Grading Every Team's 2022 NHL Draft Class
The 2022 NHL draft is complete! All 32 NHL teams have combined to select 225 prospects whom they think have a chance to be future NHLers. B/R's Adam Herman already graded each individual first-round pick Thursday night. Now it's time to look at how teams drafted in total.
It will be many years before we fully understand the outcomes of every selection, and even then there could be many debates: Whether John Tavares or Victor Hedman should have gone first overall in 2009 is still a heated conversation. NHL teams draft these prospects knowing they are doing so with incomplete information. Likewise, we can attempt to predict the future even if we know we'll get some things wrong.
When evaluating the draft crops for each team, let's be clear about what that actually means. We are not grading the teams solely on how good their players are, though that matters. We are assessing how much value they got with the draft picks they used. In other words, the Colorado Avalanche aren't punished for only having sixth- and seventh-round picks, while the Montreal Canadiens don't get a grade boost for drafting first overall. This is about who got the best bang for their buck. We are also not considering NHL players traded to acquire certain picks; Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach have no impact on how we evaluate the Chicago Blackhawks' draft class, for instance.
Here are draft grades for all 32 NHL teams.
Round 1 (10): Pavel Mintyukov, LD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Round 1 (22): Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Round 2 (42): Noah Warren, RD, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Round 2 (53): Tristan Luneau, LD, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Round 4 (107): Ben King, C, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Round 5 (139): Connor Hvidston, LW, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Round 5 (154): Michael Callow, RW, St. Sebastian's (USHS)
Round 6 (178): Vyacheslav Buteyets, G, Chelmet Chelyabinsk (VHL)
Analysis: The Anaheim Ducks passed on a couple of higher-rated prospects to select Pavel Mintyukov at 10th overall, but he is exceptionally talented and could easily justify the selection down the road. Nathan Gaucher at No. 22 is harder to swallow. A future in Anaheim's bottom six feels within close reach, but there were many players with similar certainty and more upside available.
The Ducks did really well in Round 2, though. Noah Warren has the size, skating ability and acumen to become a third-pairing shutdown defenseman, but if the Ducks can help him harness his physical gifts, then he could become even more. His defense partner in Gatineau, Tristan Luneau, was very good value at 53rd overall, and he has second- or third-pairing upside. Add in Jamie Drysdale plus a few other high-end prospects already in the system, and the Ducks are going to have a fierce defensive group in a few years.
I also like the ideas behind some of their later picks. Ben King is 6'3", has decent hands and put up absurd numbers in the WHL, though he is 20 years old and benefitted from a lot of power-play time. Not a great fourth-round pick, but he's worth monitoring. Hvidston and Callow are both raw prospects with some projectable tools.
Round 1 (3): Logan Cooley, C, US National Team Development Program
Round 1 (11): Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Round 1 (29): Maveric Lamoureux, RD, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Round 2 (36): Artem Duda, LD, Krasnaya Armiya (MHL)
Round 2 (43): Julian Lutz, LW, Munich (DEL)
Round 3 (67): Miko Matikka, RW, Jokerit (FIN U20)
Round 3 (94): Jeremy Langlois, LD, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Round 5 (131): Matthew Morden, LD, St. Andrew's College (CAHS)
Round 6 (163): Maksymilian Szuber, D, Munchen (DEL)
Round 7 (204): Adam Zlnka, RW, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Analysis: In a vacuum, landing Logan Cooley at third overall is a major catch. He's a sure top-six NHL center and a first-liner or elite second-liner. But taking him over Shane Wright is beyond perplexing.
Conor Geekie is a big center with really good hands. He'll be an NHLer and could reach first-line status with a lot of work, but for now, he fits the mold of a middle-six center. He was a slight reach at 11th overall and particularly so given that Arizona traded up to get him here.
Almost the rest of the draft fits the theme of interesting prospects taken too early. Maveric Lamoureux has size and decent skating and hands to match, but he was more in the 37-45 range for me. Artem Duda was more of a mid-round prospect. Miko Matikka is 6'3" and has good hands. He could become a bottom-six winger and would have been a nice pick in Round 4. Langlois would have been a great late-round flier.
The one omission is Julian Lutz. The German winger missed most of the season because of injury and played limited minutes in his 14 DEL games. He looked great at the U18, though. He's a plus skater, plays a physical game, works hard and has a fierce, if eccentric, shot. Lutz will be an NHLer and likely soon, and if Arizona can get the right skills coach to elevate the flashy parts of his game, he can be an impact player.
Overall, the Coyotes got one great player, two good ones and a collection of depth prospects who will likely result in an NHLer or two. But even if you ignore the Cooley/Wright dilemma, they just threw away way too much value with most of their picks.
1 (9): Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
1 (16): Noah Ostlund, C, Djurgardens (SHL)
1 (28): Jiri Kulich, C/LW/RW, Energie Karlovy Vary (Czech Extraliga)
2 (41): Topias Leinonen, G, JYP U20 (FIN U20)
3 (74): Viktor Neuchev, LW, Avto Yekaterinburg (KHL)
4 (106): Mats Lindgren, LD, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
5 (134): Vsevolod Komarov, RD, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
6 (170): Jake Richard, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
6 (187): Gustav Karlsson, C, Orebro J20 (J20 Nationell)
7 (202): Joel Ratkovic-Berndtsson, RW, Frolunda J20 (J20 Nationell)
7 (211): Linus Sjödin, C, Rogle (SHL)
Analysis: That the Buffalo Sabres drafted this early and often is an indictment of bigger issues, but this class should at least help get them out of the sand trap. Matthew Savoie at ninth overall isn't quite a steal, but it is a really good deal. He is a dynamic skater who is both a shooting and passing threat in the offensive zone, and he works hard enough off the puck to not be a liability. He'll be a top-six forward and power-play savant.
Noah Ostlund (ranked 25th on B/R's board) is an extremely fun playmaker who skates better than most in small spaces, but size issues and lack of goal scoring are knocks, so 16th overall was too soon. However, Jiri Kulich has a high motor, already is close to an NHL build and has an above-average shot. He should have gone seven picks sooner, so let's say those discrepancies cancel out.
Topias Leinonen was a sizable reach at 41st overall. No doubt, they need help at goaltender, but he is far from the knight in shining armor here to save the day. Buffalo could have grabbed a similar or a slightly worse goaltender in Rounds 4 or 5. In the process, the Sabres missed out on a multitude of prospects with middle-six forward or top-four defenseman upside.
That notwithstanding, Buffalo did well on Day 2 of the draft. Russian winger Viktor Neuchev is an unabashed swing for the fences. He has high-end puck skills and can score flashy goals, but he skates like he's stuck in the mud and attempts to do everything by himself. If it works out, he's a top-nine point producer. If he doesn't, well, most picks after the top 70 don't make the NHL anyway.
Mats Lindgren was a good value in Round 4. He played the role of No. 1 defenseman and power-play quarterback for Kamloops. His puck distribution ability from the back end will translate at the NHL level, but he won't create enough offense to get by on it. He'll need to change his priorities and become better defensively to make it as a possession-driving depth defenseman, but he has a chance.
Even Linus Sjodin in the seventh round has an outside shot of making the NHL. The Sabres' only major blemish was with Leinonen, but he is still a decent goaltending prospect. The good far outweighs the bad in this draft class.
