Another year, another ranking. The Bald King is back with his year-end ranking!
I want to start by thanking the Winged Wheel Podcast guys for hosting my rankings this year! If for some reason you are new here, give the podcast a listen. They are Detroit Red Wings-centric but are one of the most entertaining podcasts around and they do a great job covering the league as a whole, with some of the best draft coverage around (and I’m not just saying that because they have me on from time to time). Ryan, Brad, and the mystery that is Evan are some of the best in the game!
You can check out players 51-100 here with full analysis on the back end of my board along with a few honorable mentions! You can also find the bigger intro to my ranking there with an explainer of what I look for in prospects and what goes into my process as well as my general thoughts on the draft class.
I hope you enjoy these rankings and bit of analysis, they are truly a labor of love for me. Last time many of you had graciously asked to buy me a coffee or send me a few dollars but instead of that, if you find any value in these rankings, I ask that if you have the means to do so, you make a small donation to the Jamie Daniels Foundation, a Children’s Foundation initiative that provides education, resources, guidance, and support to people battling Substance Use Disorder so that lives can be saved, and healing can be created within families. Any small amount helps and I would appreciate it greatly!
Without further ado, let's tackle the Top 50 players on my board for the 2022 NHL Draft! Thank you all for reading as always! I appreciate it more than you all know!
1 | C | Shane Wright, Kingston (OHL)
Let’s get this out of the way right away. Shane Wright is not Patrice Bergeron. That comparison is akin to being compared to Sidney Crosby. Bergeron is THE generational talent when it comes to defensive forwards. With that said, would anyone complain if Shane Wright became Ryan O'Reilly? Wright is the ultimate tactical forward. He possesses the tools you need to be a top-line center whether it be speed, skill, or offensive prowess. Wright can thread a pass through traffic with the best of them or beat a goalie clean with his shot. The presumptive number one pick reads the play and understands what is developing on ice before it happens at a very high level. The really intriguing part of the Kingston captain’s game is just how refined it is. He does so many of the little things well that lead to bigger things. He chains events together to create the desired result. He stays on the right side of the puck, puts himself in the right spot, and then exploits the mistakes of his opponents. He may never be a 100-point player but we shouldn’t forget that his age-15 season in the OHL was statistically comparable to Connor McDavid and John Tavares, as he was on pace to match the latter for the highest-scoring season for an exceptional status player in the league’s history. Is the lost year just causing a delay in that offensive potential or is it a long-term hindrance? Regardless, Wright is the top prospect in the class, but he’s not a run-away first-overall pick.
2 | C | Logan Cooley, USNTDP (USHL)
Logan Cooley is a creative, fast-paced center that has the ability to drive play at both ends of the ice. The refinement in his game isn’t on the level of Wright but at times, the imagination he brings to the game can make you think that he could be a better player in the long run. He also has a bit of a tendency to take the foot off the gas. Not in a way that is overly concerning but there are times when he seems to take a shift or two off in a game. The NTDP star shows consistent offensive intellect that many players in this draft could only dream of. He is one of the few play drivers in the draft and shows some excellent traits in the transition game. The University of Minnesota commit will benefit from taking the college route, refining some of the less visible areas of his game while continuing to develop speed and strength. College will also help improve his already steady defensive play. He reads passes and intervenes quite well but he could stand to become more effective down low in the defensive zone. Whichever team selects Cooley could very realistically be getting the most offensively gifted player in the draft who plays a stable defensive game.
3 | RHD | David Jiříček, Plzen (Czech)
One of the most interesting players in the draft class, David Jiříček suffered an injury in the abbreviated World Juniors and just recently returned to action. The 6-foot-3 defender plays with an edge at times while also bringing one of the more interesting and translatable offensive profiles among defensemen in this draft class. His defensive game is predicated on his length and ability to put himself between the puck carrier and their next move, be it a pass or attempting to find a skating lane. Jiříček will throw the body and close out along the wall, leading with his stick to separate the man from the puck and then jump on the puck to make a quick breakout pass. The young Czech blueliner has been suspended a couple of times in recent years because of crossing the line with cross-checks up high or being overly aggressive but NHL teams will look at that smiling. It’s easier to reign in a wild bull than trying to push a player to bring something out of them that may just not be there. On the powerplay, Jiříček is willing to use his mobility along the blueline to open passing and shooting lanes and possesses one of the better shots, especially when he pushes into the slot. Jiříček is the top defender on my board and it wasn’t really much of a debate at this stage of the year.
4 | W | Juraj Slafkovský, TPS (Liiga)
Every prospect person’s favorite Olympian, Slafkovský has shown up in a big way when it comes to international play. With an Olympic MVP on the back of seven goals and a very nice run at the World Championships where he put up nine points in eight games, there has been a ton of hype around the draft’s best power forward. Slafkovský has no problem lowering his shoulder after he rolls off the boards and works his way towards the middle of the ice. The 6-foot-4 winger is excellent on the cycle and along the boards. He has the frame and strength to physically push opponents off the puck and the skill to work the puck out of traffic and into space. A rare combination that often leads to a player having true game-breaking ability. He lacks a bit of top-end footspeed but he could be an interesting piece in a team's top-six if paired with a couple of highly skilled forwards with speed. He’s shown development in the Liiga, Finland’s top league, over the course of the season and consistent growth throughout a season is always a very good sign.
