Way-Too-Early 2022 1st-Round NHL Mock Draft

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2021

Way-Too-Early 2022 1st-Round NHL Mock Draft

0 of 32

    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The 2022 NHL draft will be hosted by the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. It will be held over two days, with Round 1 on Thursday, July 7, and Rounds 2 through 7 on Friday, July 8.

    It's the first time this event will be staged in an NHL city with all its teams in one location since 2019 in Vancouver. The 2020 draft was supposed to be held in Montreal, but it and this year's draft were staged virtually because of COVID-19.

    Unlike the last two years, draft-eligible players throughout North American and Europe will be playing normal seasons again in their respective leagues. The pandemic wreaked havoc on schedules last season, with a number of leagues playing shortened schedules. Some, like the Ontario Hockey League, canceled their entire 2020-21 campaigns.

    Those promising young players will get a chance to perform not just in front of fans but also scouts from all 32 NHL teams. Their evaluations will play a crucial role in determining which prospects will be selected in each round of the draft and in which order.

    With NHL training camp underway and the start of the 2021-22 season fast approaching, there's no better time to stage a very early mock draft of the first round of the 2022 draft. With no current NHL standings, the draft positions are based on Bleacher Reports' Sept. 15 Power Rankings with supplemental information via Cap Friendly.

    This list is also based on DobberProspects.com's Scouting Teams Preliminary 2022 NHL draft rankings, TSN's Craig Button's September rankings and The Athletic's 2022 NHL draft top-24 prospects. Additional information provided by Elite Prospects and The Athletic's NHL Pipeline Rankings 2021-22.

          

    Do you agree or disagree with our mock draft selections? Feel free to weigh in on this topic in the comments section.

1. Buffalo Sabres: Shane Wright

1 of 32

    Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

    Winner of the 2021 NHL draft lottery, the Sabres used that selection to take University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power. Given their limited roster depth and the potential long-term absence of Jack Eichel for the coming season, there's a good chance they could win the 2022 lottery. In that case, they could select Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

    Wright had an impressive OHL debut with the Frontenacs in 2019-20, leading them with 39 goals and 66 points in 58 games. Despite the OHL canceling its entire 2020-21 season because of COVID-19, the 6'1", 187-pound center tallied 14 points in nine games, leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    On July 25, NHL Central Scouting's Joey Tenute told NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale he considered Wright "the definition of a hockey player and will be a franchise player in the NHL in a few years." He singled out the youngster's maturity, elite-level hockey smarts, two-way game and excellent shot.

    Given the ongoing uncertainty over Eichel's future in Buffalo, the Sabres could be seeking a future franchise center to replace him. If Eichel stays, he and Wright could provide them with a deep level of superior talent at center for years.

    Note: The NHL now restricts teams from winning the lottery more than twice within a five-year span, but wins prior to 2022 won't count against that total. Thus, the Sabres can win the draft lottery again next year.

2. Seattle Kraken: Brad Lambert

2 of 32

    Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

    The Seattle Kraken were second in the 2021 NHL draft Lottery. They could end up in that position again next season depending on their placement in the standings following their inaugural campaign. It would put them in a good position to select Brad Lambert of JYP in Liiga, Finland's top professional league.

    A center who can also skate on the right wing, Lambert had 15 points in 46 games last season with JYP. He also collected five assists in as many games playing for Finland at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship and four points in seven contests at the U20 Championship.

    The nephew of New York Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert, the 17-year-old was born in Lahti, Finland. He earned praise from Goran Stubb, the European director of NHL Central Scouting.

    "Brad is a mobile, good skater with acceleration and good straightaway speed," said Stubb. He also took note of Lambert's playmaking skills and work ethic.

    Unable to land a true first-line center in their expansion draft, the Kraken could draft and develop their own. Lambert has the skills to potentially blossom into that role in a few years.

3. Arizona Coyotes: Simon Nemec

3 of 32

    Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

    With three picks in the first round, the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes could be well-positioned to land some quality talent in the 2022 draft. Assuming they end up at third overall with their own selection, they could choose Simon Nemec from HK Nitra in Slovakia.

