While this year’s draft season doesn’t offer the marquee value of some more recent ones, the top flight features a diverse mix of experienced forwards as well as tall and highly mobile defenders.
Red Line Report, the independent scouting newsletter, puts the first 14 potential clients in this top grouping. Then there’s a small drop-off to the next six to eight players and another small break in the early 20’s into late first round.
Kyle Woodlief, editor and chief scout of the Red Line Report, offers his mock draft for the first round, which will take place in Montreal on July 7:
SPORT NEWSLETTER:Sign up now for daily updates sent to your inbox
1. Montreal Canadiens – C. Shane Wright
6-0, 199, Kingston (Ontario Hockey League)
A Nick Suzuki-Wright center combo could serve the Habs well for well over a decade. GM Kent Hughes isn’t fully committed to drafting Wright, but how can he not take him? He may not be a superstar, but he will be a No. 1 center.
2. New Jersey Devils – C Logan Cooley
5-10, 180, USA U18 team
All you have to do is look at Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras to understand the impact Cooley will have. Its speed creates breakaways, turnover and excitement.
3. Arizona Coyotes – LW Juraj Slafkovsky
6-4, 229, TPS (Finland)
He is an animal presence with finesse skills. He caught everyone’s attention by leading the Olympic tournament with seven goals and helping Slovakia win the bronze medal.
4. Seattle Kraken – D. Simon Nemec
6-10, 199, Nitra (Slovakia)
After landing a sophisticated offensive catalyst in Matty Beniers in the 2021 draft last year, the Kraken pick one up
present blue-liner this time. He has outgrown his age and has already helped Slovakia win a bronze medal at the 2022 Olympics.
5.Philadelphia Flyers—RW Joakim Kemell
5-10, 185, JYP (Finland)
An experienced and energetic goalscorer. Even a shoulder injury couldn’t stop his climb up the rankings. Scoring six goals in five games at the U18 World Cup boosted his status.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (by the Chicago Blackhawks) – C Matt Savoie
5-10, 170, Winnipeg (Western Hockey League)
Drawing by skill alone puts Savoie in the top five. But teams can have him lower because he’s only 5-foot-9. You just have to convince yourself that he’s another Paul Kariya or Marty St. Louis.
7. Ottawa Senators – D. David Jiricek
6-3, 189, Pilsen (Czech Republic)
You can’t call up enough reliable defenders. Jiricek is a safe bet because he’s a surefire top-four defender who will contribute in a variety of ways.
8. Detroit Red Wings – RW Jonathan Lekkerimaki
5-10, 171, Djurgarden (Sweden)
Perhaps the most explosive player in the draft. A skater extraordinaire and the dominant force at the U18 World Championships.
9. Buffalo Saber – LW Cutter Gauthier
6-2, 210, US U18 team
Big Goal Scorer is a well-rounded offensive player who boasts excellent height and skating ability
drives the net hard.
10. Anaheim – D. Kevin Korchinski
6-2, 185, Seattle (WHL)
After the deal with Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson, the Ducks need a mini makeover of their blue line. Korchinski is a potential elite attacking horse who has 61 assists – the first WHL rearguard to do so since draft-eligible Darryl Sydor 32 years ago.
11.San Jose Sharks—RW Jimmy Snuggerud
6-1, 188, US U18 team
The son of former NHL player Dave Snuggerud has the potential to be a big NHL scorer. Possesses a quick release, powerful shot and high level of competition.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets – C Frank Nazar
5-10, 180, USA U18 team
Great hands, clever player, cunning, dynamic. Might sneak into the top 10. Fascinating potential.
13. New York Islander – C. Brad Lambert
6-0, 183, Pelicans (Finland)
The nephew of newly hired Islanders coach Lane Lambert seems like the perfect choice to boost this team’s offensive play.
14. Winnipeg Jets – C Connor Geekie
6-4, 190, Winnipeg (WHL)
The fit is too good not to pick the massive center from the local team. Needs to work on his skating but already has the size and offensive ability to take the next step.
15. Vancouver Canucks – D Pavel Mintyukov
6-2, 194, Saginaw (OHL)
He has the size, speed, skill and attitude to be a top 4 defenseman in the NHL. Can really lead a power play.