5 | C | Brad Lambert, Pelicans (Liiga)
This might seem high but based on the raw talent level, I could argue myself up a couple of spots. Do I see Lambert going this high? Almost certainly not. Do I see him working out the kinks and becoming a top-5 or top-8 player in this draft class? Yes. The skating, puck skill, and passing ability, along with his unreal transition game all point me towards thinking that Lambert could very well find himself near the top of this draft class when we look back in a decade. Both teams he has played for, JYP and Pelicans, did nothing to put him in a position to succeed. There were far too many times where he would be wide open for a pass through the neutral zone and the defenseman with the puck sent it the length of the ice. There were times when he would send a pass right to the tape of a teammate for an open back door tap-in but it would be flubbed. Lambert has one of the best all-around toolsets in the draft class and passing on that because you can’t decipher a good player who is in a terrible situation in a league above his age group could make many teams look foolish. We’ve seen this before with players such as Lucas Raymond and Sebastian Aho. Let him fall at your own risk.
6 | C | Matthew Savoie, Winnipeg (WHL)
He’s small. Let’s get the obvious red flag out of the way here. He’s also incredibly skilled and fun when he is able to do his thing. In space, Savoie is one of the more dangerous offensive players in the 2022 draft class. The Winnipeg ICE forward had 90 points in 65 games including 35 goals so any implication that Savoie lacks goalscoring ability is patently ridiculous. He is a fairly strong kid for being just 5-foot-9 and does a better job than he’s given credit for in terms of holding his own in a physical battle against players a bit bigger than him. He has been blown up by hulking defenders at times but he also shows some of the cleanest hands in the draft in tight quarters, allowing him to evade the bigger, hulking opponents. He needs to stay engaged below the goal line as well, which will give him a bit more of the ability to make his tools work for him. Physical maturity will take time but the upside of Savoie makes that more than worth it. Can he stick at center? I’d like to see it because he excels in space and does a good job of exploiting the mistakes that allow him to get it. Savoie will be one of the players that has to go to the right situation so whoever drafts him will likely be willing to bet on a shifty, skilled, and productive player who just happens to be undersized.
7 | C/RW | Frank Nazar III, USNTDP (USHL)
To be completely upfront and honest, Nazar is one of my favorite players to watch in the 2022 draft class from a pure entertainment perspective. There is an element of chaos that he brings to the game on a shift-to-shift basis. He plays with creativity and speed, attacking play at both ends of the ice. I’ve often referred to the NTDP forward as a “ball of controlled chaos” and the more I watched him this year, the more I felt like that was true. Even controlled chaos needs some refinement though. Nazar is one of the best skaters in the class, working off his edges and providing an element of elusiveness that few players in this class can match. His puck skill is quite high and although there are moments when his hands and feet get a bit out of sync, he seems to find a way to get the puck back when it does pop free. He plays center and on the wing with a realistic future at either position based on the needs of whichever team drafts him. My feeling is that he ends up as a pace-pushing winger who dazzles with speed and skill who can drive his team's transition game. His defensive game is more about attacking play and being active rather than truly getting into proper position. This also lends itself to the wing where he can patrol the top of the zone and attack along the walls. He isn’t the biggest player and will need to get stronger at the University of Michigan over the next couple of years but Nazar has some very impressive potential.
8 | RHD | Šimon Nemec, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
The young Slovak defender has been all over draft boards and the biggest reason for that is many analysts and scouts value his play in the men’s Slovak league quite differently. Nemec has broken multiple records for scoring by a U18 defender with 26 points in 39 games and in the league and his playoffs were among the best ever for a U21 skater as he put up 17 points in 19 games. The production is unreal. His World Championship was equally as good with 6 points in 8 games, the highest total among U18 defenders of all time. So what’s the deal? Why isn’t he pushing the top of the board? He has the skating and vision to make plays offensively and his transition numbers look decent. Nemec makes defenders look goofy at times at the offensive blueline. There are concerns with his defensive game, at times being a bit too aggressive in the neutral zone which leaves him open to allowing some odd-man rushes. He still lacks strength at times but will throw his body every once in a while. As a puck carrier, he is more of a shovel ahead and skate onto it transition player than a true stick handler, credit to my pal Will Scouch for pointing that one out. There is a lot to like in Nemec’s game but he needs some patience, refinement, and a true understanding of what he is and could be going forward.
9 | W | Joakim Kemell, JYP (Liiga)
After a blazing hot start fuelled by a shooting percentage that sat above 30% for the first half of the year, Kemell dealt with an injury and natural regression in the second half. The Finnish sniper can be a legitimate difference-maker. He is a deft forechecker who understands how to read which side of the puck to be on to prevent an easy breakout if he isn’t the first on the puck and uses some physicality below the goal line to turn pucks over. He could stand to use a bit more of that effort in the defensive zone at times but Kemell will occasionally flash good tendencies in his own zone which is a sign that it can be built upon. In the offensive zone, Kemell is an excellent off-puck player. He finds and settles into pockets of space with the best in the draft class to set himself up for a shot. He has an array of shooting abilities, be it a heavy one-timer or a snapshot as he streaks through space. Kemell is one of the better shooters in the draft class and has legitimate 35+ goal potential at the next level but he does need to push into the high-danger area a bit more as he has a tendency to settle for a shot from a distance a bit too much. He is a capable puck carrier but works best when he has someone to drive the bus while he takes on the finishing duties.
10 | C/RW | Filip Mešár, Poprad (Slovakia)
Mešár is one of the more intelligent and projectible players in the draft, in my opinion. There is plenty to like in his game that could lead you to believe that he can project as a center at the next level and his ability on the wing has been evident throughout the year when he’s been in the position. He understands space at a very high level. While he generally won’t blow by a defender, he understands how to use his edges and changes in speed to create separation. He will attack a defender as he crosses the blueline and then downshifts in an instant, creating space and identifying a passing or skating lane that develops because his opponents don’t have time to adjust. The Slovak forward does an excellent job of making defensive reads as well. He already has pro-tendencies in his 200-foot game thanks to playing against men for the last two seasons. He will need to add some strength, particularly in his lower half to continue developing some power as a skater but there is so much to like about Mešár’s game that he only needs to come a step or two overall to safely project as a middle-six two-way forward who can help dictate play in a variety of areas.
