by some, there is value in his game.

22. Jiří Kulich - F - ​​HC Energie Karlovy Vary, Czechia - One of the things Kulich does best is utilize his agility to find space in the slot. He moves across the midline, forcing goaltenders to move from side-to-side, opening scoring chances for himself or drawing pressure to free his teammates. Laterally, he moves like a dream, which in today’s NHL is beneficial. Straight away, he still has some power issues. Kulich didn’t get the chance to shine during the regular season playing in Czechia’s top professional league, but was dangerous at the U18s and in opportunities against his peer group. He was the breakout start of the men’s U18 World Championships. If he doesn’t go in the first, a team will get excellent value from Kulich in the second.

23. Filip Mesar - F - HK Poprad, Slovakia - He is a good passer enabling smooth transitions. He finds seams in the offensive zone getting to the middle of the ice. Mesar was stellar at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup before showing promise in Slovakia’s top men’s pro league. For being a smaller player, he fills space using his speed, and can pressure opponents into turnovers.

24. Nathan Gaucher - F - Québec Remparts, QMJHL - Using his long reach to retrieve pucks and take away space, Gaucher and his 6-foot-3 frame will be enticing to teams. He can make plays in traffic, and finishes his checks. Gaucher is a power forward, and in the QMJHL has utilized his frame to dominate as a net-front presence. Improving his skating and learning how to replicate his best attributes at the pro game will take time, but will be worth the wait for an NHL team. He had a strong postseason in the QMJHL.

25. Liam Öhgren - F - Djurgårdens, SHL/J20 - He was one of the most consistent performers since the Hlinka Gretzky tournament through to the men’s U18 World Championships. Öhgren excelled against his age bracket in Sweden. He played 25 games with Djurgårdens in the SHL, and played fundamentally sound, using his puck pursuit and skating effectively in limited minutes. He could climb into the teens in this unpredictable draft.

26. Alexander Perevalov - F - Loko Yaroslavl, MHL - Creativity and puck skills are abundant with Perevalov. It’s a broken record, but how Russian players are treated at the draft could determine whether Perevalov is a first-round pick, or slides into Round 2. He can have a little bit of tunnel vision, playing himself into the wrong spaces, but he looked elite against his peers at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

27. Lian Bichsel - D - Leksands, SHL - Missing the U18 tournament due to injury could be a huge blow to Bichsel, as the best opportunity scouts had to see the towering 6-foot-5 Swiss defender compete against elite peers was erased. His size and puck possession skills will lure any team looking to add a future top four defender who is willing to wait a few seasons for Bischel to round into form.

28. Seamus Casey - D - U18, USNTDP - Probably the best defender on the USNTDP from start to finish, Casey transitions the puck well. Headed to the University of Michigan, whatever team selects him can guarantee his development will be closely monitored and aided at a school known for producing first-round talent. He sees the ice and distributes the puck well and can be a risk taker, which gives him more of an upside. The safer pick at this slot would be his USNTDP teammate Ryan Chesley, but the upside of Casey will be tempting.

29. Noah Östlund - F - Djurgårdens, SHL/J20 - Ostlund has bounced up and down draft boards all year and could just as easily be selected 15 spots lower. He got a taste of the SHL but didn’t produce in limited time. When the U18 men’s championships took place, however, he was a force against his peers. Good puck skills and quickly turning mundane plays into scoring chances, Ostlund’s biggest challenge will be getting stronger, allowing him to make the same plays down the middle of the ice against men.

30. Jimmy Snuggerud - F - U18, USNTDP - A point per game player this year for the USNTDP, Snuggerud has size (6-foot-2) and is committed to one of the top NCAA programs in the country (Minnesota). Every part of his game screams NHL calibre…except his skating. The most effective part of his game is his ability to shoot the puck, and diversify his shot selection.

31. Jagger Firkus - F - Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL - Had 36 goals in 66 regular season games. We could leave it there. Firkus, however, didn’t leave it there. He jumped to this position due to a strong postseason performance and exceptional creativity. He is slight, and can sometimes shy from physical plays, but his IQ in the offensive zone, including his shot range and selection, is impressive. He can score from almost anywhere inside the blue line and finds openings to receive the puck. Once he has it, his release and manipulation of the puck surprises netminders and defenders.

32. Luca Del Bel Belluz - F - Mississauga Steelheads, OHL - Voted by the OHL coaches as the Eastern Conference Most Improved Player, it’s this improvement that could see Del Bel Belluz sneak into the first round. After putting up only six points two seasons ago, Del Bel Belluz used the season off during the pandemic to mature. He returned to score 30 goals and 76 points this season for the Mississauga Steelheads. Some have questioned his stride, which is now much-improved. Del Bel Belluz has two-way capabilities and looks like a prospect to provide secondary scoring at the NHL level. He had a dreadful playoff, which could send him spiralling.

Who could jump into the first round? Tristan Luneau, Ryan Chesley, Jack D. Hughes, Adam Ingram, Calle Odelius, Danny Zhilkin, Ty Nelson, Maveric Lamoureux, Matyas Sapovaliv, Rieger Lorenz, Owen Beck, Gleb Trikozov, Noah Warren, Lane Hutson, Elias Salomonsson, Tomas Hamara, David Goyette, Matties Havelid, Filip Bystedt.

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