2 (54) - Matthew Poitras, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
4 (117) - Cole Spicer, C, US National Team Development Program
4 (119) - Dans Locmelis, C, Lulea J20 (J20 Nationell)
5 (132) - Frederic Brunet, LD, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
6 (183) - Reid Dyck, G, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
7 (200) - Jackson Edward, LD, London Knights (OHL)
Analysis: Matthew Poitras looks like a kid who could definitely make the NHL. He is engaged every shift, putting the burners on to get below the goal line on the forecheck, pressuring pucks, creating turnovers in the neutral zone. He is a very good passer of the puck in juniors, though I don't think he'll be unlocking defenses at the NHL level. The upside here is an elite fourth-line penalty killer with the occasional goal in him; the type contenders add as the final piece at the deadline to go for a Cup. He could even flirt with third-line standing as well.
Cole Spicer has a similar vibe in that he is a hard worker who forechecks and holds down his assignments in the defensive zone. His skating isn't great and I don't see any offensive upside beyond banging in a few ugly goals through persistence. Some think he might blossom now that he'll no longer be buried on the depth chart at the USNTDP but I see a player who needs a lot of work on his skating to become even a decent fourth-liner. He would not have been on my draft list and is instead the type of player you monitor for four years in the NCAA and maybe sign as a free agent for minor league depth.
Brunet is the one intriguing pick here, and that's in relative terms. his 46 points in 64 QMJHl games inspire some hope, though it's muted by virtue of his being 19. The defenseman likes to jump up in play and has projectable NHL size. He needs to improve his skating and processing speed in the defensive zone. Too often he was forced to make desperation lunges to prevent scoring chances after putting himself in bad situations due to poor pivots and initial positioning.
The Bruins didn't have much to work with here, but they didn't maximize the opportunities they had. Poitras was a third-round value for me and that was one of their better moves. I think ending up with two depth players is an optimistic outcome. Not great for a team with an already barren prospect pool.
Round 2 (59): Topi Ronni, C, Tappara (Finnish Liiga)
Round 5 (155): Parker Bell, LW, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Round 7 (219): Cade Littler, C, Wenatchee Wild (BCHL)
Analysis: Bell and Littler are negligible picks. At the end of the day, the Flames' efforts here are going to sink or swim by the career of Topi Ronni. Ronni is a cerebral defensive center with adequate hands. He performed well at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and U18 World Championship this season. He has a legitimate shot at developing into a bottom-six NHL center, but I don't think that's certain enough to justify his relatively low upside at this spot. Five of the six players drafted immediately after him are definitively better prospects.
Round 2 (60): Gleb Trikozov, LW/RW, Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
Round 3 (71): Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Round 4 (101): Simon Forsmark, LD, Orebro (SHL)
Round 4 (124): Cruz Lucius, RW, US National Team Development Program
Round 5 (156): Vladimir Grudinin, LD, CSKA (KHL)
Round 6 (171): Jakub Vondras, G, HC Plzen U20 (Czechia U20)
Round 7 (205): Alexander Pelevin, LD, Chaika Nizhny Novgorod (MHL)
Analysis: The Carolina Hurricanes just get how the NHL draft works better than most teams. They understand what kinds of future NHLers slip through the cracks and how to maximize the value of every pick.
Gleb Trikozov was a borderline first-round pick who put up massive numbers in Russia's junior league. He has the potential to be a top-six point producer in the NHL if his game matures away from the puck and he improves his decision-making. Alexander Perevalov meshes with that theme as a skilled Russian junior player with a high ceiling but some growing up to do.
Simon Forsmark should have been drafted 30 picks earlier. His game is vanilla, but he offers size, good situational awareness and decent puck poise. Vladimir Grudinin was a second- or early-third-round value. He is a brilliant skater and takes care of the puck. Alexander Pelevin, drafted in Round 7, is a better prospect than many players drafted three rounds ahead of him.
The elephant in the room is concern about the status of Russian players, but assuming all works out, this is a glut of talent. If the Hurricanes obtain one second-line winger and one second-pairing defenseman out of a draft class in which their first pick was on the precipice of the third round, it will be a success. And there's room for more.
Round 6 (193): Chris Romaine, RD Milton Academy (USHS)
Round 7 (225): Ivan Zhigalov, G, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Analysis: The Colorado Avalanche went all-in on a successful Stanley Cup run and traded away most of their 2022 draft picks in that pursuit. The consequence is an extremely quiet draft class. I'm sure nobody in Colorado is bemoaning that outcome.
It's hard to really grade the Avalanche in any direction given what they had to work with. Chris Romaine is a high school defenseman with limited tape available and is committed to Providence College for 2023-24. Igor Zhigalov is a 19-year-old Belarusian goaltender in the QMJHL. He is 6'3" and naturally athletic, but he doesn't track the puck well and relies on his athleticism to bail him out. Pound-for-pound, goaltenders usually offer the best return on investment in the late rounds. If a good goaltending coach can hone him in, he has pro upside.
For the Avalanche, a punted 2022 draft is a worthwhile price to pay for the Stanley Cup, and if either of these two teens turn into an NHLer down the road, it will be like finding a forgotten $20 bill in a coat pocket.
1 (7): Kevin Korchinski, RD, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
1 (13): Frank Nazar, C, US National Team Development Program
1 (25): Sam Rinzel, RD, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
2 (39): Paul Ludwinski, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2 (57): Ryan Greene, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
3 (66): Gavin Hayes, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
3 (81): Samuel Savoie, LW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
3 (90): Aidan Thompson, C, University of Denver (NCAA)
6 (173): Dominic James, C/LW, University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
6 (188): Nils Juntorp, RW, HV71 J20 (J20 Nationell)
7 (199): Riku Tohila (C) JYP (Finnish Liiga)
Analysis: For better or worse, it's clear that the Chicago Blackhawks are ready to pursue a deep rebuild. Although Kevin Korchinski was technically a reach by our board, where he ranked 17th, he is the most talented offensive defenseman in the draft. If he cleans up his game off the puck, then he could become a force in the NHL and will easily justify where the Blackhawks took him.
Frank Nazar was their best value pick of the draft. He ranked seventh on our board, is a virtual lock to become a top-nine NHL forward and I think his dynamic abilities on the puck plus work ethic off of it set him up to become a robust second-line center.
Sam Rinzel is a project. He is a 6'3" defenseman who skates well and has a lot of offensive creativity. His decision-making is poor, and it will be some years before he's knocking on the door of the NHL. He is another high-upside defenseman who wasn't slotted on our board where Chicago took him but who has the talent to possibly make the Blackhawks happy in five years.
The rest of new GM Kyle Davidson's draft class consists of forwards with checking-role aspirations. Ludwinski skates well but doesn't have the offensive-zone abilities to score a lot of points save for off the rush. He was more of a second-/third-round tweener pick for me. Ryan Greene was slotted more appropriately. He is a crafty puck-handler and clever passer, but he lacks scoring instincts or much of a physical game. There's a potential place for him in the NHL.
Gavin Hayes and Samuel Savoie were also picked a bit too early, but their games suggest potential bottom-six NHL roles. Hayes started poorly in Flint but got better and better as the season progressed. He's a fun, energetic, physical forward who has an offensive skill set waiting to be tapped. Thompson was a more sizable reach, though he and James, more appropriately picked, do have bottom-six upside.
The Blackhawks swung for two high-risk, high-reward defensemen, got a forward who safely projects to become an impact NHLer and filled the rest of their picks with credible depth prospects, albeit many were potentially drafted too soon. I may not love everything the Blackhawks did, but even their more questionable decisions can be defended credibly.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Round 1 (6): David Jiricek, RD, Plzen (Czech Extraliga)
Round 1 (12): Denton Mateychuk, LD, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Round 2 (44): Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Round 3 (96): Jordan Dumais, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Round 4 (109): Kirill Dolzhenkov, RW, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
Round 5 (138): Sergei Ivanov, G, SKA-1946 (MHL)
Round 7 (203): James Fisher, F, Belmont Hill (USHS)
Analysis: The Blue Jackets got great value at both sixth and 12th overall in the first round. Jiricek and Mateychuk are different types of players. Jiricek is a big bruiser who also skates well for his size and has some offensive pop, while Mateychuk is sub-six feet and more of a cerebral dictator of play in both directions. Both Jiricek and Mateychuk will be top-four defensemen, and maybe even as good as No. 1 defensemen. Truthfully, Columbus could have left Montreal overnight and forfeited the rest of their picks and they would have still had a successful draft.