11 | LHD | Kevin Korchinski, Seattle (WHL)
When I released my pre-WJC ranking, I had an NHL scout reach out to me and tell me that while he liked a lot of what I had on there, the one player he felt like I was missing out on was Kevin Korchinski, who I had ranked in the 40s. He couldn’t have been more right. The more I have watched the Thunderbirds’ defender, the more I have envisioned him as a modern-day transitional blueliner that has the escapability necessary to excel in both zones with the puck on his stick and the skill to be a difference-maker in all three zones. His defending will need some work and coaching but with some patience, he has all of the tools to indicate that he can get that aspect of his game up to standard. He uses head fakes and has excellent body control on puck retrievals, showcasing the ability to create space before it’s ever taken away by a forechecker. His mobility is shifty and agile, allowing him to hold onto the puck for that extra second or two so that he can find the best passing or skating lane to push play up ice. Korchinski has a good shot and will often push into the dots or high slot to find a more dangerous release point. He can run a powerplay from the top of the zone and has the mobility to be fluid in changing his position on the fly. The 6’2 blueliner brings such an intriguing package that some teams may fall in love with his potential and take him higher than just about anyone expects.
12 | W | Gleb Trikozov, Omsk (MHL)
The first Russian on the board comes with obvious caveats. With the current global climate and the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian government, the expectations that Russian players will fall have been widely reported. With that said, everyone’s favorite Gleb is a player to watch in this draft class. If he falls as expected, he very well could be one of the best value picks in the entire draft class. The creativity and dynamism in his game is among the most exciting in the class. Trikozov has one of the best releases in the draft class with the ability to absolutely rip it from just about anywhere. Whether in stride or set up for a catch and release, Gleb can be a lethal shooter all over. The young Russian is an excellent transition player and while it may be inflated a bit by spending the majority of his season in the MHL, there is no doubt in my mind that his skating and elusiveness through the neutral zone can translate. He has natural defensive tendencies such as jumping passing lanes and pressuring opponents at times that will certainly need some refinement but just the fact that it exists while playing in the MHL is impressive because most defensemen don’t have it in them to do it. He needs to gain some strength and refine certain areas of his game but the boom potential is massive here and the bust potential doesn’t feel like the likely outcome.
13 | C | Noah Östlund, Djurgården (SHL)
The first of the Djurgården trio - who are all back-to-back - is Noah Östlund. He has the highest potential of the trio, in my opinion, is why he leads the way. His raw skill, passing ability, scoring instincts, and his creativity are all enviable. Östlund is a big swing this high and he likely goes in round two or three but the potential to wind up being a top-10 player in this draft class is evident. Against his own age group, he displays a killer instinct that scoring chances emerge from. He has the ability to evade pressure but against men, he often seems to be a bit more passive and willing to stop up and thread a pass to a teammate rather than opening space and attacking it. He shows plus forechecking abilities, using his skill to swipe pucks from stagnant defenders and using his agility to chase them down. He plays with a boatload of energy and could very well play up-and-down an NHL lineup with the understanding that he isn’t going to be the crash-and-bang player in the lower part of the lineup, but rather he will pressure with his speed and persistence. His skill and offensive prowess could make him one of the more dangerous all-around offensive skill players in the class as well, projecting as a top-six player.
14 | LW | Liam Öhgren, Djurgården (SHL)
Maybe the most pro-ready from the Djurgården trio, Öhgren looked the most comfortable playing against men in his all-around game. It’s all about looking at Öhgren and understanding that he is going to be an NHL player who can do a wonderful job in transition, intelligent two-way game, and has a simple, yet effective, offensive profile. He is the most complete player amongst the trio. The biggest question is whether he has the potential to be more than a third-line player. He has shown up in big moments internationally, captaining the Swedes to a U18 title this year on the back of a three-point performance against the powerhouse American squad in the gold medal game. Öhgren plays with purpose on every shift which leads to good things happening often. The young Swede does many of the little things well that go unnoticed by fans at times. His work on the boards is deliberate and purposeful, going into each battle with a plan and he has the ability to adapt when challenged. He has a solid shot and works through space well off the puck and is a consistently solid passer as well. He may not bring the flair of Östlund or the raw shooting talent of Lekkerimäki, but Öhgren projects well towards the NHL.
15 | C/W | Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Djurgården (SHL)
The final member of the Djurgården trio, Lekkerimäki is the player that many feels has the most defined role among them. It’s very reasonable to watch Lekkerimäki play and think that he will be an excellent powerplay weapon who can shoot the lights out and also contribute to a top-six as a scoring winger. He is a high-volume shooter who excelled at both the SHL and Swedish junior levels this year. He found the back of the net seven times against men in 26 games, a respectable total for a player who absolutely dominated the junior level at times when he was with the U20 club. His U18 World Championship performance was impressive as he led the tournament in scoring and showcased his ability to drive the play forward with small passes through the neutral zone and some excellent puck movement in the offensive zone. The skill to be a dual-threat has always been there but it came in flashes. If he can develop a bit more of a passing instinct the way he displayed at the annual U18 event, he very well could make his goal-scoring even more lethal by forcing goalies and defenders to think twice about whether he will pass or shoot.