    The Coyotes had two young right-hand defensemen in their system in Conor Timmins and Victor Soderstrom. However, The Athletic's Corey Pronman projects both as middle-of-the-lineup players. This club will need another potential top-two blueliner on the roster to one day skate alongside Jakob Chychrun. Nemec could potentially fill that role down the road.

    Goran Stubb, the European director of NHL Central Scouting, was impressed by Nemec's maturity, strength and coolness under fire. "He's a smart defenseman with a good set of tools ... a good skater with fine mobility," he said.

    A right-shot blueliner, the 17-year-old Nemec already possesses NHL size at 6'1" and 192 pounds. He tallied 19 points in 37 games with HK Nitra and played for Slovakia at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship and with older talent at this year's IIHF World Championship.

4. Ottawa Senators: Tristan Luneau

4 of 32

    The Ottawa Senators are loaded with good young forwards, including former first-round picks Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle. They also have a promising left-shot defenseman in their system in 2020 first-rounder Jake Sanderson but could be in need of a right-hand blueliner this time around. One option could be Tristan Luneau from the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

    In his Senators' pipeline ranking, The Athletic's Corey Pronman listed right-shot defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker as a projected middle-of-the-lineup player. Assuming the Senators don't acquire a top-four right-side blueliner over the next couple of years, they'll have to draft and develop one.

    Pronman also pointed out Luneau was a top rookie in the QMJHL last season, tallying 18 points in 31 games. DobberProspects.com's Brayden Olafson considers the 6'2", 174-pound Luneau a "sturdy and sizable defenseman" who plays well at both ends of the rink.

    Luneau has the tools to become a skillful puck-moving defenseman at the NHL level. The Senators could find him an intriguing option as a future right-side, top-four blueliner.

5. Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Savoie

5 of 32

    The rebuilding is underway in Anaheim as the Ducks transition toward younger talent such as former first-rounders Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. Matthew Savoie from the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL) could be a good addition to their ranks.

    With the WHL playing a limited schedule last season because of COVID-19, the 5'10", 181-pound Savoie spent the 2020-21 campaign on loan to the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League. He performed very well, tallying 21 goals and 38 points in 34 games to finish fourth among Fighting Saints scorers.

    A versatile forward who can skate at center or right wing, Savoie's offensive skills drew the attention of Greg Rajanen of NHL Central Scouting.

    "He's got high hockey IQ, good vision in finding open teammates and can make plays while under pressure," said Rajanen. He also noted the youngster took hits to make plays and was good at taking the puck to the net.

    The Ducks have two promising young centers in Zegras and 2021 first-rounder Mason McTavish but could use some right-wing skill among their top-five in their pipeline. Savoie could be a good fit here.

6. Detroit Red Wings: Logan Cooley

6 of 32

    The Detroit Red Wings have steadily rebuilt under general manager Steve Yzerman. Since he took over in 2019, they've selected such promising youngsters as Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Simon Edvinsson and Sebastian Cossa with their first-round picks. Logan Cooley of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP) could be next in Yzerman's sights.

    DobberProspects.com's Nick Richard called Cooley "an intelligent two-way forward who plays a mature game for his age." Though slender at 5'10" and 174 pounds, the 17-year-old center drew praise from Richards for his speed, hockey smarts and all-around abilities. 

    Cooley had a busy 2020-21 season. He finished third among USNTDP Juniors with 28 points, netted 32 points with the U.S. national U17 team and had 14 points with the U18 squad. He also played in five games for the United States at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    The Red Wings have two centers in their pipeline in Michael Rasmussen and Joe Veleno. Both are projected as middle lineup players. A skillful two-way forward such as Cooley could give them a future second-line center.

7. San Jose Sharks: Juraj Slafkovsky

7 of 32

    Once an NHL powerhouse, the San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. They began rebuilding their prospect pipeline by selecting left winger William Eklund with the seventh overall selection in this year's draft. They could be in line for another top-10 pick next year, which could land them Juraj Slafkovsky from TPS of Liiga in Finland.