But the Blue Jackets did get some good value on Day 2. Luca Del Bel Belluz and Jordan Dumais are huge favorites of the analytics community because of their point production in the CHL, and both do have upside. I do think their games will have problems translating at higher levels, and Del Bel Belluz was drafted 15-20 picks too early. Sergei Ivanov is a goaltender I really like. He looked great in international competition and would have been drafted higher if not for his 5'11" height.
The Blue Jackets nailed most of their picks, and any errors were moderate ones that could still produce an NHLer. This is a really strong draft class from top to bottom.
1 (18) - Lian Bichsel, LD, Leksands (SHL)
2 (50) - Christian Kyrou, RD, Erie Otters (OHL)
3 (83) - George Fegaras, RD, North York Rangers (OJHL)
4 (115) - Gavin White, RD, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
5 (147) - Maxim Mayorov, G, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)
6 (179) - Matthew Seminoff, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Analysis: I criticized the selection of Lian Bichsel on Thursday night. He is a tantalizing 6'5" and 225 pounds, skates pretty ably for his size and is decent handling the puck. Once you get past the initial shock factor, I'm skeptical of how much nuance his game offers. He'll be an NHL player, but my gut feeling is that he'll be a physical, third-pairing shutdown defenseman. In fairness, there are others who are much higher on him than I am.
Christian Kyrou is one of the top offensive defensemen in this draft. He is very good at creating space for himself with the puck at the blue line, loves to carry deeper into the offensive zone, and his wrist shot beats goaltenders clean and from distance. Eighteen goals and 42 assists in 68 OHL games tell the story there. A big issue is skating. His straight-line speed is average, but he generates no thrust from his pivots and his first few steps are sluggish. This contributes to an even bigger problem, which is a lack of defensive acumen. He does not compensate for his lack of skating with timing and spacial awareness. His gaps in the neutral zone are loose, he gets beat on transition rushes, and he gets lost in defensive zone coverages. Kyrou has a lot of potential, but he's a project—a good type of player to take 50th overall.
George Fegaras produced 48 points in 52 games for the North York Rangers, who play in the second tier of Ontario junior hockey. He earned a lot of assists through distribution in the offensive zone and shows some willingness to throw his body around, but he benefited from the slow pace of the OJHL, and college hockey—he's headed to Cornell—will be a huge adjustment. I did not see high-end skating or puck-handling abilities, and Fegaras is more of a late-round talent for me.
Matthew Seminoff has soft hands both as a playmaker and shooter, and despite his 5'11" size, he feasts on pucks in the low slot. His skating is very poor, and ice time alongside better prospects like Logan Stankoven, Fraser Minten and Mats Lindgren boosted his numbers (57 points in 64 games). Like any sixth-round pick, the odds are stacked against Seminoff, but if he can make big leaps in skating, he has a chance to make it. If not, he'll have to settle for the AHL. He's the right type of player to take a flier on late in the draft.
Detroit Red Wings
1 (8) - Marco Kasper, C, Rogle (SHL)
2 (40) - Dylan James, LW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
2 (52) - Dmitri Buchelnikov, LW, SKA-1946 (MHL)
4 (105) - Anton Johansson, RD, Leksands J20 (J20 Nationell)
4 (113) - Amadeus Lombardi, C, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
4 (129) - Maximilian Kilpinen, LW, Orebro J20 (J20 Nationell)
5 (137) - Tnias Mathurin, LD, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
7 (201) - Owen Mehlenbacher, C, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
7 (212) - Brennan Ali, C, Avon Old Farms (USHS)
Analysis: As I said during the first round live grades, Marco Kasper would not have been my choice at eighth overall but I understand why the Red Wings disagree. Kasper was a force beyond his years in the SHL for Rogle. He already plays an NHL-style game. He isn't fancy with the puck, but he is confident. He plays with a high motor. In 18 months he'll be playing a top-nine role for the Red Wings, and long term he'll be a good second-liner or overqualified third-liner. Whether that certainty is worth passing on a player with All-Star upside is more of a philosophical debate than a pure scouting assessment.
It's the rest of the draft that evokes skepticism. Dylan James plays hard every shift and with some skills development could turn into a checking-line winger. Way too early for that type of player, in my opinion.
Dmitri Buchelnikov was a bizarre selection. He was undrafted last year, although he was only eligible by nine days. Nobody publicly seemed to have him even within a top-100 list. I've only seen him play one full game plus some assorted clips, but nothing particularly stood out aside from good-but-not-great hand-eye coordination. Average skating. His 75 points in 56 MHL games is not outstanding; 60th overall Gleb Trikozov matched that production while being almost a full year younger and with some proof of concept at the pro level. If the Red Wings' argument for Buchelnikov is that he's an underexposed player buried in SKA's depth chart, fine. I can buy his place in the fourth round.
I am either apathetic to or relatively uninformed about the remaining picks. Amadeus Lombardi is an adept playmaker who greatly benefitted from being handcuffed to Rangers 2021 first-round pick Brennan Othmann, an elite goal scorer by junior standards. The rest of his game is pedestrian. Worth a draft pick but maybe in the sixth round.
Essentially, the Red Wings' draft relies on a premise that general manager Steve Yzerman and his scouting staff know a lot of things that the greater scouting world does not. Historically, that rarely proves to be true in the NHL. But look, if there's one man who deserves some benefit of the doubt, it's Yzerman. His sixth overall pick of Moritz Seider was aggressively derided in 2019 and his judgment has seen been emphatically proved right.
1 (32) - Reid Schaefer, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
5 (158) - Samuel Jonsson, G, Brynas J20 (J20 Nationell)
6 (190) - Nikita Yevseyev, LD, Bars Kazan (VHL)
7 (222) - Joel Maatta, C, Vermont (NCAA)
Analysis: Reid Schaefer is 6'3" and scores a lot of goals from the interior. He works hard, attempts to play a physical game and makes some diligent backchecking efforts. Despite his size and willingness to play a tough game, he doesn't do so in a productive manner. You'd like to see him become a cycle offense asset and wear down defenses on the forecheck, but instead he mostly finishes checks for style points. He takes too many penalties and generally lacks spacial awareness on the defensive side. His skating is also messy. He has bottom-six upside, but we're probably talking fourth line, maybe passable third-liner. He was a fourth-round value for me.
As a general premise, collecting goaltenders in the late rounds is a good return on investment. Samuel Jonsson had an ugly .883 save percentage and likely got drafted because of his 6'5" height—an obsolete priority for goaltenders in a modern game that usually favors 6'1"-6'3" netminders with mobility.
Joel Maatta was a 19-year-old freshman at Vermont who posted six points in 32 games. That's not an NHL prospect.
Three remaining picks in Rounds 5 through 7 meant the Oilers had to nail their pick at 32nd overall. They instead drafted a player who will fill a depth role, if even that. And while late-round picks are long shots, they didn't draft players who even give them a chance to beat the odds.
3 (93) - Marek Alscher, LD, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
4 (125) - Ludvig Jansson, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan)
5 (157) - Sandis Vilmanis, LW, Lulea J20 (J20 Nationell)
6 (186) - Josh Davies, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
6 (189) - Tyler Muszelik, G, US National Team Development Program
7 (214) - Liam Arnsby, C, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
7 (221) - Jack Devine, RW, University of Denver
Analysis: Full disclosure—this is the collection of players I am least familiar with, so take that for what it is.