16 | RW | Danila Yurov, Magnitogorsk (KHL)
The Russian that many expect to be the first off the board is Danila Yurov and while he’s not my top-ranked player from the country, I can certainly understand the justification for it. Yurov plays a smart, projectable game. He makes players around him better when given more than the four minutes of ice-time that he regularly received at the KHL level this year. There were many times, especially towards the end of the season when Yurov would play under a minute in a game which is a shame because not only does it not allow him to play his game - or any game really - but it stunts his development to an extent. Yurov is a strong skater who comprehends the flow of the game quite well. At the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup last summer, he was a driver of play. He often made Ivan Miroshnichenko look quite good because he would do a great deal of the work in the offensive zone and then find his big countryman in opportune positions offensively. Yurov is a dual-threat who gets to good spots when shooting and finds teammates all over the offensive zone. When given room to run, he can be a handful at times. He plays with physicality and skill, a blend that attracts NHL squads. How far will he fall because of the mess in Russia’s politics? That’s the biggest question when it comes to Yurov’s evaluation. He’s a first-round talent that could wind up being excellent value to some team willing to take the risk.
17 | LW/C | Cutter Gauthier, USNTDP (USHL)
The Cutter Gauthier train has been picking up steam recently. NHL teams love a physical forward who has some offensive potential and Cutter fits that mold. He has an excellent shot that he absolutely rips from all over the offensive zone with a high degree of success. He has shown the ability to play center fairly successfully in brief stints at the position, particularly when Logan Cooley was with the World Junior team. Gauthier profiles more as a winger from my view but NHL teams are sure to try him out down the middle. A goal-scoring center is a valuable player and Gauthier has the potential to fill that role. With the shooting ability he has, I do find that he is a bit too willing to let the puck go from just about anywhere. At the junior level, that will work but as he heads to college and eventually pro hockey, he will need to focus on pushing into high-danger areas a bit more. He isn’t often asked to be a distributor but shows some nice passing upside and could become a bit more of a dual-threat player in the future. The biggest thing with Cutter will be seeing whether he can bring his average tools up a bit to compliment his high-end shooting and scoring ability. If he can do that, he could be a very useful attacking forward who can blend speed, strength, and skill.
18 | C | Jiří Kulich, Karlovy Vary (Czech)
Seeing the young Czech forward get some love because of the U18 Worlds was fun. Seeing many people disregard the fact that most of his scoring (read: 8 of his 9 goals) at the event came on a lethal Czechia powerplay was less fun. I am a big fan of Kulich’s game. He can pick corners as a shooter and he processes play at a high speed. Against men in the Czech league, he is aware of what play needs to be made next and makes it the most of the time but there are some instances where he is either trying to do too much or he doesn’t take care of the puck the way you’d like. Playing in a men's league at 17 for the majority of the year is tough so some lapses are expected. There are some dynamic moments to his game that I would love to see come out more but that will come with confidence as he matures physically. There are some strength issues as well, as with most players playing their draft year in a men’s league. Kulich does a very good job of moving the puck up ice and using his mobility to bob and weave through traffic with the puck on his stick. At worst, he is a very good shooter who can help just about any powerplay. At best, he develops a bit more consistency and drives play at even-strength as he gets stronger physically.
19 | LHD | Vladimir Grudinin, CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Vladdy Grudinin is one of the most interesting defenders in the draft. His mobility and puck-moving skill are enticing. He has been able to put up some impressive point totals, with a solid portion coming at even strength which is always key, especially in the MHL. He played in the VHL and KHL at points this year as well and seemed to adjust pretty well to both men’s levels. His biggest problem is when he isn’t pushing the pace. If he tries to calm things down and allow the game to come to him, he can get a bit frazzled. When Grudinin is pushing the pace of play, sending breakout passes up ice, or attacking skating lanes, he is such an effective player. The CSKA product is quick to close gaps in transition defensively, jumping into the grill of an attacking player and disrupting the puck carrier's plans. He is quick to pivot, sticks with his man quite effectively, and often out skills his opponent to recover possession for his own team. There is a lot to like in Vladdy’s game but he will surely need to put some strength on his 5-foot-10 frame. If he can do that, he projects as a very interesting modern-day two-way blueliner.
20 | RW | Jagger Firkus, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Firkus is one of the most skilled and entertaining players in the draft. The kid can absolutely rip the biscuit and he will embarrass an opponent or two on the way. He has a video game quality to his game, willing to try a windmill deke from time to time or trying something creative by putting the puck into his feet and kicking it through a defender. He protects the puck at times as if he were three inches taller. Firkus brings the fun to the game. He has some of the best hands in the draft and often looks as if he is on the precipice of losing the puck before pulling it in or pushing it to space where only he can get to it. The Moose Jaw winger has incredible creativity to go with his hands and shooting ability. Firkus has one of the highest upsides among the prospects in the class because of the insane amount of skill and speed that he can play with at times. Firkus is an absolute gamer who will do anything it takes to make a positive impact on the game on nearly every shift. There aren’t many forwards, particularly outside of the top-15, that comes with the upside that Firkus possesses.
21 | LHD | Pavel Mintyukov, Saginaw (OHL)
The Mintyuov hype machine has been going wild! I feel like I’m considerably lower on him than some but the risk factor is really high here. The reward is also incredibly high, so I understand the hype to a degree. I joked in December that Mintyukov should be listed as a left-winger and a left-shot defender and I still very much feel that way, although the defensive side of his game has seemed to progress over the course of the season. He is using the tools that make him so dangerous offensively, such as his mobility and anticipation, to improve his defensive game. There’s still work to be done but the improvement has been a welcome sight and leads me to believe that with some patience, he can continue to progress. As an offensive player, the Russian defender is a wicked playmaker. He with dipsy doodle all day at the blueline, embarrassing opponents with his hands and quick feet. His passing ability is quite impressive and because he is always pushing deep into the offensive zone, he gets shots off from quality scoring areas. There will need to be a ton of refinement but if he can work out the kinks, oh boy am I going to look like an idiot for having him this low.
