Well, this is going to be fun. With Montreal hosting the first personal draft since 2019, the hometown Canadians have won the lottery and the right to pick the overall winner. And while we’re at the point of the season where rumors of a change at the top of the prospect list are circulating (it happens almost every year), Shane Wright of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs remains my top pick for the 2022 class. Right now , since we know the order of the non-playoff teams, we’re doing a quick and dirty mock draft to start the home stretch.
1. Montreal Canadiens, Shane Wright, C: For a low-pivot team, Wright is available to the Habs at the perfect time. His two-way game is well beyond his years and thanks to his solid physique and incredible level of competition he is able to contribute immediately. With Montreal’s Light on Centers system (none of the top five prospects in the Future Watch 2022 edition play in the center), Wright can be a perfect future top six option alongside Nick Suzuki.
2. New Jersey Devils, Juraj Slafkovsky, LW: The Devils won the other lottery draw, moving up four spots. Now I’ve got Logan Cooley No. 2 in my overall rankings, but the Devils don’t really need a center with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes in the flock for the next decade. However, Slafkovsky, the tall powerful Slovakian winger, would look great on one of their crosses. Slafkovsky has a nice advantage in his game and we’ve seen him score runs on big stages. Between him and Alex Holtz, the Devils would have some real guns on their wings.
3. Arizona Coyotes, Logan Cooley, C: The Coyotes lost a berth to New Jersey’s win, but they can still get a player they really need in Cooley, the signing of the University of Minnesota, which led the NTDP offensive line this season. Arizona doesn’t have center depth right now, so Cooley would really help their cause: He’s a great speed offensive threat and will only be harder to stop as he gets stronger (and the NCAA is the perfect place for that). .
4. Seattle Kraken, Simon Nemec, D: It’s difficult because the best defender could be either Nemec or David Jiricek and it really comes down to team preference. That being said, Nemec would be fantastic for the Kraken, which obviously has a super-thin pipeline thanks to its first year in existence. Nemec is a real, mobile blueliner who can powerplay and attack, but he’s also solid on defense. He’s only going to get better and he’s already pretty hot. If Seattle needed him sooner or later, I don’t think that would be a problem.
5. Philadelphia Flyers, David Jiricek, D: The Flyers have a pretty balanced pipeline, with Cam York and Ronnie Attard leading the defense but also some nice guys up front (Bobby Brink, Noah Cates, Joel Farabee, still young…), I’ll give them Jiricek , an excellent D-Man with size and a big shot to go with a sturdy style. He’s missed a lot of time this season due to a knee injury, but I don’t think he’ll need much more spice like Nemec.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Chicago), Joakim Kemell, RW: This is a best player scenario for me as the Blue Jackets already have some good forwards in the pipeline. Kemell got off to a historic start in the Liiga, held back only by a shoulder injury. He’s an excellent goalscorer but also versatile enough to be effective in penalty shootouts. As well as having a great shot, Kemell competes hard, plays physically and is highly trainable.
7. Ottawa Senators, Cutter Gauthier, LW: That’s a tough question because there are some nice pivots, but the Sens already have Josh Norris, Shane Pinto and even winger/center Tim Stutzle. With that in mind, let’s move on to Gauthier, the big NTDP product destined for Boston College next season. Gauthier is a power forward with a great shot and he can take penalties. He’s also played at center this season when the Sens want flexibility.
8. Detroit Red Wings, Matt Savoie, C: I wasn’t very good at predicting Steve Yzerman’s mindset when designing it, so take that with a grain of salt. But Savoie is a highly skilled pivot who fights hard despite not being the greatest on the ice. Well, these players tend to get penalized early in the draft, but if anyone defied orthodoxy it would be Stevie Y. Savoie, who would give the Wings a solid 1-2 tandem at center with veteran Dylan Larkin . Savoie is smart, quick and has a great shot. He checks many boxes coming out of WHL Winnipeg.
9.Buffalo Sabers, Conor Geekie, C: I’m bullish on Geekie because NHL teams love size and this WHL Winnipeg kid is a big company with a lot of opportunities. True, the Sabers have Dylan Cozens, Tage Thompson and Peyton Krebs, but they need to beef up the assets, and Geekie probably needs a few more years of junior anyway. Also, there’s a small gap between the top two defenders in the draft and the next tier, so this might not be the best place for a blueliner. High-end puck skills, and the child can also skate.
10. Anaheim Ducks, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW: The Ducks have a lot of good assets in different positions, so this season I’m playing Djurgarden’s Lekkerimaki, a promoted player who just led Sweden to gold at the U18 World Cup while leading the tournament in points. Needless to say, this kid can score, and it’s fun to imagine what he could do along a line with Trevor Zegras in a couple of years.
11.San Jose Sharks, Ryan Chesley, D: Three of San Jose’s top four prospects in Future Watch are forwards (William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau and Ozzy Wiesblatt) and the only defender is wildcard offensive blueliner Ryan Merkley, so let’s use Chesley here. The University of Minnesota’s involvement has been fantastic for the NTDP this season and reminds the scouts of Ryan McDonagh thanks to his complete game and ability to do whatever his team needs at this time. Also super strong; He broke records in the NTDP gym.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets, Denton Mateychuk, D: With two picks in the top 12, you’ve got to have one up, one defender, right? Mateychuk would be a great addition to the jackets as WHL product Moose Jaw gives the back end a great skating and hockey feel. While not imposing, he makes life difficult for opposing puck carriers and has a bit of an edge in his game. He will also bring offense to the table.
13. New York Islanders, Kevin Korchinski, D: The Isles only have two blueliners in their Future Watch Top 10 (Bode Wilde and Samuel Bolduc), so this seems like a good spot for a defender. Korchinski is a good size and strong on his skates. He can make a powerplay QB and he’s good both in and out of the zone. With 61 assists in 67 games this year with WHL Seattle, you know he can be creative too.
14. Winnipeg Jets, Frank Nazar, C: I also call this a Best Available Player pick because the Jets already have a ton of talent in their roster and a fairly balanced pipeline. Nazar isn’t big, but he has a relentless engine and constantly finds ways to cause offense. Clever and quick, he can take penalties, play physical games and dash through traffic. The NTDP product is a University of Michigan commit.
15. Vancouver Canucks, Marco Kasper, C: The Canucks could use a little more depth in the center going forward (they’re doing fine at the moment) and Kasper, the Austria international who played for Rogle in Sweden this season, fits right in. The big competitor plays a great two-way game and has cleverness and skills on top of that. He will represent Austria at the World Championships in Finland so scouts can get one last look at him after a pretty impressive season in Sweden.
16. Buffalo Sabers (from Vegas), Owen Pickering, D: Buffalo has a rising star in Owen Power, but it needs more defense and Pickering would be a great pick. He’s still pretty raw, but has tremendous benefits. Pickering plays for Swift Current in the WHL and brings size and offensive instincts to the table. He makes the right plays anywhere on the ice and projects to be an exciting two-way defender.