    At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Slafkovsky is a big Slovakian forward who can play center or left wing. He's spent his formative hockey years playing in Finland. He tallied 13 points in 16 games with the TPS U20 team last season and also skated for Slovakia at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship and with older players at the 2021 World Championships.

    European director of NHL Central Scouting's Goran Stubb said Slafkovsky "skates surprisingly well for a big man with very good vision and understanding of the game." He believes the 17-year-old could be a top name in the 2022 NHL draft.

    Another missed postseason in 2022 could put more pressure on Sharks management to keep rebuilding their roster. With many of their top players now 30 or older, they need to begin the transition toward younger talent. Along with Eklund, Slafkovsky could become part of the next wave of Sharks stars.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ivan Miroshnichenko

8 of 32

    RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

    The Columbus Blue Jackets did well replenishing their prospect cupboard this offseason, selecting centers Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger and defenseman Corson Ceulemans. Ivan Miroshnichenko of Omskie Kyrlia in Russia's VHL (Supreme Hockey League) could be another good addition to that mix of promising youngsters.

    DobberProspects.com's Zack Szweras considers Miroshnichenko as a potential top-five player in the 2022 draft. He pointed to the 17-year-old Russian left winger's performances at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship (eight points in seven games) and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he captained Russia to a gold medal.

    At 6'1" and 185 pounds, Miroshnichenko already has good NHL size. The Athletic's Corey Pronman believes he has NHL-level skating and skill, singling out his great shot and physical play. 

    The Blue Jackets lack a left wing among the top five of their most promising youngsters. Miroshnichenko could provide them with a future scorer on the left side of their second line, assuming they keep Patrik Laine in the fold beyond this season.

9. Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Chesley

9 of 32

    RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

    The Vancouver Canucks have a bright future with 25-and-younger players such as Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko. Their blue-line depth, however, remains an area of concern, giving up the third-highest shots-against per game (33.4) last season. Perhaps they'll target a defenseman such as Ryan Chesley of the USA National Team Development Program (USNTDP).

    The Athletic's Corey Pronman admired Chesley's strong skating, suggesting he could be a solid two-way defenseman. DobberProspects.com's Alexander Annun described Chesley as "a mobile two-way defenseman whose shot and vision make him a threat when operating on the power play."

    At 6'0" and 194 pounds, the 17-year-old Chesley already has good NHL size. He netted 34 points in 37 games last season with the USNTDP U17 team, 14 points in 27 games with their Junior squad and two points in 12 games with their U18 team. The young blueliner also appeared in five games for the USA at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship

    The Canucks could continue to build up their depth in prospect defensemen. Chesley could prove a fine addition to their ranks once he's fully developed his game at the college level.

10. Nashville Predators: Rutger McGroarty

10 of 32

    Four years after reaching the Stanley Cup Final and three years after taking home the Presidents' Trophy, the Nashville Predators are engaged in a competitive rebuild. That could involve selecting Rutger McGroarty of the USNTDP if they end up at this point in the 2022 NHL draft.

    The 6'0", 205-pound center scored 35 points in 34 games last season with the USNTDP U17 team. He also netted 19 points in 30 games with the Junior squad in the USHL and appeared in five games for the USA in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    DobberProspects.com's Nick Richard described McGroarty as one of the most complete prospects in the 2022 class. He cited the young center's offensive skills, aggressive forecheck and physical play.

    The Predators traded away former core players Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson this summer. They could do the same with Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm if unable to re-sign the pending free agents by the March trade deadline. Chesley could become part of a growing crop of promising Predators that includes goaltender Yaroslav Askarov, Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.

11. Calgary Flames: Conor Geekie

11 of 32

    Following two consecutive first-round playoff exits, the Calgary Flames failed to qualify for the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs. Another missed postseason could put them in range of landing a top-15 pick in the 2022 draft. Conor Geekie of the WHL's Winnipeg Ice could be someone on their radar.

