With the NHL Draft just a few days away, it’s a great time to take a look at who might be taken where in the NHL draft this season.  This year is expected to be a wild one when it comes to picks.  There are very few “consensus” picks here, so there will be some potential shockers up and down the draft.  Here are some of my predictions for the 2022 NHL Draft.

1. Montreal-C Shane Wright

There has been speculation that Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovky may be taken number one.  Bob McKenzie’s rankings (which are more of a scout poll) had Slafkovksy slightly usurping Wright as the potential number one pick.  Montreal has been quiet about who they might pick, and while Slafkovksy is an intriguing talent, Wright is a center, a coveted position teams tend to build around.  Wright would provide a perfect one-two punch down the middle for the Canadiens with Nick Suzuki and I can’t imagine the Canadiens passing up that possibility.

2. New Jersey Devils-W Juraj Slafkovksy

If Montreal takes Wright, Slafkovksy will be an easy pick for New Jersey here.  The Devils have a plethora of center depth prospect-wise and could use some skilled wingers.  If for some reason the Devils decide against Slafkovksy, U.S. NTDP center Logan Cooley is an option.

3. Arizona Coyotes-C Logan Cooley

If the draft goes as above, then the Coyotes have an easy pick in selecting U.S. NTDP center Logan Cooley.  

4. Seattle Kraken-D Simon Nemec

This is where the draft gets a bit interesting for me.  There’s pretty heavy consensus the three players above will go in the top three spots, its just predicting who goes where based on need and team preferences.  At four, the draft gets a bit unpredictable.  Ron Francis, however, has a draft track record thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes.  It’s also no secret he wants a defenseman, especially considering they drafted a forward last season.  Rumor has it the Kraken spent a ton of time watching Nemec this past season.  That, plus Nemec’s higher offensive ceiling than other top defensive prospects make me think this will be who they target.  Francis does like size however, and if that’s the case, I could see the Kraken targeting Czech defender David Jiricek.  

5. Philadelphia Flyers-C/W Cutter Gauthier

The Flyers are rumored to be shopping the pick, possibly for Chicago Blackhawk winger Alex DeBrincat.  If they choose to select, it’s a bit of a tough call who they will select.  The public media rumor is U.S. NTDP forward Cutter Gauthier.  I think there’s a strong chance they also target Czech defender David Jiricek, but Gauthier makes a lot of sense considering he can play center and wing.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets-D David Jiricek

With both of the top defenders off the board, the Jackets could go a number of directions here as well.  I could see them targeting some forwards, but Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekkalainen has proven time and time again he isn’t afraid to go off the consensus board and trust his scouts on a player.  That being said, if Czech defender David Jiricek is still available, this is a slam dunk, easy pick for the Jackets.

7. Ottawa Senators-C Connor Geekie

There will be some off-the-board picks throughout this draft, and I can see the Senators doing so like the Jacket as well (see Tyler Boucher last year).  The Sens appear to be building around size and the Senators were apparently scouting the Winnipeg Ice a lot this past season.  This means Geekie is a likely target.  The Senators may also take a look at U.S. NTDP forward Cutter Gauthier as well if he’s still available.

8. Detroit Redwings-C Marco Kasper

Everyone has the Wings selecting Marco Kasper at this point in the draft.  It’s really hard to argue with that notion, though the Wings could take a look at Swedish winger Jonathan Lekkermaki and Cutter Gauthier.  The Wings need a center and Kasper fits the organizational need and skillset the team is likely looking to target.

9. Buffalo Sabres-W Joakim Kemell

The Sabres need goals and Kemell can score them.  He is also likely to go in the top 10, making this a likely pick for the Sabres if he’s available.

10. Anaheim Ducks-W Jonathan Lekkermaki

The Ducks are rumored to want a defender, and also rumored to have scouted the WHL extensively this season.  However, if Pat Verbeek decides to take a page out his mentor Steve Yzerman’s book, then Jonathan Lekkermaki, a small, skilled Swedish goal-scorer, will be his selection.

11. San Jose Sharks-D Kevin Korchinski

New Sharks’ GM Mike Grier has never ran a draft before, so the guess work is a bit harder here.  The Sharks need to get younger on their blueline without much in their system.  Korchinski is a big blueliner with offensive upside.  He also plays in the WHL, a league the Sharks have relied heavily on in the past.  If Grier leans on current Sharks scouts, Korchinski is likely the pick.  If the Sharks go for a forward, Matthew Savoie is an option here as well.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets-W Danil Yurov

No one knows when Russian players will be taken in the draft this year.  The Jackets haven’t been afraid to do so in the past, and Yurov, a highly skilled winger, is one of the most talented wingers left in the draft.