Marek Alscher is a big, physical defenseman who earned 16 points in 61 WHL games. He has an outside chance of earning a place as a third-pairing or seventh defenseman, but I think Florida made a huge mistake taking him at 93rd while passing on defensemen with far more polish and/or upside, such as Isaiah George, Simon Forsmark, and Mats Lindgren.
Tyler Muszelik had some very good performances for the USNTDP, though he played behind a pretty dominant group. Not a lot in the way of flash, but he makes the saves you expect from him. This sixth-round pick is justified.
As much as is possible at the end of the seventh round, Jack Devine was a steal. He produced 19 points in 36 NCAA games for Denver despite limited opportunities and he's an honest player who fights for pucks. Relative to the end of the draft, he has high odds of turning into a fourth-liner at the NHL level and should have gone at least one round sooner.
The Panthers have a chance at scraping off one or two depth players from this group, but lack of upside in the mid-round picks hurts them.
Los Angeles Kings
2 (51) - Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern (NCAA)
4 (103) - Kenny Connors, C, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
4 (116) - Angus Booth, LD, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
5 (148) - Otto Salin, RD, HIFK U20 (FIN U20)
6 (169) - Jared Wright, RW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
6 (180) - Jack Sparkes, RD, St. Michael's Buzzers (OJHL)
7 (215) - Kaleb Lawrence, RW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Analysis: Jack Hughes (not related to the other Jack Hughes) is commensurate to a 51st overall pick and could have gone 10-15 slots sooner. As a freshman at Northeastern, he went up against players multiple years older and more than held his own. There are no major bright spots to his game, but by the same measure, there are no areas of concern.
He is a well-rounded defensive center who puts himself in positions to support play, always makes the smart decision, and creates combination plays in the neutral and offensive zones to get on the scoresheet occasionally. I think he has very high odds of turning into a bottom-six NHL forward, with the scale tipping towards the third-line.
What L.A. did in round four makes less sense to me. Angus Booth, in particular, was a major reach; a nondescript junior-level defender with no standout traits to bank on, plus skating issues. Otto Salin in Round 5 is a different story. He came into the season as a potential second-round pick and then missed most of the season with injury issues. He's a little vanilla, but he is very good at handling the puck in all three zones. I liked him in August's Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and I think he has a well-rounded game that could translate to a third-pairing role.
Jack Sparkes isn't necessarily a great pick in Round 6, but it's one I'm eager to see through. The OJHL defenseman is 6'8" and skates pretty well for his size. He's heading to Michigan State in 2023-24, and I think there's some merit to seeing what comes out the other side in five years.
The Kings got good value in Hughes and Salin, but an underwhelming fourth round hurts them.
1 (19) - Liam Ohgren, LW, Djurgardens J20 (J20 Nationell)
1 (24) - Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
2 (47) - Hunter Haight, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
2 (56) - Rieger Lorenz, LW, Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
3 (89) - Michael Milne, LW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
4 (121) - Ryan Healey, RD, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
5 (153) - David Spacek, RD, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
6 (185) - Servac Petrovsky, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Analysis: Some others saw Ohgren as a top-15 pick, but I think 19th is about where he belongs in this draft. He is an intelligent hockey player who dominated Swedish juniors and processes the game at lightning speed. He gets involved in all facets in the offensive zone and has the hands to finish plays and score goals. He looks like a second-liner or high-end third-liner at the NHL level.
Danila Yurov was a no-doubt top-10 player in this draft and fell due to uncertainty surrounding Russian players and limited ice time on a stacked KHL team. He does everything well. He already has close to NHL size, and he plays a physical game even if he's not running around and bashing heads. He's a great skater, and his hands are dexterous. He's a future top-six NHL forward, and I'm inclined to say on the first line because his game is so well-rounded, he has the capacity for 60 points, and he'll be able to play with any linemates.
Minnesota got strong second-round value as well. Hunter Haight was a player I had circled early into the season, as he possesses strong puck skills and the ability to execute in the offensive zone. His 41 points in 63 OHL games don't give a full perspective of his talent. He was stuck behind a number of older players and, per InStat, seven forwards got more ice time than he did. I think he explodes in the next two seasons as Barrie gives him bigger opportunities.
Ryan Healey has some similarities in terms of lack of opportunity. The glut of high-end US defensemen meant he didn't get a chance to prove his worth at the U18 World Championship. He is a puck-moving defenseman who makes smart decisions, and I think after a few years at Harvard, he'll become a player some teams wish they took 30-45 picks earlier.
Servac Petrovsky is an analytics darling who is one of the youngest players in the draft and registered 54 points in 65 OHL games. I don't have a good answer for why he was around a pick 185, but the Wild must be loving it right now.
The Wild got slot value at worst and great value at best with practically every pick. This is a strong draft, and if someone else graded it an A-plus, I wouldn't fight it.
Round 1 (1): Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Finnish Liiga)
Round 1 (26): Filip Mesar, LW/RW, Proprad (Slovak Extraliga)
Round 2 (33): Owen Beck, Center, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Round 2 (62): Lane Hutson, LD, US National Development Program
Round 3 (75): Vinzenz Rohrer, RW, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
Round 3 (92): Adam Engstrom, LD, Djurgardens J20 (J20 Nationell)
Round 4 (127): Cedrick Guindon, F, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Round 5 (130): Jared Davidson, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Round 6 (162): Emmett Croteau, G, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Round 7 (194): Petteri Nurmi, LD, HPK (Liiga)
Round 7 (216): Miguel Tourigny, RD, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Analysis: Les Canadiens were the main event of the 2022 draft, both because of their draft capital and because they hosted the event. They made some interesting picks in the later rounds, including Vinzenz Rohrer and Miguel Tourigny, but history will remember this class for the successes and failures of the five players drafted in Rounds 1 and 2.
I already broke down the Slafkovsky vs. Wright debate on Thursday night. To keep it short, I think the Habs made the wrong decision but that Slafkovsky will be a top NHL player regardless. Mesar was appropriate value at 26, and Owen Beck was on par for 33rd overall. Lane Hutson was, pound-for-pound, their best pick of the draft. The diminutive defenseman is a great skater and high-end puck transporter. Questions about size are valid, but using a borderline third-round pick for a player with that talent was a no-brainer.
The rebuild isn't over, but the Canadiens made good-to-great picks through the second round and grabbed a few wild cards afterward. Very good, even if I'd argue imperfect, work.
1 (17) - Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Finnish Liiiga)
3 (82) - Adam Ingram, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
3 (84) - Kasper Kulonummi, RD, Jokerit Jr. (FIN U20)
4 (114) - Cole O'Hara, C/RW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
5 (146) - Graham Sward, LD, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
7 (210) - Benjamin Strinden, C, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Analysis: Sometimes where players get drafted is a fluke of circumstance. Some NHL teams had Joakim Kemell as a top-10 player in the draft, with one ranking him as high as fourth overall. But if the wrong combination of teams plays out the draft in a way where a handful happen to have one other kid rated higher, suddenly a top prospect in the eyes of many can inexplicably drop. That's probably the case for Kemell. The Finnish winger is a high-caliber goalscorer, although his production dropped off toward the end of the season. He plays at a high tempo, takes on defenders with the puck, cutting across the slot from the outside lane and shooting against moving goaltenders but also rifling one-timers from the faceoff dots. The Predators got very good value at 17th overall.