    Geekie, 17, is the younger brother of Seattle Kraken forward Morgan Geekie. He already has impressive size at 6'4" and 205 pounds. He put up 23 points in 24 games for the Ice in the WHL's COVID-19-shortened season, finishing fourth among their leading scorers.

    The Athletic's Corey Pronman praised Geekie's high-end puck skills. DobberProspects.com's Nick Richard also singled out Geekie's offensive skills and willingness to throw his weight around. They consider his skating an issue, but that could improve as he physically matures.

    The Flames could seek additional depth at center if veterans Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm depart as free agents over the next couple of seasons. Geekie's power-forward potential could make him an enticing draft target.

12. New Jersey Devils: Seamus Casey

12 of 32

    The New Jersey Devils have done well drafting and developing talent over the past several seasons. Nico Hischier, Jack and Luke Hughes, Ty Smith and Alexander Holtz are among their recent notable selections. However, they have only one right-hand defenseman among their top 15 in their pipeline. Seamus Casey of the USNTDP could be a potential solution to that issue.

    Brayden Olafson of DobberProspects.com considers Casey a "utility defender who is capable of playing with a high level of effectiveness on special teams deployment." He singled out his active stick in the defensive zone as well as his positioning and puck movement.

    The 5'10", 161-pound Casey is slender but put up good numbers with the USNTDP last season. He finished with 36 points in 46 games with their U17 team and 20 points in 30 games with their Junior squad in the USHL.

    Casey's promising puck-moving ability and hockey smarts could see him blossom into a skillful top-four NHL defender. He could become a promising option for the Devils if they end up selecting at this stage in the draft.

13. Los Angeles Kings: Danila Yurov

13 of 32

    Arthur Kaliyev is the only right wing among the top-10 players in the Los Angeles Kings' otherwise deep prospect pool. They could be in the market for someone such as Danila Yurov of Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk in Russia's MHL at this stage of the draft.

    The 6'1", 172-pound Yurov also played briefly for the KHL's Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2020-21 and early this season. He tallied 25 points in 23 MHL games last season. He also had 11 points in seven games for Russia at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    TSN's Craig Button called Yurov "a powerful winger with excellent sense and skills." Zack Szweras of DobberProspects.com considers him to be "a fast-paced, highly intelligent, physical hockey player," calling him his dark-horse candidate to climb into the top five come draft day.

    Yurov could be available to the Kings if they end up among the top 15 in the draft order. With longtime King Dustin Brown coming to the end of his career, perhaps Yurov could one day take over his role as a physical top-six winger.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Chicago Blackhawks): Denton Mateychuk

14 of 32

    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired the Chicago Blackhawks' first-round pick in the 2022 draft as part of the Seth Jones trade on July 23. If that pick becomes one of the top-two selections in this draft, the Blue Jackets would get the Blackhawks' 2023 first-rounder. We'll assume the pick will remain with the Jackets, who could use it to select Denton Mateychuk of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors.

    Stanislav Svozil is the only left-handed defenseman among the Blue Jackets' top 10 in their talent pipeline. Mateychuk could provide some much-needed additional depth in that department, potentially joining their blue-line corps in a few years.

    Mateychuk collected nine points in 16 games with the Warriors in their shortened 2020-21 season. The 5'11", 192-pounder also played three games for Canada at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    Corey Pronman of The Athletic called Mateychuk "a really reliable two-way defenseman," praising his skating and hockey sense. AJ Gidaro of DobberProspects.com singled out his "offensive flair," particularly his agility and willingness to join the rush.

15. Arizona Coyotes (via Montreal Canadiens): Isaac Howard

15 of 32

    The Arizona Coyotes received a first-round pick from the Montreal Canadiens as part of the return in the Christian Dvorak trade on Sept. 4. As the Canadiens have their own and the Carolina Hurricanes' first-round pick, the Coyotes will get the higher of the two unless one or both are in the top 10, in which case they'll get the lower of the two.

    We'll assume neither pick will be in the top 10 and the Canadiens' will be the highest. As we have the Coyotes selecting defenseman Simon Nemec with their own pick at No. 3, they could choose a forward this time such as left wing Isaac Howard of the USNTDP.

