2022 NHL Draft: Winners and Losers from Round 1
Welcome back to the NHL Draft.
After two straight pandemic-addled events featured the commissioner announcing in one place as team personnel and prospective selections reacted elsewhere, the hockey world's movers and shakers were back under one roof at Bell Centre in Montreal.
The next generation of ice superstars took their initial professional strides on Thursday night when the league worked through Round 1 of its annual selection process.
The Canadiens became the first team to both host the event and pick first since the Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed the hockey world to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and selected winger Wendel Clark at No. 1 overall in 1985.
Clark played 888 regular- and postseason games with six teams, scoring 367 goals in a career that included two All-Star Game appearances and ran through the 1999-2000 season.
It was Montreal's first time at No. 1 since they grabbed center Doug Wickenheiser there in 1980. This time around, it was Juraj Slafkovsky, a 6'4" winger who'd scored a tournament-best seven goals in seven games with Slovakia at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
He'd been ranked first among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Rounds two through seven of the 2022 draft will air at 11 a.m. ET on Friday on ESPN/ESPN+.
The B/R ice hockey team was on hand for the whole process and came up with a list of the real winners and losers from the selection show's opening round. Read on to take a look at our picks and drop a comment or two to let us know how we did.
Loser: Draft-Day Favorites Going No. 1
Shane Wright meet Aaron Rodgers.
As the first round got started Thursday night it was widely expected that the Canadiens would make Ontario Hockey League standout Shane Wright the No. 1 overall selection.
In fact, the 18-year-old center was labeled a -5000 favorite to be selected first at various points during the 2021-22 season. Even in the hours before the draft he was still listed as a -215 pick to go first.
But then the picks started. And Wright didn't move.
Soon, the comparisons to the 2005 NFL Draft, when Rodgers was expected by many to go at No. 1 but instead grimaced and groaned in the green room while falling all the way to No. 24 before he was selected by the Green Bay Packers.
It wasn't quite so bad for Wright, but the 94-point player from 2021-22 did watch Slovaks Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec go first and second to Montreal and New Jersey and American prospect Logan Cooley go third to Arizona before Seattle grabbed him fourth.
He smiled broadly and said all the right things in an instant post-pick interview, which prompted ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes to laud his composure and maturity.
"I can't tell you how mature and how classy that is out of Shane Wright," he said. "That's very, very exceptional for a player of his age and a young man of that age."
Winner: Slovakian Standouts
Until Thursday, Slovakia had never had a top-two pick in the NHL Draft.
And now, they have two.
Teenagers Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec went first and second to the Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, surpassing the Minnesota Wild's third overall selection of Marian Gaborik in the 2000 draft as the central European country's highest ever pick.
Later in the round, Slovakian winger Filip Mesar went 26th, also to Montreal.
Gaborik wound up playing 1,035 NHL games with five teams, scoring 407 goals and 815 points while racking up three All-Star Game appearances and a 2014 Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings.
Slafkovsky was ranked the top European skater by NHL Central Scouting, two slots ahead of Nemec. Both played for the Slovakian national team at the 2022 Winter Olympics on the way to winning bronze medals.
"We went through a heck of an exhaustive preparation and review of the players, and listen, there were a lot of good hockey players," Canadiens GM Hughes said. "We felt (Slafkovsky) was the best player for us what we are trying to accomplish."
Nemec, a 6' defenseman, had 26 points in 39 games with Nitra in the Slovakian league last season.
"This draft has been pretty unique, you know, all the depth that we've all seen of the different positions, the projections that we all put on these kids," New Jersey GM Tom Fitzgerald said. "But we felt that at the end of the day, a puck-moving, right-shot defenseman for us made the most sense. He's got great upside. We're so excited."
Winner: Draft-Day Trade Watchers
It's one of the signature elements of draft day.
Regardless of sport, fans look to draft day as a time when teams will swing deals, blockbusters or otherwise, to gather draft capital and shuffle the competitive deck.
It was no different when it came to the NHL on Thursday, where a handful of teams went all in on personnel moves with an eye toward the future.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the most active of the bunch, shipping winger Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for two 2022 picks and one more in 2024, then sending center Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens for two more 2022 picks.
Montreal was plenty active on its own, sending defenseman Alexander Romanov and a draft pick to the New York Islanders for the 13th pick that they flipped to Chicago for Dach.
Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said they'd inquired about Dach two weeks ago and were told it'd take a higher pick to make the deal work, which prompted the trade with the Islanders in the interim.
The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche got into the act shortly after earning their first title in 21 years by sending two 2022 picks (third and fifth rounders) and a third-rounder in 2023 to the New York Rangers for goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
Colorado's picks in the first five rounds for 2022 were all acquired in trades.
In a less significant move, newly-hired San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier swung a draft-day deal by sending the 11th overall pick to Arizona for the 27th, 34th and 45th overall selections. Also, the Edmonton Oilers dealt forward Zack Kassian, the 29th overall pick and two future picks to the Coyotes for the 32nd overall pick.
Loser: Blackhawks Down
It's not a great time in the world of Chicago hockey.
The Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups from 2010 to 2015 but have since fallen on leaner times. In fact, they haven't won a full-fledged playoff series since skating the trophy around the United Center following the third of three titles against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They finished seventh in the Central Division and 27th overall last season, and now that Kyle Davidson has assumed the full-time general manager's role, he's gone all-in with the rebuild.
Players have gone in and out of Chicago with regularity in the last 12 months, and the flow continued when Davidson shipped 41-goal winger Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh overall pick in Thursday's draft along with a second-rounder on Friday and a third-rounder in 2024. Then, within the draft's first 30 minutes, the Blackhawks sent center Kirby Dach to Montreal for the 13th and 66th picks in the draft.
And later in the first round, the Blackhawks acquired goaltender Petr Mrazek and the 25th pick from Toronto for the 38th overall pick.
Chicago got defenseman Kevin Korchinski at No. 7, center Frank Nazar at No. 13 and defenseman Sam Rinzel at No. 25.
DeBrincat is signed for one more year at $6.4 million before restricted free agency and could have been due a massive arbitration-fueled raise next summer, not exactly an ideal fiscal scenario for a franchise looking to restart from scratch.
But it still seems a paltry return for a 24-year-old who's scored 73 goals in the past two seasons—considering predraft rumors had suggested Davidson was demanding a young player, high draft picks and top prospects.
"They did not get enough," Weekes said. "There was more opportunity to get more."
Winner: Goalies Getting Settled
On the contrary, it was a good day to be an NHL goaltender.
Marc-Andre Fleury was a man on the move last season, reaching the summer as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights before subsequent trades to the Blackhawks days after the draft on July 27, 2021, and then to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline on March 21, 2022.
He'd been rumored to be considering several places as an imminent free agent, but the 37-year-old locked himself into a long-term residence on draft day this time around by signing a two-year, $7 million deal to stay with the Wild, with whom he was 9-2 in 11 starts with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Alexandar Georgiev made what appears to be a significant career move when he was sent to the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche from the Rangers.
A 26-year-old native of Bulgaria, Georgiev had climbed the ranks with the Rangers for parts of five seasons but was ultimately surpassed by Igor Shesterkin, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2021-22 while Georgiev made just 28 starts and posted a .898 save percentage.
He immediately enters the mix as a possible starter for the Avalanche, who have 2021-22 starter Darcy Kuemper headed to free agency. Should Kuemper not return to Colorado, it'll likely be Georgiev along with 32-year-old Pavel Francouz, who played 21 regular-season games before taking part in seven playoff games for the eventual champions.
Winner: A Heartwarming Moment
Heads-up, Washington Capitals jersey makers: Your job just got a bit harder.
But if 18-year-old Ivan Miroshnichenko turns out to be anything close to what the early returns suggest, a 14-letter surname will be the least of anyone's worries.
The Russian-born forward had been a top-five prospect earlier in the process and didn't hear his name called until the 20th overall pick by the Capitals.
His status was predictably unclear upon the initial diagnosis, but he's since been cleared to play and has shown glimpses, including nine points in five games with the Russian team in the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament and 10 goals and 16 points in 31 games with Omsk Krylia in the Russia-2 league in 2021-22.
The 6'1", 185-pounder was ranked 11th among international skaters by NHL Central Scouting at the end of the season, but the ESPN crew was far higher on his chances to succeed.
"I think the Washington Capitals got an absolute steal," Weekes said. "I think within two years he could be a star in the NHL. He might be the most talented player in this draft."
All Picks from 1st Round of the 2022 NHL Draft
1. Montreal Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovsky
2. New Jersey Devils: Simon Nemec
3. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley
4. Seattle Kraken: Shane Wright
5. Philadelphia Flyers: Cutter Gauthier
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: David Jiricek
7. Chicago Blackhawks: Kevin Korchinski
8. Detroit Red Wings: Marco Kasper
9. Buffalo Sabres: Matthew Savoie
10. Anaheim Ducks: Pavel Mintyukov
11. Arizona Coyotes: Conor Geekie
12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Denton Mateychuk
13. Chicago Blackhawks: Frank Nazar
14. Winnipeg Jets: Rutger McGroarty
15. Vancouver Canucks: Jonathan Lekkerimaki
16. Buffalo Sabres: Noah Ostlund
17. Nashville Predators: Joakim Kemell
18. Dallas Stars: Lian Bichsel
19. Minnesota Wild: Liam Ohgren
20. Washington Capitals: Ivan Miroshnichenko
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Owen Pickering
22. Anaheim Ducks: Nathan Gaucher
23. St. Louis Blues: Jimmy Snuggerud
24. Minnesota Wild: Danila Yurov
25. Chicago Blackhawks: Sam Rinzel
26. Montreal Canadiens: Filip Mesar
27. San Jose Sharks: Filip Bystedt
28. Buffalo Sabres: Jiri Kulich
29. Arizona Coyotes: Maveric Lamoureux
30. Winnipeg Jets: Brad Lambert
31. Tampa Bay Lightning: Isaac Howard
32. Edmonton Oilers: Reid Schaefer