Adam Ingram has never wowed me whenever I've watched him play. His skating is mediocre and everything else rates a 5 or 6 out of 10. The appeal is his well-roundedness. He's adept at skating into his shot. He is conscientious in all three zones, breaks up potential scoring chances in the slot, and persists down the ice to provide a team-wide forechecking effort. Every once in a while he dusts off an imaginative stickhandle, but his lack of any plus-rated traits limits his upside. He fits the potential mold of a third-line center in the NHL, and because NHL coaches are going to appreciate his honest efforts and intentions, the Predators are likely to give him multiple chances to stick. I was unconvinced of his merit as a top-50 pick, but he's definitely worth the value at 82nd overall.
Kasper Kulonummi is a player who earns appreciation in the aggregate. He does not stand out shift-to-shift, but every time I saw him play in international competitions he gave Finland a reliable effort from minutes one through 60. The defenseman is a mobile skater, he manages the puck well, and he makes responsible decisions when defending the rush or in controlled possessions in his own end. Nashville is going to allow him to marinate in Finland for two or three years before bringing him over to the AHL, where he'll either grind out an opportunity on the Preds' third pairing or go back across the Atlantic to enjoy a noble career in Europe.
New Jersey Devils
1 (2) - Simon Nemec, RD, Nitra (Slovak Extraliga)
2 (46) - Seamus Casey, RD, US National Team Development
4 (102) - Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
4 (110) - Daniil Orlov, LD, Sakhalinskie Akuly (MHL)
4 (126) - Charlie Leddy, RD, US National Team Development Program
6 (166) - Josh Filmon, LW, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
7 (198) - Artem Barabosha, RD, Krasnaya Armiya (MHL)
Analysis: Of the three teams that passed on Shane Wright, the Devils are the easiest to sympathize with. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are their first- and second-line centers for the long haul, and Dawson Mercer can play center as well. I still would have drafted him and either figured it out later or had a 1-2-3 punch akin to the Penguins' Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin/Jordan Staal trio of the late 2000s.
But Simon Nemec was my top defenseman in the draft and ranked fourth overall on my board, so the Devils got that much right. He's 6'1", has high-end mobility, defends the rush brilliantly, and owns impressive puck poise. He's going to be an all-situations No. 1 defenseman in New Jersey for a long time.
Seamus Casey was a quality selection at 46. He is agile, can escape pressure with the puck, and distributes through the neutral and offensive zones nicely. His upside is as a No. 4, 30-point puck-moving defenseman.
I don't have strong feelings one way or another about Tyler Brennan, but he is arguably the best goaltender of this class, and the fourth round was an appropriate spot to take him. The Devils' organization desperately needs goaltending help, too.
Charlie Leddy was the pick I didn't like, though. He has decent defensive instincts and plays a physical game, but he does not drive possession, and I think he tops out as a depth AHLer.
Ignoring the Shane Wright dilemma, the Devils got very good value out of their first three selections.
New York Islanders
2 (65) - Calle Odelius, LD, Djurgardens (SHL)
3 (78) - Quinn Finley, LW, Madison Capitols (USHL)
4 (98) - Isaiah George, LD, London Knights (OHL)
5 (152) - Matthew Maggio, RW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
6 (174) - Daylan Kuefler, LW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Analysis: The Islanders traded their first-round pick to acquire defenseman Alexander Romanov and ended up with a first-round talent anyway. Calle Odelius is a well-rounded defenseman who has speed and vision. He beats the first forechecker up the ice with the puck, shows good instincts at the point to create offense, and defends well in his own zone plus gaps up in the neutral zone. He'll be an NHL defenseman, and I likely on a second pairing. Odelius was 28th on the B/R Big Board.
Quinn Finley was not a third-round pick for me, but I get why the Islanders disagree. The winger has a remarkable wrist shot, and he beats goaltenders from distance. I find that too many of his goals depend on cheating up the ice or finding himself in wide-open areas. He needs to get better at putting himself in spaces to receive passes in the offensive zone for organic scoring chances. The rest of his game is underripe. Wisconsin is a good program for development, and he'll get at least three or four years to become a better player.
Isaiah George is a prospect whose stock is dependent on theoretical projectability rather than what he has shown so far in juniors, but in the fourth round, that is a brilliant gamble. He's 6'1" and 196, he skates like the wind up and down the ice, he's a wall in the neutral zone, and he plays a tight defensive game.
Producing 23 points in 67 games is underwhelming at the junior level, even for a defensive-minded blue-liner. However, he has a lot of tools that the Islanders can plausibly work into ability rather than potential. I can understand how he fell out of Round 2, but there's no justification for his availability beyond pick 75.
Matthew Maggio tallied 85 points in 66 OHL Games and is okay for Round 6, but he turns 20 in November, and his numbers are probably a trickle-down effect from playing on an elite team with the best player (Wyatt Johnston) in the OHL.
I dock them slightly for the Finley pick, but the Islanders did extremely well even after moving their 13th-overall selection.
New York Rangers
2 (63) - Adam Sykora, LW/RW, Nitra (Slovak Extraliga)
3 (97) - Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
4 (111) - Noah Laba, C, Lincoln Stars (USHL)
5 (159) - Vittorio Mancini, RD, Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
5 (161) - Maxim Barbashev, LW, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
6 (191) - Zakary Karpa, C, Harvard University (NCAA)
Analysis: It's a tale of two drafts for the Blueshirts.
Adam Sykora was a wonderful pick at the end of Round 2. He's fast both in straight lines and in turns, he outworks everyone on the ice, he attacks the low slow and battles for position, and he has the hands to make plays. The optimistic take is that Sykora's career resembles that of Blake Coleman, a play-diver and sparkplug who hovers around 20 goals and 40 points on a second or third line. He would not have looked out of place at 35th overall.
Bryce McConnell-Barker produced 49 points in 68 games for the Soo Greyhounds, and that doesn't really tell the full story of his upside. While he isn't a gifted vertical skater, his ability to cut and change direction while in motion allows him to sidestep defenders and evade pressure. Combine that with his comfort handling the puck on the move, and the Soo center creates a lot of zone entries. In the offensive zone, he is both a playmaker and shooter. He's not overly showy, but he is decisive and executes plays quickly. And McConnell-Barker shows cogent awareness in the defensive zone. Because he is so young and missed an entire season when COVID-19 shut down the OHL in 2020-21, it feels like he has a lot of room to improve, too.
Through the third round, this was an A-minus effort. Then the Rangers went full Daenerys Targaryen and spontaneously acted on their worst impulses. Their next four picks were big, meaty players who are way behind the pack in terms of makeup.
The most forgivable pick was Maxim Barbashev. The younger brother of Blues forward Ivan, Barbashev is 6'3" and incredibly strong on his skates. He has a lot of individual puck skills and every few games pulls off a highlight-reel play. But his skating is below average, and he hasn't displayed the hockey IQ to integrate his teammates into offensive-zone time. It's either a heroic solo effort or nothing at all.
Noah Laba is a longshot prospect. He's big, plays an extremely physical game and has good hands. The skating is worse than Barbashev's. A deeply optimistic take is that he has an August birthdate and will have four years at Colgate to figure things out and maybe turn into a fourth-line center. Both he and Barbashev were seventh-round talents.
Karpa, 20, is a big center who has decent hands when there's time and space, but he fumbles the puck on bang-bang plays. His skating is also problematic. Mancini, also 20, is a big defenseman who skates well in straight lines but has limited agility. He has absolutely zero offensive value even at the NCAA level. He ranked seventh among Nebraska-Omaha defensemen by points despite playing a lot of minutes. Both seem destined to top out as depth AHLers. Dozens of these types of players are available to sign for free at the end of the college season.