    Howard put up good numbers last season at every level. He scored 54 points in just 34 games with the NTDP U17 team, 33 points in 28 games with their junior squad in the USHL and 19 points in 17 games with the U18 team. He also had four points in five games for the U.S. team in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    Corey Pronman of The Athletic and Alexander Annun of DobberProspects.com praised Howard's offensive skills, singling out his stickhandling and playmaking abilities. He could become the type of flashy scorer the rebuilding Coyotes could build an offense around in a few years.

16. Philadelphia Flyers: David Jiricek

16 of 32

    With just one right-hand defenseman among the top players in their pipeline, the Philadelphia Flyers could be on the lookout for another in the 2022 draft. One option could be David Jiricek of HC Plzen in the Czech Republic.

    At 6'3" and 176 pounds, the 17-year-old Jiricek is lanky but skates well and possesses a very hard shot. DobberProspects.com's Samuel Tirpak praised his offensive skills and his physical style. The Athletic's Corey Pronman called him "a complete defenseman" who moved well for his size.

    Jiricek tallied nine points in 34 games with HC Plzen last season. He also saw action with the Czech Republic's U18 and U20 squads in the 2021 IIHF World Championship tournaments.

    Despite Jiricek's offensive skills, Tirpak believes the young blueliner still has a lot to learn about the defensive game. That should come with time and maturity. If properly developed, he could turn into a solid two-way rearguard.

17. New York Rangers: Joakim Kemell

17 of 32

    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    With youngsters such as Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov, the New York Rangers possess a promising pool of talented young forwards. They could add Joakim Kemell of JYP in Finland to their mix by this point in the draft.

    Marek Novotny of DobberProspects.com called Kemell "an extremely entertaining player to watch." He pointed out the 5'11", 176-pound right winger has a terrific shot, is a strong skater who also likes to hit and block shots. The Athletic's Corey Pronman considers him "a dangerous offensive player."

    Kemell played well last season for JYP U20, tallying 22 goals and 36 points in 38 games. He also scored three goals for Finland at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. He's off to a good start with JYP this season with six points in his first seven games.

    The Rangers continue to transition toward the younger players currently on their roster and within their system. With his scoring skills, speed and physicality, Kemell could one day become a solid addition to the Blueshirts' offensive attack.

18. Pittsburgh Penguins: Frank Nazar

18 of 32

    RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/Getty Images

    Several years of trading away draft picks and prospects to maintain a Stanley Cup contender left the Pittsburgh Penguins' prospect cupboard nearly bare. They have no centers among their top-seven players in their pipeline. Frank Nazar of the USNTDP could be among their targets at the 2022 NHL draft.

    A versatile forward who can skate at center or right wing, the 5'10", 174-pound Nazar collected 28 goals and 55 points in 45 games with the U.S. national U17 team. He also had 20 goals and 36 points in 31 games with USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. He is expected to play for the University of Michigan in 2022-23.

    DobberProspects.com's Nick Richard considers Nazar "a versatile forward with great speed and a dynamic offensive skill set." The Athletic's Corey Pronman singled out his skating and his competitiveness.

    The Penguins must find eventual replacements for future Hall of Famers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Nazar might not reach the same heights of stardom as those two, but he could blossom into an effective NHL scorer.

19. Dallas Stars: Elias Salomonsson

19 of 32

    A solid blue-line corps has been the Dallas Stars' hallmark in recent years, anchored by Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and John Klingberg. They could consider adding another Scandinavian defenseman in Elias Salomonsson of Sweden's Skelleftea AIK J20 national team.

    The Athletic's Corey Pronman called Salomonsson "a 6'2", mobile defenseman with offense." Alexa Potack of DobberProspects.com cited his maturity and poise with the puck. Potack believes his defensive positioning needs more focus but felt the 17-year-old has the potential to become a good all-around rearguard.