22 | RHD | Sam Rinzel, Waterloo (USHL)
Rinzel fits in with this glut of defenders in the mid-late first round because much like many of them, he has a ton of raw tools but he needs to refine things and figure out what he is going to be at the next level. Splitting time between high school hockey and the USHL, he was able to translate a lot of what he does well from USHS to the USHL. His size and mobility combination immediately jumps out as he moves like a gazelle while standing 6-foot-4 although he will need to fill out his frame and become a bit more powerful in his lower body. He is an excellent puck mover who is willing to go for the homerun when it’s available but will check down to a safer play if it isn’t. His offensive zone presence is still figuring itself out but the flashes of real game-breaking play are there at times. Rinzel is a boom-or-bust kid in a lot of ways but he is young for the draft class and will be heading to the University of Minnesota in a couple of years so patience will be key.
23 | LHD | Owen Pickering, Swift Current (WHL)
A lot of what was said about Rinzel applies here. He is a big, mobile defenseman who is still trying to figure out what he is. He had a growth spurt later in development after being an undersized mobile defenseman on his way to the WHL. The traits of a being an undersized puck mover are largely still there and Pickering values the time he spent undersized because as he put it, “It gave me the ability to develop the skill side of the game and now I am physically maturing and can bring that element as well.” If he can continue working on his coordination and maintain the mobility and puck skill that he shows at times, the Swift Current defender could make some team look very smart for selecting him on day one of the draft. If he winds up going outside of round one, it’s an incredible bet.
24 | RHD | Seamus Casey, USNTDP (USHL)
Casey was one of the hardest players to place in this draft class which is why he is with the group of defensemen who are all incredibly skilled but have some major question marks. The NTDP blueliner shows flashes of absolute brilliance at times, specifically in the offensive zone. He is creative and identifies passing lanes extremely well, he attacks down the wall to maintain possession and will draw opponents in before threading the needle to a teammate deep in the zone. His defensive game needs quite a bit of refinement and the University of Michigan should provide ample opportunity against NCAA competition. Casey is a shifty skater but will often defer to the forwards in transition which works but takes the puck off his stick, where he is at his best when it’s on his stick.
25 | LHD | Denton Mateychuk, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Mateychuk is a superbly talented player but he is also a player that doesn’t quite resemble anyone in the NHL. His play style is hectic yet predictable in a lot of ways. The mobility and change of direction are there but he lacks pull-away speed. He will use his creativity in the neutral zone and offensively to maneuver through traffic. His defensive game needs some work but when he utilizes his skating and pressures on the rush, he can prevent play before it starts. He just doesn’t do it enough. The variance in Mateychuk’s game may be wider than any defender in the class. There is a world where he is the most dynamic and gifted defender in the draft class from an offensive perspective and there is also a world where Mateychuk establishes himself as a top-four defender in the AHL but never quite cracks the NHL full-time. He’s dynamic, he’s creative, he’s fun. He’s also a very tough evaluation because you see what he is successful at but no one does what he does at the NHL level. He may be the most interesting player to look back on in a decade to see what happened.
26 | C | Conor Geekie, Winnipeg (WHL)
One of the more divisive prospects in the draft class, Conor Geekie began the year as a potential challenger, albeit a darkhorse, to Wright at number one. At this point in the year, there are many, myself included, that have some major concerns despite the strengths in his game that should secure him a pick in round one. His skating needs to take a step, or a few. He is a bit too stompy in his stride, almost trying to force his foot through the ice rather than using the blade to power him forward. He has some power to his stride at times and when he gets up to speed, he can be a real handful. It just takes him a bit. With that said, Geekie has a lot of really nice qualities at both ends of the ice. He positions himself well defensively. The 6-foot4 center has a quick stick defensively and uses his reach quite effectively, lifting sticks and creating turnovers. In the offensive zone, he is a skilled passer and has an underrated shot. He notched 70 points for the ICE in 63 games in the WHL. His skating and mobility concerns aside, there is a valuable two-way forward who lacks in the transition game. Whoever drafts Geekie should immediately set him up with a skating coach and continue working with him to add lean muscle to his massive frame.
27 | LHD | Calle Odelius, Djurgården (SHL)
The Djurgården trio has a fourth teammate who could very well be of interest in round one. Calle Odelius is a skilled two-way bluleiner who utilizes his mobility to the fullest extent of his ability. He displays escapability with the puck on his stick below the goalline. His passing ability from his own end is a major asset, generating clean breakouts and moving the puck effectively up to the forwards in transition. Odelius uses his mobility when passing lanes aren’t available but there are times when pressured that he will send a pass up ice without an intended target. When defending transitions, Odelius has shown the ability to close gaps and get into the puck carriers face. When he commits to doing that he is effective and breaks up play before it starts. However, there are other times when the Swedish defender is too passive and will allow free reign on entry into the zone. Although he stays between the puck and the net, he gives a bit too much room. In the offensive zone, Odelius is an excellent distributor of the puck and uses his skates to open himself up to the play or move and create lanes to shoot and pass. He isn’t necessarily going to dance along the blueline but he will stay in motion and make life difficult for wingers who don’t stay committed high in the zone. He flashes the ability to attack and push shots to the net but he isn’t really going to bring that to the NHL level in a major way.
28 | LW | Issac Howard, USNTDP (USHL)
I have seen and heard some opinions on Howard that I straight up do not understand. Implications that he should be a late round pick or even in consideration as a ‘Do Not Draft” player seem asinine. Even before his World Under-18 performance that saw him star for a powerhouse American squad, Howard put up incredible numbers with the NTDP. Obviously, numbers don’t tell the full story but the tools he displays on the tape certainly back them up. Sure, he has some tendencies that I would deem “Junior Hockey” style stuff such as scoring from the outside at times or sending prayer passes that are answered by his incredibly skilled teammates but there is also an attack ability that he shows fairly regualrly. He displays a high level of pace and often acts as a play creator for some of the teammates getting a ton more love than him. I’ve said a million times that a single tournament shouldn’t make a players season but hopefully the U18s helped show some of the Howard doubters just how good he is.