The Rangers did nail the two most important picks, so that keeps this class afloat, but even mediocre picks from Rounds 4-6 would have been enough to cruise to a B+/A- grade.
2 (64) - Filip Nordberg, LD, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan)
3 (72) - Oskar Pettersson, RW, Rogle J20 (J20 Nationell)
3 (87) - Tomas Hamara, LD, Tappara U20 (FIN U20)
4 (107) - Stephen Halliday, C, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
5 (136) - Jorian Donovan, LD, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
5 (143) - Cameron O'Neill, RW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
5 (151) - Kevin Reidler, G, AIK J18 (J18 Nationell)
6 (168) - Theo Wallberg, LD, Skelleftea J20 (J20 Nationell)
7 (206) - Tyson Dyck, C, Cranbrook Bucks (BCHL)
Analysis: Filip Nordberg was not on my radar, and I had to go back and watch him play. He's a 6'4" defenseman with OK hands. He makes some brutal turnovers and lacks the speed to make up ground. In the defensive zone, he often gets exposed and loses his coverage, or puck carriers have no issues stickhandling around or through him. In that way, his length actually hurts him. I could see why Ottawa might have thought he could be worth a late-round flier, but Nordberg is nowhere near second-round caliber.
I've never watched Oskar Pettersson and come away impressed, but Tomas Hamara was an ironclad solid selection at 87th overall. He's a jack of all trades, master of none on defense. He's 6'0" and mobile and takes care of the puck. He isn't going to be a point producer, but he's easy to imagine on an NHL third-pairing for 10 years.
With 215 points in 215 games, Stephen Halliday is the USHL's fifth-highest points producer. He registered 95 points in 62 games this past season with the caveat that he was 19 going on 20. Halliday is 6'4" and has high-end passing abilities. I can buy him as a potential late bloomer, though the fourth round may have been a little early. We'll learn a lot when he competes against better, more age-appropriate competition at Ohio State next season.
Jorian Donovan in Round 5 is fine. He didn't have much opportunity on the Hamilton Bulldogs, the OHL champs. He could be a riser next year when he earns more playing time; Hamilton's top-pairing have both aged out of junior hockey.
The best of Ottawa's picks were decent value, while there were others that aren't really defendable. The only favorable move Ottawa made around the draft was acquiring Alex DeBrincat.
1 (5) - Cutter Gauthier, C/LW, US National Team Development Program
3 (69) - Devin Kaplan, RW US National Team Development Program
5 (133) - Alex Bump, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
6 (165) - Hunter McDonald, LD, Chicago Steel (USHL)
7 (197) - Santeri Sulku, LW, Jokerit U20 (FIN U20)
7 (220) - Alexis Gendron, RW, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
Analysis: The Flyers were not the only ones who saw Cutter Gauthier as a potential top-five pick, but I am not one of them. Let's be clear that I do love his game. He flies up and down the ice and has one of the best wrist shots in this draft. He has complementary playmaking skills, and he is an assertive forechecker and penalty killer. The limits to his game are going to show when he plays against better competition and doesn't have Blackhawks' 13th-overall pick Frank Nazar around to do a lot of the difficult work for him. He was 12th on my board because I don't think he is cerebral enough to drive a top line in the NHL, though he will be a quality top-six forward in Philadelphia.
Devin Kaplan is a 6'3" right-winger that can create scoring chances through analytical assessment of the space in front of him and deft hands to execute. He plays a heavy game and holds the points accountable on defense. He would have had more opportunities to play offensive minutes in a year where the USNTDP wasn't stacked. Ideally, the Flyers would have been able to grab him one round later, but he's still a nice pick at 69th overall, and the bottom-six potential is apparent.
Alex Bump and Alexis Gendron are worthwhile late-round investments. Bump dominated in Minnesotan high school games and produced 11 goals in 27 USHL games. He'll have another USHL year and likely four years at Vermont to develop, and that long runway is a benefit for a player like him who needs time to cook. Gendron is a 5'10" forward who accumulated 30 goals in 66 games for an Armada team that traded most of their offensive producers halfway through the season.
The Flyers' picks in Rounds 3-7 influence their draft grade between the margins. History will judge this effort based on what Cutter Gauthier does in the NHL. I believe he'll be a very good NHL player but not one who justifies the fifth-overall pick.
1 (23) - Owen Pickering, LD, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
4 (118) - Sergey Murashov, G, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
5 (150) - Zam Plante, C, Chicago Steel (USHL)
6 (167) - Nolan Collins, RD, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
6 (182) - Luke Devlin, C, St. Andrew's College (CAS)
Analysis: Even though there were a few players available whom I had rated higher, I have zero problems with the Penguins' decision to take Owen Pickering at 23. He's 6'4", defends well and is excellent at retrieving pucks in the defensive zone and moving it up the ice. He had a massive growth spurt in the last two years, and he's underweight at 180 pounds, which leads many to believe he has a lot of potential left untapped. Pickering will be a second-pairing shutdown defenseman.
What I also like about this pick for Pittsburgh, aside from Pickering's ability, is that he's a safe prospect that a lot of teams find appealing. If the Penguins decide to make one more all-in push for the Cup during the Crosby/Letang/Malkin(?) era, he'll be a universal currency that will help them get whatever they need.
I also really like Zam Plante in Round 5. He's a skilled forward who dominated the Minnesotan high school circuit and tallied 21 points in 31 USHL games. He was about three weeks away from not being eligible for the draft until 2023, and he only fell to Round 5 because he's 5'10".
I'm not sure about Sergey Murashov in the fourth round, and I dislike the selection of Nolan Collins, but the Penguins, whose prospect pool is in dire straits, absolutely needed to nail the 23rd overall pick. They did, and that's what matters above all else.
San Jose Sharks
1 (27) - Filip Bystedt, C, Linkoping (SHL)
2 (34) - Cameron Lund, C, Green Bay Gramblers (USHL)
2 (45) - Mattias Havelid, RD, Linkoping (SHL)
3 (76) - Michael Fischer, RD, St. Mark's (USHS)
4 (108) - Mason Beaupit, G, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
5 (140) - Jake Furlong, LD, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
6 (172) - Joey Muldowney, Nichols School (USHS)
7 (195) - Eli Barnett, RD, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
7 (217) - Reese Laubach, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Analysis: Filip Bystedt has an intriguing toolbox of size, hands and straight-line skating. But he is underbaked, having not yet figured out how to make those tools work cohesively, and I think he tops out as a third-line center in the best-case scenario.
Cameron Lund at 34 is about slot value. He has notable goal-scoring instincts with the mid-stickhandle release to make it count. He has a fairly high offensive-zone IQ, and he backchecks hard, though there is work to do in terms of positional defending. He could turn into a bigger threat if he adds some thrust to his first few strides. He has some NHL-quality tools, and the ones that aren't there yet can be bridged at the college level.
Mattias Havelid did not make my top-32 list, but he might have been No. 33. The son of former NHLer Niclas is a big catalyst from the point. He has a heavy shot, and he dishes the puck expeditiously from all three zones. Despite standing at 5'9", he is sturdy on his skates and over the course of the season learned to keep his feet and use his low center of gravity as leverage in puck battles.
Game footage for Michael Fischer was hard to come by, but from the little I've seen, he is a pacey defenseman with good size. He craves the puck on his stick. His numbers at the prep-school level (13 goals, 37 assists in 28 games) are video game-like. Other outlets and obviously the Sharks like his upside, so we'll trust the value. Most of their remaining picks fit a similar though far more muted theme of sophomoric talents with hints of potential to become late bloomers.
This isn't a superlative collection of prospects, but if one shuffles the deck and pretends that the Sharks snapped up Havelid at 27th and Bystedt at 45th, this is a satisfying haul for the rebuilding club.