    Salomonsson netted 15 points in 14 games last season with Skelleftea's AIK J20 squad. He also appeared in seven games for Sweden at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship and three games with Skelleftea's parent club in the Swedish Hockey League.

    The Stars have just one right-hand defenseman among their top prospects. Salomonsson could help them address that issue if he develops as projected.

20. St. Louis Blues: Kevin Korchinski

20 of 32

    Christopher Mast/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Blues lack a left-hand defenseman among the prospects currently in their pipeline. Kevin Korchinski of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds could be one option to address that need.

    TSN's Craig Button listed Korchinski at No. 9 in his September prospect rankings. The lanky 6'1", 168-pound blueliner collected 10 assists in 23 games for the Thunderbirds during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season.

    Korchinski was the Thunderbirds' first-round pick (10th overall) in the 2019 WHL draft. In an interview with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on May 2, 2019, Thunderbirds director of player personnel Cal Filson called the youngster "the complete package as a defenseman." He took part this summer in Canada's national men's U18 team summer development camp.

    As with most of the prospects on this list, Korchinski will need time to develop his game and physique for the NHL level. Given time, he could become a solid left-side addition to the Blues' defense corps.

21. Edmonton Oilers: Antonin Verreault

21 of 32

    Lacking skilled left wingers in their prospect pipeline, the Edmonton Oilers could make filling that gap a priority at the 2022 NHL draft. Perhaps Antonin Verreault of the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques will be among their targets.

    Ranked 17th on TSN's Craig Button's September 2021 prospect rankings, Verreault was the second overall selection in the 2020 QMJHL draft. The league's Central Scouting evaluated the youngster as "the best offensive player in the draft," singling out his "superior vision," explosive skating and game-breaking skills.

    Verreault didn't disappoint in his QMJHL debut last season. He finished second among Olympiques scorers with six goals and 23 assists for 29 points in 31 games.

    Small by NHL standards at 5'8" and 163 pounds, Verreault has the speed and offensive talent to become a scorer like the Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau. In time and with development, he could become a top-six forward for the Oilers.

22. Winnipeg Jets: Ty Nelson

22 of 32

    Finding suitable right-side defensemen has been an issue for the Winnipeg Jets since Dustin Byfuglien retired and Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers. They also lack that type of blueliner among the top nine in their prospect pipeline. Ty Nelson of the OHL's North Bay Battalion could be one option for them to address that issue.

    Chosen first overall by the Battalion in the 2020 OHL draft, Nelson didn't see any action last season as the league was shut down because of COVID-19. Nevertheless, TSN's Craig Button placed him at No. 11 among his September rankings of this season's top prospects.

    On April 6, 2020, the Hockey News' Steven Ellis profiled Nelson following the OHL draft. Despite his small stature, the 5'8" defenseman models his game after Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis and Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Morgan Rielly. Ellis also cited some scouts comparing the youngster to Minnesota Wild rearguard Jared Spurgeon and former NHL defenseman Brian Campbell.

    Nelson will get his opportunity this season to show what he can do in the OHL. If he develops as projected, he could draw the interest of a club like the Jets at this stage of the first round.

23. Washington Capitals: Jordan Gustafson

23 of 32

    The Washington Capitals lack a skillful left winger among their top prospects. One player who could help fill that gap is Jordan Gustafson of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds.

    TSN's Craig Button lists Gustafsson at No. 23 among his September prospect rankings, indicating he plays both center and left wing. Selected eighth overall by the Thunderbirds in the 2019 WHL draft, he tallied 11 points in 23 games in his first full WHL campaign. 

    In a May 9, 2019, interview with Andy Eide of 710 ESPN Seattle, Gustafson considered himself "a hardworking, 200-foot player" who can contribute at both ends of the rink. His rookie performance with the Thunderbirds earned him an invitation to Canada's national men's under-18 team development camp this summer.

    Gustafson's ability to play center or left wing along with his all-around skills could be enticing to the Capitals. His versatility could give them the roster flexibility to use him in all game situations at either position.