29 | LHD | Lian Bichsel, Leksands (SHL)
One of the better defensive reargaurds in the draft class, Bichsel has steadily become more confident with the puck on his stick and he brings an element of physicality that isn’t common in the 2022 draft class. The 6-foot-5 Swiss defender is an imposing force in the defensive zone who uses his reach to disrupt play and he has no mercy when closing out along the boards. Bichsel isn’t going to be much of a puck carrier in transition or be an offensive catalyst by any means, but he should provide rock solid defensive prowess with the ability to move the puck up to the forwards and let them work their magic. He is a player who understands his role at a young age and plays within himself. The ceiling may not be that of a top pair stud but he also has a very safe projection towards the NHL.
30 | C | Marco Kasper, Rögle (SHL)
I won’t be shocked to see Kasper find his way into the top-15 come draft day. The Austrian forward played the vast majority of the season at the SHL level in Sweden. He notched 11 points in 46 games. Kasper looks very comfortable at the pro level already, showcasing his two-way intelligence as well as a knack for finding the back of the net when given an opportunity. Kasper shows some very good traits in transition, with above-average skating ability and good puck skill, despite lacking a bit of flair that could make him elite in the transition game. He understands where to be and when to be there at both ends of the ice. He will take away a passing lane and begin to turn the puck up ice defensively and then he will find a pocket of space in the slot to ensure that any scoring chance he gets comes from in tight. There is a lot to like about Kasper, I’m just unsure if there is anything to truly love. There isn’t much to hate, either.
31 | C | David Goyette, Sudbury (OHL)
One of the premier playmakers of the draft, Goyette began to show some nice goal-scoring touch at times towards the end of the year. He seemed to save his goals for the biggest stages, whether it was a nationally televised game with Sudbury or in a key moment at the U18s, Goyette seemed to come up big whenever his goal scoring was doubted. He finished as the top rookie class in goals and points this OHL season, albeit a year older than he likely would have debited due to the pandemic. His silky-smooth passing ability is still very evident whenever watching him play but he also has a tendency to make the extra pass when he doesn’t need to. Goyette is shifty with or without the puck, evading pressure and manipulating space with head fakes, look offs and so many other small tactics to make life easier on him. He has a bit of a tendency to default to the outside in the offensive zone, playing on the perimeter and threading passes into high danger areas rather than getting there himself. There is a lot to like about Goyette but pairing him with a high-end goal scorer at the next level will be a key factor in him finding success.
32 | RHD | Mattias Hävelid, Linköping (SHL)
Hävelid has been hovering around my first round all year and at year’s end, he squeaks in. The young Swede is a crafty defender who loves to go for the homerun play but has developed a sense of restraint as the year progressed. He is a skilled breakout passer who uses his edge well to open up space. Hävelid has shown the ability to man a powerplay quite effectively, using his mobility to move across the blueline and push into the high slot at times to draw attention and generate shots. He was Sweden’s best defenseman at the World Under-18s, putting up 12 points in six games, one off the record held by Matt Dumba, who played in seven games that year. Hävelid needs to clean up his in-zone defense a bit but his mobility and effort are reasons for optimism in that department. There is a lot to like about the potential in Hävelid’s game but it comes with concerns in his own end at times.
33 | LHD | Lane Hutson, USNTDP (USHL)
I don’t think there is a player in this draft class that I want to be a legit player more than Lane Hutson. The undersized defender has been one of the more creative and interesting players in the class, using upper echelon mobility and incredible skill to generate offense and push play up ice in the transition game. He stands at just 5-foot-8 but he brought a report from an endocrinologist to the scouting combine that said there could be two more inches of bone growth in him over the next couple of years. His fitness testing was very impressive at the combine as well, including in many of the raw strength tests. That brazen confidence and self-belief is also displayed on the ice. If Hutson falls out of round one, as many suspects because of his size, we could very well be looking at some team selecting a legitimate top-four blueliner with top powerplay potential in the second or third round, all because some deemed him too small.
34 | LW | Ivan Miroshnichenko, Omsk (VHL)
My best wishes go out to Ivan in his battle against cancer and there has been some very encouraging news on his outlook moving forward recently as he has completed his treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and has been cleared to return to practice. As a player, Miroshnichenko has a glut of physical tools. He has a big shot and skates quite well. His strength has been on display a number of times over the last few years. His season this year was a bit up and down, but with his health being up-in-the-air for much of the year, making any swift judgments on his game feels unfair. If he can get back to the form we saw heading into his draft year, and all signs seem to point towards him being able to do so, Miroshnichenko may very well have a very nice NHL career as a power winger with some very intriguing goal-scoring ability.
35 | C | Paul Ludwinski, Kingston (OHL)
Ludwinski was an interesting evaluation this year. There were times when he was asked to play on the wing but he looked more efficient and comfortable down the middle. Tasked with ensuring Kingston had some semblance of functionality beyond the Shane Wright line, Ludwinski did an excellent job of playing to his linemate's talents and being a smart and intuitive center who did whatever was asked of him. He lacks a truly elite tool but he seems to be more than capable in a variety of areas. His defensive responsibility is a big plus and his offensive zone positioning and facilitation are quite solid. Ludwinski could have a very stable future as a middle-six center who can adapt to whatever linemates that he is given.
36 | C | Danny Zhilkin, Guelph (OHL)
Zhilkin is a player that feels a bit incomplete. He has a very solid transition game that allows him to act as the primary puck transporter on his line and his shot is a plus attribute. There are times when he will display shifty mitts or some dynamic passing ability but the examples often feel few and far between. He will use his above-average skating ability to maneuver around the ice and find open spots in the offensive zone to set up for a one-time shot, easily his biggest asset offensively. There is just a lack of consistency in those areas of the game. He has a good one-time shot, attacks through the middle of the ice, and then defers away upon zone entry. If Zhilkin can learn to round out his game just a bit more, he very well could find himself a role in an NHL top-six. If he remains what he is, there is some interesting puck-moving ability in transition and a decent off-puck shooter but his ceiling may be limited.