16. Buffalo Sabers (by Vegas Golden Knights) – C Marco Kasper
6-1, 187, Rogle (Sweden)
He’s a sturdy 6ft 1 center that’s tough to play against and effective in any role. Good skater, lots of composure.
17. Nashville Predators – LW Alexander Perevalov
6:0, 191, Yaroslavl Jr. (Russia)
It is fair to wonder whether teams will hesitate to recruit Russian players. He could end up being a quality pick if he goes into the draft later.
18. Dallas Stars – LW Liam Ohgren
6-1, 201, Djurgarden Jr. (Sweden)
Showed an impressive all-around level at the U18 worlds and is one of the true elite finishers in this class.
19. Minnesota Wild (of Los Angeles Kings) – D Owen Pickering
6-4, 180, Fast Current (WHL)
Although the Wilds got defensive contender Brock Faber back in the Kevin Fiala trade, Pickering is a 6ft 4 blue liner with plenty of advantages. This diamond needs a lot of polishing, but teams are intrigued by its potential.
20. Washington Capitals – RW Danila Yurov
6-1, 178, Magnitogorsk (Russia)
The Caps have never shied away from signing Russians and he has the skill set they are looking for. He goes well with a strong skater who likes fast hockey.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins – LW Isaac Howard
5-10, 180, USA U18 team
He was a 33-goal scorer for the US program and dynamite at the U18 World Championships. He could be the fastest skater on this US team and is constantly dangerous in the scoring areas.
22. Anaheim Ducks (by Boston Bruins) – C. Owen Beck
5-11, 187, Mississauga (OHL)
Such a well-rounded center who is defensively responsible, offensively dangerous, and the best faceoff in the draft.
23. St. Louis Blues – RW Jagger Firkus
5-11, 151, Elk Jaw (WHL)
Probably only 160 pounds after eating a huge holiday meal, but the child can be scandalous
and has a nose for the net. If you want to believe in a smaller player, he’s the guy.
24. Minnesota Wild—RW Rutger McGroarty
6-1, 204, US U18 team
Served as captain of Team USA. Has an NHL body and a work ethic. Safe choice. You know he’s going to play in the NHL. He also has excellent offensive skills and is confident in front of the net.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs – D. Lian Bichsel
6-6, 225, Leksand (Sweden)
The huge Swiss-born defender has good mobility for his size. Big and bad is always in fashion.
26. Montreal Canadiens (of Calgary Flames) – D. Tristan Luneau
6-2, 189, Gatineau (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)
The smart defender who moves the puck is a sleek skater with great intelligence and character.
27. Arizona Coyotes (by Carolina Hurricanes) – C. David Goyette
5-10, 175, Sudbury (OHL)
He’s climbed the draft rankings all season, a reflection of his offensive productivity with 33 goals and 77 points in 63 games.
28. Buffalo Sabers (from Florida Panthers) – D Sam Rinzel
6-4, 180, Chaska (mins)
He’s 6-foot-4 and still only a junior in high school. He leads the Minnesota high school brigade, and his advantage as a confident, creative defensive tackle is attractive to NHL scouts.
29. Edmonton Oilers – C Luca Del Bel Belluz
5-10, 179, Mississauga (OHL)
Not blessed with blazing speed, but otherwise a very complete player. An intelligent two-way center can help a team in many different facets. Good in the faceoff circle, an effective checker and can cause offense.
30. Winnipeg Jets (from the New York Rangers) – C. Jiri Kulich
5-11, 178, Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic)
Gathered plenty of support as a first-round pick, scoring nine goals with the U18 World Champions. His dynamic shot makes him dangerous on the power play.
31. Tampa Bay Lightning—C Denton Mateychuk
5-10, 194, Elk Jaw (WHL)
One of the most mobile skaters in the draft, Mateychuk is an attacking defender who confidently moves into the offensive zone. Also runs his own business, often using his skating to get his team out of trouble.
32. Arizona Coyotes (by Colorado Avalanche) – Ryan Chesley
There’s no “wow!” factor here, but he’s an impressively effective defender. He’s an intelligent, thorough player with a high hockey IQ who always makes the right play and is physical around corners.