24. Minnesota Wild: Nathan Gaucher

24 of 32

    The Minnesota Wild have taken steps to address their depth at center with promising Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov in their system. However, they're thin at right wing among their pipeline prospects. Nathan Gaucher of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts could be among the choices available to the Wild at this stage of the first round.

    Listed as a center, TSN's Craig Button indicates Gaucher is also capable of playing right wing. He also has him at No. 13 on his September prospect ranking. The Athletic's Corey Pronman called the 6'3", 207-pounder "a smart, competitive player," who wins puck battles, kills penalties and is good around the net, though he doesn't think he has true NHL quickness.

    Gaucher had a good debut with the Remparts in 2019-20 with 13 goals and 24 points in 59 games. His sophomore numbers were more impressive, scoring 14 goals and adding 17 assists for 31 points in 30 games to finish as the Remparts' leading scorer.

    As a center or a right winger, Gaucher's versatility could make him a good addition to the Wild's prospect pool. He has the size and two-way skills to become a promising second-line forward.

25. Toronto Maple Leafs: Miko Matikka

25 of 32

    An absence of skilled right wingers among their top-nine prospects could be an issue the Toronto Maple Leafs attempt to address in the 2022 draft. Miko Matikka of Finland's Jokerit U20 squad could be among their possibilities.

    The 6'3", 187-pound Matikka's large frame will garner attention, but his skills could make him a worthwhile first-rounder. The Athletic's Corey Pronman observes the 17-year-old Finn puts his long reach to good use to break up plays and generate offense. While his quickness is an issue, he had good scoring skills, including a big shot.

    Matikka played well in his debut last season with Jokerit's U20 team with 15 points in 19 games. He also collected four points in seven games skating for Finland at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    A big winger with good scoring skills could be just what the Leafs need to fill the second-line right wing spot behind Mitch Marner. Matikka could be that guy if his skating improves.

26. New York Islanders: Jack Hughes

26 of 32

    The New York Islanders landed a promising young center in the 2021 draft when projected first-round pick Aatu Raty tumbled into the second round. They could consider adding another with their first-round selection in 2022 by taking Jack Hughes of NCAA's Northeastern University.

    No relation to New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes or his NHL siblings, this Jack Hughes tallied 34 points in 38 games last season with the USNTDP U18 squad and played in four games for the USA in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    The Athletic's Corey Pronman called the 6'0", 165-pound Hughes "an extremely skilled center," praising his one-on-one ability and playmaking. DobberProspects.com's Alexander Annun liked his forechecking tenacity and faceoff ability.

    Hughes could become an eventual replacement for Islanders center Brock Nelson or Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He could also become insurance in case Raty fails to regain the form that once had him projected as a first-round pick in this year's draft.

27. Buffalo Sabres (via Florida Panthers): Tyler Brennan

27 of 32

    Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

    The Buffalo Sabres acquired the Florida Panthers' 2022 first-round pick in the Sam Reinhart trade on July 24. If that pick is in the top 10, it will be exchanged for the Panthers' 2023 first-rounder. Assuming that doesn't happen, the Sabres could decide to select goaltender Tyler Brennan of the WHL's Prince George Cougars.

    Entering his third full season with the Cougars, the 6'4", 190-pound Brennan appeared in 15 games in 2019-20 with a record of four wins, six losses and one overtime loss with a 3.34 goals-against average and .887 save percentage. Though he appeared in just four games in last season's shortened schedule, he showed promising improvement, going 2-0-2 with a 2.16 GAA and .933 SP.

    Corey Pronman of The Athletic said scouts are excited over Brennan's "size, great sense and technique." He believes the young goalie has the potential for a great 2021-22 season.

    The Sabres also acquired prospect goaltender Devon Levi in the Reinhart deal and have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonnen in their system. Having allowed Robin Lehner and Linus Ullmark to depart as free agents in recent years, however, it wouldn't hurt them to add a promising goalie to their prospect stockpile.

28. Boston Bruins: Maveric Lamoureux

28 of 32

    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo were two right-side defensemen drafted and developed by the Boston Bruins. They could have another at this position by selecting Maveric Lamoureux of the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs.