37 | C | Rutger McGroarty, USNTDP (USHL)
McGroarty has been one of the more divisive players in the 2022 draft. His scoring and numbers have always been there, even while dealing with a wrist/arm injury through the middle of the season. His talent is undeniable as an offensive presence who understands how to find the back of the net. The NTDP captain wades through traffic in the offensive zone with the best of them and finds pockets of space to exploit his opponents. On the flip side, he has a tendency to fly the defensive zone early to cheat for offense. At times, he will coast backward through the neutral zone waiting for a pass with his back to defenders. At the NHL level, he could get absolutely destroyed doing things like that. His footwork and skating could use some improvement as well but with NHL coaching and development, that shouldn’t be a major issue. McGroarty could be an offensive stud or a guy who may never figure it out above the AHL level. Boom or bust potential.
38 | RHD | Ty Nelson, North Bay (OHL)
He may be undersized for a defenseman, standing just 5-foot-10, but he certainly does not lack strength. The North Bay blueliner is a little tank coming in at just under 200lbs. Nelson is one of the more skilled offensive blueliners, bringing excellent qualities as a passer and puck carrier in transition as well as showcasing a precision passing game in the offensive zone. He has a big shot and while he has a tendency for taking too many shots from the blueline, with some coaching and encouragement to penetrate the offensive zone a bit more, a quality North Bay seemed to not be fans of, Nelson could very well be a quality offensive zone contributor as a shooter and passer. He has a ton of potential and was valued as a top-15 player in the class at times early in the year. He can be a bit overly aggressive in the defensive zone but shows a willingness to attack play. The skills are all there, it’s just going to be about having patience and understanding where his strengths lie.
39 | LW | Alexander Suzdalev, HV71 (J20 Nationell)
A high-skill winger that certainly has his fair share of highlights. Suzdalev is a 6-foot-2 winger who has the puck skill to operate in tight spaces and then find teammates in opportune offensive positions. He could be a better goal scorer if he wanted to be but he is a little pass-happy. If the young Swede can focus a bit more on using his shot from dangerous areas and using his hands in tight to get the puck on net, he would develop more of a dual-threat ability. There is a lot to like about the creativity and dynamism that Suzdalev brings to the ice. With some patience and development, he could be one of the more entertaining and skilled offensive players to come out of this draft.
40 | C | Jack Hughes, Northeastern University (NCAA)
A smart, two-way forward who makes the right play more often than not, the “other” Jack Hughes doesn’t bring a ton of flash to the game but will be a reliable presence in an NHL middle-six if he can continue developing on the path he has to this point. Hughes put up a solid, yet unspectacular season in the NCAA with Northeastern this year, notching 16 points in 39 games. The college route was a smart decision by the defensive center. He seems destined for a third-line role at the NHL level. Hughes is a good skater who can find some room in the offensive zone to get his shot off from good spots but won’t really be the guy who creates offense on his own.
41 | C | Nathan Gaucher, Quebec (QMJHL)
Gaucher is one of the better power forwards in an era that lacks that style of player. His ceiling may not be that of a top-line player, but he could bring an interesting blend of speed, strength, and shooting ability to an NHL lineup’s middle-six. He lacks a bit as a true playmaker but can certainly make the easy passes to advance play. When he gets a head of steam and barrels down on opposing defenders, they are forced to retreat in their positioning or be bowled over. He can drop his shoulder and cut to the middle, attacking high-danger scoring areas and making life hell for his opponents. He will need to work on becoming a bit more deceptive at times because he can seem like a one-trick pony but the flashes of creativity at times give you enough to believe that he can figure out how to be effective more consistently. Speed and strength are a tough combination to defend and Gaucher is one of the few players that possess both.
42 | RW | Devin Kaplan, USNTDP (USHL)
Maybe the most underrated player on this year’s iteration of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Devin Kaplan is a big, versatile forward who will make any coach very happy to have him. This may seem a bit high, especially considering his placement amongst his NTDP peers, but the fact of the matter is, at the NTDP not every player gets a fair shake. The rosters are loaded year after year so a player like Kaplan often has to play in the bottom-six and isn’t asked to be the offensive catalyst, a role that’s hard to really take a hold of with an ice time roughly around 14 minutes a night. With that said, Kaplan plays a smart two-way game, utilizes his 6-foot-3 frame extremely well and has the ability to play up and down the lineup. Need him in the top-six taking on a workhorse role for a line? Check. Need him in the bottom-six providing depth scoring and responsible two-way play? Check. Kaplan is an unfinished product but after a couple of seasons at Boston University, the woefully unrecognized and underrated American could look like a player ready to jump to the pros.
43 | RHD | Elias Salomonsson, Skellefteå (J20 Nationell)
Up and down the board he goes, where he gets drafted, nobody knows! That’s kind of been Elias Salomonsson all season. Beginning the year as one of the top defensemen in the class to falling outside of the top-64 on many boards, the young Swede had a much improved second half and began to show signs of the player we all saw coming into his draft year. His skating is top notch and he displays excellent passing ability in all three zones. He makes breakout passes that others can’t with ease and he is a skilled puck distributor in the offensive zone. His defensive game has been where the biggest development has come in the second half of the year though. Salomonsson has been closing gaps and thwarting play before it develops much better. His quick hands displace the puck and his mobility allows him to be the first on it to turn play up ice. The offensive dynamo some thought may not be there but a solid two-way transitional blueliner is very much still a possibility thanks to the development from January to now.