13. New York Islanders-W Jimmy Snuggerud

The Islanders haven’t drafted a defender in a while and need one, but if there is a Lou Lamoriello pick at this point in the draft, it’s U.S. NTDP forward Jimmy Snuggerud.

14. Winnipeg Jets-C Matthew Savoie

Someone is going to fall in the draft with so many unknown factors.  Savoie may be it due to size.  If that’s the case, the Jets will happily snatch him up at 14.

15. Vancouver Canucks-W Noah Ostlund

Ostlund has been reported by the likes of Cory Pronman of the Athletic to be a potential top 20 pick.  The Canucks have a new regime that is likely to highlight skill.  Ostlund has a lot of that and is a future playmaking winger.

16. Buffalo Sabres-C/W Frank Nazar

The Sabres could target a defenseman here, but with the likes of Ryan Johnson and Owen Power on the way up, it will be hard to pass on the speedy American center.

17. Nashville Predators-D Pavel Mintyukov

The Preds need future defenders and Mintyukov is one of the best available.  The Predators have also drafted Russians in the past two drafts (see Askarov and Svechkov as examples), eliminating that factor from the pick this season.  Owen Pickering and Lian Bichsel are options here as well.

18. Dallas Stars-D Owen Pickering

I’m predicting there will be a run of blueliners at some point in the draft.  The Stars also need defensive depth and Pickering is a perfect option who has drawn comparisons at times to Stars young blueliner Thomas Harley.

19. Minnesota Wild-W Isaac Howard

The Wild have two first-round picks after trading Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles.  With that pick, I could see the Wild targeting skill and American winger Isaac Howard has a lot of it.

20. Washington Capitols-D Denton Mateychuk

Mateychuk may go earlier (I personally think he should be closer to the 10-15 mark), but some questions surrounding his size may have him drop to around the 20ish spot in the draft this season.  The Caps also need defenseman and like players from the WHL, so the pick makes sense.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins-C/W Rutger McGroarty

The Penguins have very little in the way of prospects in their system.  McGroarty, a two-way middle-six forward, is versatile and can move up and down the line-up.  He also appears to be the type of player Pen’s General Manager Ron Hextall has targeted in the past.

22. Anaheim Ducks-D Tristan Luneau

After taking a forward with their first pick, the Ducks can look to defense. Luneau is similar to the type of defender Verbeek’s old teams targeted in the draft.  He’s over six feet and has a strong offensive tool-kit.

23. St.Louis Blues-D Lian Bichsel

The Blues need defense and Bichsel, a 6’5 smooth skater, would be a perfect fit.

24. Minnesota Wild-W Jiri Kulich

With their second first rounder, the Wild can nab the Czech winger who has excelled playing against men this past season.

25. Toronto Maple Leafs-W Jagger Firkus

Small? Skilled? High-point totals? This pick screams Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs.

26. Montreal Canadiens-C Liam Ohgren

If Ohgren is available the Canadiens will be reluctant to pass.  Ohgren, a 6’2 goal-scorer is physically mature and would be an excellent fit.

27. Arizona Coyotes-C Luca Del Bel Belluz

The Coyotes will take Del Bel Belluz, an OHL center with their second first-rounded.  The Coyotes like OHLers, and he has some offensive upside.  Owen Beck and David Goyette are also options.

28. Buffalo Sabres- D Ryan Chesley

The Sabres can look for defense with their first-rounder.  Chesley is widely considered the best available at this point of the draft and is a strong two-way player.

29. Edmonton Oilers-C Brad Lambert

Why not?  Lambert was considered a top-10 pick before the beginning of the season and fell off significantly.  The Oilers can take a chance late in the first round.  A boom or bust pick.  Winger Fil Mesar is an option here as well.

30. Winnipeg Jets-D Maveric Lamoureux

Logan Stanley 2.0 anyone?  The Jets love big defenders and the 6’7 smooth skater may suprise and be a first-rounder.  Noah Warren and Sam Rinzel are also options.

31. Tampa Bay Lightning-C Nathan Gaucher

If he’s still available, the Lightning will nap the big center from the QMJHL.  They may also look at OHL centers Owen Beck and David Goyette.

32. Arizona Coyotes-D Sam Rinzel

The Coyotes will take a defender after previously taking two forwards.  Rinzel, a 6’4 defender, will need some time but has some upside.  The Coyotes may also go with OHL defender Ty Nelson.

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