1 (4): Shane Wright, Center, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2 (35): Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
2 (49): Jani Nyman, RW, KOOVEE (Mestis)
2 (58): Niklas Kokko, G, Karpat Jrs (FIN U20)
2 (61): David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
3 (68): Ty Nelson, RD, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
3 (91): Ben MacDonald, C, Noble and Greenough (USHS)
4 (100): Tyson Jugnauth, LD, West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL)
4 (123): Tucker Robertson, C/RW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
6 (164): Barrett Hall, C, Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL)
7 (196): Kyle Jackson, LW/C, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Analysis: Shane Wright falling to fourth overall is possibly the most shocking moment in recent NHL draft history. He was, in my opinion, the best player available in this draft, but definitely no worse than second-best. The win here for Seattle is not just the talent but what it means for the franchise existentially. He'll be a first-line center, and he gives Seattle's marketing department a face of the franchise after a pedestrian expansion season. This selection alone earns the Kraken top marks even if it was a gift left on their doorstep.
The Kraken made a lot of really shrewd decisions after that. Let's give the second round a compliment sandwich. Jagger Firkus was ranked 26th on my big board. He's a goal-scoring winger who shoots well off the pass but also can create his own shot and has dexterous hands. The Firkus Circus is going to look great on the wing of either Shane Wright or 2021 second overall pick Matty Beniers.
Niklas Kokko was a huge reach at 58th. He's an admissible goaltender prospect, but I'd have sooner believed he went undrafted than in the second round. The Kraken left a few superior prospects on the board, such as Calle Odelius, Adam Sykora and Lane Hutson when they took Jani Nyman at 49. That notwithstanding, I have a lot of time for Nyman. The 6'3" left-winger has a good shot and is an asset in cycle offense, using his size to protect pucks or circle to the net front. I think he has good odds of making the NHL as a bottom-six winger.
David Goyette, 32nd on my board, went nearly a full round later than that valuation dictates. He's a clever playmaking center and evasive skater with middle-six upside and may move to wing depending on his development and, of course, the presence of Wright and Beniers.
The rest of the draft is filled with some intriguing dark horses (Ty Nelson and Tyson Jugnauth among them) and other uninspiring picks. But the bulk of Seattle's work was done in Rounds 1 and 2. Not every pick was optimized, but the team hit it out of the park on so many that it doesn't really matter. The Kraken leave Montreal as the league's biggest winner.
St. Louis Blues
1 (23) - Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, US National Team Development Program
3 (73) - Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C, HIFK U20 (FIN U20)
3 (88) - Michael Buchinger, LD, Guelph Storm (OHL)
4 (120) - Arseni Koromyslov, LD, SKA St. Petersburg (MHL)
5 (152) - Marc-Andre Gaudet, LD, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
6 (184) - Landon Sim, RW, London Knights (OHL)
Jimmy Snuggerud plays a north-south game and is difficult to knock off the puck. He has deceptively good hands, makes slip passes to linemates off the rush, and his wrist shot could shatter titanium. I am less enthusiastic about his upside, as I am concerned about how much offense he will provide at higher levels when he doesn't have a severe physical advantage and isn't stapled to a line with third-overall pick Logan Cooley and 14th-overall pick Rutger McGroarty.
To me, he is close to a bottom-six winger who scores 15 goals, plays net-front on the second power-play unit, forechecks, and plays a responsible defensive game. That's a good player to have, but it's why he was on the bubble of the first and second round in the B/R rankings. Admittedly, this is a minority view.
Aleksanteri Kaskimaki produced high numbers in the Finnish U20 league. He shows skill and scoring ability, but it popped up ephemerally in the games I watched in international competitions. If he can round out the edges and develop some consistency, he could turn into a bottom-six NHLer.
Michael Buchinger can skate, and he totaled 39 assists in 63 OHL games. That's intriguing output on its face, but the tape doesn't inspire in the same way. A lot of those assists came from directing play from the point, moving the puck side-to-side. There is value to that, but nothing indicated he could make the passes that are high degrees of the difficulty that one wants from an offensive defenseman. He didn't show off any significant defensive acumen, and players of this sort typically hit their ceiling in the AHL.
The Blues are very likely getting a solid NHLer from 23rd overall and may get another from the remainder of the draft, but it's not an overly exciting haul. Others will disagree, though.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Round 1 (31): Isaac Howard, LW, US National Team Development Program
Round 3 (86): Lucas Edmonds, LW/RW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Round 5 (160): Nick Malik, G, KooKoo (Finnish Liiga)
Round 6 (192): Connor Kurth, RW, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Round 7 (223): Dylan Gill, LD, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Round 7 (224): Klavs Veinbergs, LW, Riga (MHL)
Analysis: If Tampa Bay is going to be able to survive a cap crunch and extend its contention window into 2025-2027, the Lightning are going to need to infuse some young talent into the lineup. They gave themselves a shot at that with this group of prospects.
Isaac Howard ranked 22 on the B/R Big Board. He is an agile skater with the propensity for conducting difficult offensive plays and has improved his work off the puck. He is a bit of a project, but he has substantial upside as a top-six winger. A different team drafting him may have doomed his career, but the Lightning are great at prospect development. It's a perfect match.
Lucas Edmonds is a sneaky puck-handler who posted a ridiculous 113 points in 68 OHL games this season, but he turned 21 in January and benefitted from playing some minutes alongside Shane Wright and the Kings' Martin Chromiak. The Swede was more suited to be picked in Rounds 5-7. That being said, he's exactly the type of under-the-radar prospect the Lightning have been able to evolve into depth NHLers.
Nick Malik, the son of former NHLer Marek, went undrafted in 2021 but posted a robust .921 save percentage in Finland's top league. This is solid value. So too is the late-sixth-round pick of Connor Kurth, who produced 81 points in 62 USHL games and looks like a legitimate NHL prospect analytically.
Toronto Maple Leafs
2 (38) - Fraser Minten, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
3 (95) - Nick Moldenhauer, C/W, Chicago Steel (USHL)
4 (122) - Dennis Hildeby, G, Farjestad (SHL)
5 (135) - Nikita Grebenkin, RW, Stalnye Lisy (MHL)
7 (218) - Brandon Lisowsky, LW, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Analysis: Fraser Minten is an ardent two-way center. He puts himself in positions to score and has a quick release off the pass. What really stood out to me in watching him is that he's not shooting blindly but instead has a very good sense of where the goaltenders' vulnerabilities are and targets them. He plays a physical game and puts in work on the penalty kill, which translated into a few shorthanded goals. His skating is bland and keeps him from being a dynamic player, but he looks like a possible NHL third-liner. At 38th, I would have looked elsewhere, but he is a B-tier NHL prospect nonetheless.
Nick Moldenhauer is a well-rounded forward with equal parts work ethic and skill. He makes a lot of clever passes that he sees from his periphery—the kind that put the goaltender out of position and gives his teammate a gaping net to shoot at. I found him to be disappointing at the U18 World Championship, and he has an injury history, but I like his makeup.
Brandon Lisowsky is exactly the type of seventh-round pick who is worth a look. Minten's teammate in Kamloops is a 5'9" goal scorer (33 goals in 68 WHL games), and the history of the NHL draft indicates that the players who beat the odds often fit that mold.
The Leafs usually beat the market at the draft. This year, I think they come away with a class that is merely fair.