44 | RHD | Ryan Chesley, USNTDP (USHL)
Having Duke and Chesley back-to-back on my board is likely to draw the ire of some in the industry. Chesley is a solid defender who you can see on an NHL second or third pairing playing a safe and projectable game. The problem is that where some see potential for an offensive game to develop, I just do not see it. He is a perfectly capable passer from his own zone. He will use physicality or a good stick to separate the man from the puck in transition. He boxes out fairly well in front of the net but can be overpowered at times. His offensive game is largely predicated on him being willing to fire bombs from the blueline though, a trait that isn’t particularly translatable to the next level. There is a lot of “what if” to his game when it comes to skill development and intuitive offensive play. I’m all for taking chances but I need a base of skill to take that chance on. Chesley will likely play and be solid in his own zone but may not have much else at the NHL level. I hope I’m wrong though.
45 | LHD | Tyler Duke, USNTDP (USHL)
Although undersized, Tyler Duke shows some excellent defensive acumen. His ability to defend in tight quarters and use his mobility to cut play down in space is impressive. Duke needs to get stronger and become a bit more confident closing gaps on the rush but he is rarely out of positon. The young American finds a way to force his opponents to deviate from their intended path or plan, forcing them to be creative. His stick is quick and he can break up play quite well. Playing primarily third-pairing minutes, Duke was often the defensive presence on his pair, especially when the opportunity arose to move up and play with Seamus Casey as he did at times late in the season. The thing that makes Duke so intriguing are the flashes of offensive zone awareness and bravado that led to him using his mobility and puck skill to attack the deep half of the zone. Diving down the wall for a puck and then cutting to the middle or threading a pass through layers, the offensive skill is there with Duke to go along with his defensive ability. He is more of a risk than a player like Chesley but he comes with a bit more of a modern game for today’s NHL.
46 | RW/LW | Adam Sýkora, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
The Slovak that no one was talking about for much of the year has finally caught the attention of the scouting world. Sýkora plays with pace and intelligence and he produced at the men’s level in Slovakia. Even if it’s not the greatest pro-league, it is impressive to see one of the youngest players in the draft class produce at a very solid rate there. Sýkora played against men for his club team and also represented Slovakia at the U18 Div. 1A Championships, The World Juniors, and the Men’s World Championships, contributing to every team in one way or another. He plays with a pro mindset already, looking to advance play by chaining small events together. If ‘Option A’ is taken away, he already has ‘Option B’ in the back of his mind, ready to adapt. He flashes some nice puck skill and elusiveness at times but not enough to classify him as a truly high-end skill player. Sýkora is an intuitive player who reads the play effectively and makes the most out of what he is given.
47 | LW | Jani Nyman, KOOVEE (Mestis)
Nyman possesses great size, standing 6-foot-3 and 216lbs and he skates quite well for a player his size. He certainly has room to develop and become a bit more agile but his mobility isn’t an issue. He brings an element of power to his game at times, using his size to impose his will on defenders. He has played the vast majority of his season in the Mestis which isn’t always the easiest league to evaluate because of its inconsistent quality of competition but the late July-born winger put up over a point-per-game despite being quite young. He pressures opposing puck carriers and plays with effort consistently. The hope is that he will stick in the Liiga next season as he was on loan to KOOVEE this year from Ilves, where he did get into a few games this year. He plays a projectable, bottom-six style of game that NHL teams may find very attractive.
48 | LHD | Simon Forsmark, Örebro (SHL)
Forsmark is the classic case of a player who puts up a ton of points at the junior level but when he plays against men, his game becomes a bit more clear. The Swedish blueliner uses his mobility in his own end to stay between the opposing puck carrier and the net. He reads the play well and diagnoses what's about to happen and subtly takes charge to break up the play. Forsmark plays a smart and poised game. He doesn’t play outside of himself, facilitating the puck to his teammates as to allow them to do what they do best. He may have a ceiling of a defensive rearguard who has the ability to break out the puck but he will be a passenger at best in the offensive zone.
49 | C | Filip Bystedt, Linköping (SHL)
The 6-foot-4 Swedish forward is quite fun to watch. He has an element of creativity that makes him entertaining, especially at his size. Bystedt is also unafraid to use his size from time to time at both ends of the ice. He will assert himself along the boards and establish body position in various areas around the ice. He doesn’t blow guys up but he doesn’t need to in order to be effective. He is a bit one-dimensional offensively as he lacks as a playmaker but he is certainly a useful player, especially on the powerplay where he has shown himself to be comfortable in a few spots with the man advantage. He needs to get more consistent and develop as a passer but there are some very enticing traits in his game that could make some team jump at the opportunity to select him.
50 | RHD | Christian Kyrou, Erie (OHL)
Kyrou is one of the biggest projects in the draft class because outside of his skating ability, there is no reason that a talent as creative and offensively intuitive as Kyrou should be ignored. There are some analysts who believe that the skating issue can be fixed, myself among them, with some hard work and a good development team. His offensive mind is advanced, with some of the best passing tendencies in the draft among defenders and he has one of the best shooting profiles from the back end. He attacks space and lets go of a wicked shot that has led to some very impressive goal-scoring ability. His defensive game needs a bunch of refinement but the talent and skill profile he has is quite fun and should be exciting for any development team to work with but the risk is real.
Thank you all for reading! For players 51-100, you can find them here along with some honorable mentions. Thank you again to the Winged Wheel Podcast crew of Ryan, Brad, and Evan for hosting my draft board, check out their podcast and follow them on Twitter for Red Wings and general NHL content!
As always, I appreciate and love you all for following my work all year. You make doing all of this worth it for me! I want to plug the Jamie Daniels Foundation one more time and encourage anyone that has the means to make a donation to do so because the organization does amazing work for so many who need it! Until next time, cheers!