1 (15) - Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgardens J20 (J20 Nationell)
3 (80) - Elias Pettersson, LD, Orebro J20 (J20 Nationell)
4 (112) - Daimon Gardner, C, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
6 (144) - Ty Young, G, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
6 (176) - Jackson Dorrington, LD, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
7 (208) - Kirill Kudryavtsev, LD, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, who was 13th on the B/R board, is a pure goal scorer. He scores off the rush and on one-timers above the left faceoff dot. He can create his own shot and can bang pucks home from above the crease. Lekkerimaki complements the goals with adequate skating and passing abilities. He's never going to be a physical or defensive asset, but if he scores 30-plus goals every season, the Canucks won't care.
Elias Pettersson, not to be confused with, umm, Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, is a player I probably like more than most. He's both an intelligent and physical defenseman, and while he's not an offensive creator, he does a commendable job of moving the puck from the defensive zone. Although not nearly as good, his playing style evokes memories of prime Marc Staal. I think he'll be a No. 4 or 5 shutdown defenseman in the NHL. He could have reasonably been picked as high as about 60th, in my opinion.
Daimon Gardner is a player of whom I've had limited viewings, but he's a physical 6'4" center who has decent hands but didn't create much offense in the USHL. He'll spend another year in the USHL and as many as four years at Clarkson of the NCAA. He has bottom-six checking line upside.
Early in the season, some speculated Kirill Kudryavtsev as a potential mid-round pick. I never saw it. Ostensibly a puck-mover, he made many forced passes and turned over the puck too often at the Hlinka Gretzky. He did perform better in the OHL, and in the seventh round, I think he was worth taking.
Things got a little weird in Rounds 5 and 6, but I think the Canucks got appropriate slot value everywhere else.
Vegas Golden Knights
2 (48) - Matyas Sapovaliv, C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
3 (79) - Jordan Gustafson, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
4 (128) - Cameron Whitehead, G, Lincoln Stars (USHL)
5 (145) - Patrick Guay, C, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
6 (177) - Ben Hemmerling, RW, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
7 (209) - Abram Wiebe, LD, Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
Analysis: Matyas Sapovaliv isn't overly exciting to watch, but he is effective. The 6'3" Czech center uses his size to protect the puck for long stretches, including in open ice. He's a big asset in hold-up play to create cycle offense during a line change or transition rush. He has pretty good hands, though I don't think he'll be a meaningful offensive producer in the NHL. His skating is a work in progress, and 48th overall was way too early for me; he should have been selected in the 75-90 range. But if Sapovaliv turns into a 30-point checking center, the Golden Knights will be content.
Jordan Gustafson had to fight to get noticed in Seattle with so many more talented or older players in the lineup, but he eventually got the credit he deserved, as evidenced by his third-round selection. He is sort of a utility guy who plays both center and wing and will do whatever is asked of him. He has decent passing and scoring abilities and prioritizes defensive zone success.
Gustafson battles for pucks and asserts himself on the forecheck despite his 5'10", 178-pound size. He's a nice pick in the middle of round three, and he has a reasonable chance of becoming a bottom-six forward that offers depth scoring and whose flexibility will make line constructing a lot easier for his head coach.
Patrick Guay is a 20-year-old who produced 55 goals and 49 assists in 68 QMJHL games, though he is 5'9", while Ben Hemmerling is also undersized at 5'10" and just 159 pounds. Hemmerling amassed 47 points in 57 games despite playing limited minutes on a stacked Everett roster. Both are well-intentioned picks in the late rounds.
The slight reach on Sapovaliv dulls an otherwise solid but unspectacular draft by the Golden Knights.
1 (20) - Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
2 (37) - Ryan Chesley, RD, US National Team Development Program
3 (70) - Alexander Suzdalev, LW, HV71 J20 (J20 Nationell)
3 (85) - Ludwig Persson, LW, Frolunda J20 (J20 Nationell)
5 (149) - Jake Karabela, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
6 (181) - Ryan Hofer, RW, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
7 (213) - David Gucciardi, LD, Michigan State University (NCAA)
Analysis: Ivan Miroshnichenko entered the season as a consensus top-five player in this draft class. Although that hype became muffled as the season ensued, the Russian winger still looked like an easy top-10 talent. He is a high-caliber goal scorer—his shot is a massive tool, and he can shoot in motion. Miroshnichenko's favorite move is to carry across the slot and rip it past a goaltender trying to see through a partial screen. His skating is also very good, he puts in an earnest effort on the forecheck, and he has decent playmaking credentials.
Miroshnichenko has 80-plus point upside and only fell because of reasons outside his control. The status of Russian players due to the invasion of Ukraine made some teams skittish, and he was diagnosed with cancer in the spring, though he has fortunately completed treatment. If there's any concern about his willingness to come over from the KHL sooner rather than later, surely the chance to play with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will help.
Ryan Chesley is a rock-solid defenseman. He is deceptively strong and skates well. These traits make him a brilliant neutral zone defender, angling puck carriers to the boards before hammering them and snuffing out the rush. He's not going to be a big point producer at higher levels, but he is judicious with the puck. Chesley has all the makings of a second-pairing shutdown defenseman. He was 25th on my board, and the Capitals got really good value.
Alexander Suzdalev and Ludwig Persson are both credible third-round picks. They both produced well in Swedish juniors thanks to their offensive talents, but both are raw, incomplete players. Suzdalev hasn't sufficiently shown that he can overcome that against better competition, while Persson is overreliant on his hands. Both are project picks but have the talent to become impact NHLers. I could nitpick about which players available may have been better investments, but Washington's philosophical approach to the third round was on point.
1 (14) - Rutger McGroarty, LW, US National Team Development Program
1 (30) - Brad Lambert, C/W, Pelicans (Finnish Liiga)
2 (55) - Elias Salomonsson, RD, Skelleftea (SHL)
3 (77) - Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
4 (99) - Garrett Brown, RD, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
6 (99) - Fabian Wagner, C, Linkoping J20 (J20 Nationell)
7 (207) - Domenic DiVincentiis, G, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Analysis: Rutger McGroarty is every hockey coach's dream. He captained the US National Team Development Program, is the hardest worker on every shift and has a high IQ. He has really good hands and can absolutely rip wrist shots past goaltenders from the circles even with no traffic in front. The one knock—and it's a massive one—is his skating. If he can get it to an even mediocre level, it would make a world of a difference. Though he's more skilled, McGroarty evokes memories of former Rangers/Lightning winger Ryan Callahan—an overachiever who overcomes skating problems that would sink a lot of other players. The 14th pick is at the upper boundary of where he belongs in this draft.
Brad Lambert was an all-or-nothing swing. He's a borderline elite skater, and his playmaking from the walls is high-caliber. However, he completely fades out of the game when he doesn't have the puck. He also doesn't make himself available on offense and loses too many physical battles. His defensive credentials are lacking. If he figures it out, he's an NHL All-Star in five years. If not, it's difficult to imagine him as a depth player.
Elias Salomonsson and Danny Zhilkin are what Day 2 of the NHL draft is all about. Salomonsson has all the tools to become a top-four NHL defenseman: great skating, a physical mindset, and the ability to make high-end plays to spring his team for offensive opportunities. His problem isn't upside but rather inconsistency. He makes too many foolish decisions with the puck, such as trying to make hero passes across the middle of the ice that get picked off and create immediate scoring chances for the opposition.
Zhilkin is different but similar: high-end puck skills and the ability to create offense, but inconsistencies throughout the season and a lack of identity as a player.
Fabian Wagner was good sixth-round value. His offense is underwhelming, but he's an intelligent defensive center. If he doesn't make the NHL as a fourth-line center or 13th forward, he'll have a lengthy career in the Swedish Hockey League.
There were arguably better prospects available at each pick of the top-three rounds, but the Winnipeg Jets had a strong grasp on what good value would be at each opportunity. Every pick was used on a player who is either a very safe bet to make the NHL or a high-upside prospect whose potential payout is worth the uncertainty.