    At 6'7" and 196 pounds, Lamoureux's size would automatically be compared to former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. While it remains to be seen if the hulking youngster becomes a Chara clone, TSN's Craig Button listed him at No. 20 on his September ranking of this season's top prospects.

    The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) observed Lamoureux's position on Button's ranking. Noting he brings no shortage of size to the game, they indicate he will continue working on his offensive game. He collected seven points in 24 games with the Voltigeurs last season and was invited to Canada's national men's U18 summer development camp.

    A strong performance by Lamoureux this season could make the big right-handed defenseman a tempting first-round option. The Bruins could give him consideration if he's still available at this stage in the round. He could provide an additional measure of depth among their right-side blueliners in their pipeline.

29. Montreal Canadiens (via Carolina Hurricanes): Mattias Havelid

29 of 32

    The Carolina Hurricanes gave up this pick to the Montreal Canadiens as compensation for successfully signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi with an offer sheet. With just one right-hand defenseman among the top players in their prospect pipeline, the Canadiens could opt to select Mattias Havelid of Sweden's Linkoping HC's J20 team.

    Son of former NHL defenseman Niclas Havelid, the 5'10", 172-pound Mattias has six points in 12 games with Linkoping's J20 squad last season. He also had four points in seven games for Sweden at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Havelid is off to a good start this season with four points in his first seven games. 

    The Athletic's Corey Pronman considers Havelid "an extremely smart puck mover," praising his strong skating and ability to make plays in the offensive zone. He believes he has the quickness and hockey IQ to become "a desirable prospect."

    With injuries threatening to cut short Shea Weber's career and Jeff Petry approaching his mid-30s, the Canadiens will need to find suitable right-side defensemen. Havelid could one day become a worthwhile long-term addition to their depth chart.

30. Arizona Coyotes (via Colorado Avalanche): Hunter Haight

30 of 32

    The Arizona Coyotes acquired the Colorado Avalanche's first-round pick in the 2022 draft on July 28 as part of the return in the Darcy Kuemper trade. With just one right wing among their top-eight prospects, they could choose Hunter Haight of the OHL's Barrie Colts.

    Ranked 14th on TSN's Craig Button's September prospect list, Haight is a center, but Button indicates he also skates at right wing. That versatility could allow the Coyotes the flexibility to employ him at either position.

    Selected ninth overall in the 2020 OHL draft by the Colts, Haight had to wait a year to join the team because of the OHL's shutdown last season by COVID-19 restrictions. He compares his style of play to Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat and his vision and hockey IQ to Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner. He also aspires to the same work ethic as Philadelphia Flyers winger and Colts alumni Travis Konecny.

    Haight was among the top point producers for the under-16 Elgin Middlesex Chiefs in 2019-20 with 58 points in 33 games. If the 5'10" forward produces comparable numbers with the Colts, he could be a tempting draft target for the Coyotes at this point in the first round.

31. Vegas Golden Knights: Charlie Leddy

31 of 32

    The Vegas Golden Knights have only one right-hand defenseman among their top prospects. A possible solution could be Charlie Leddy of the USNTDP U18 team.

    At 6'1" and 174 pounds, Leddy already has decent NHL size. He collected 12 points in 46 games last season with the U.S. national U17 team and six points in 30 games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL.

    Leddy made a good impression in his first season in the NTDP. He's listed as reliable in his own end while playing a physical style in the offensive zone.

    In an interview last December, NTDP assistant director of player personnel Rod Braceful praised the youngster for his hard-nosed style and leadership. Those traits could make Leddy a useful addition to the Golden Knights defense corps down the road.

32. Tampa Bay Lightning: Danny Zhilkin

32 of 32

    Developing young prospects into NHL talent has been crucial to the Tampa Bay Lightning's championship success of the past two seasons. Assuming they have the final selection at the 2020 draft, they could find another potential gem in Danny Zhilkin of the OHL's Guelph Storm.

    At 6'2" and 183 pounds, Zhilkin already has the size of an NHL forward. Born in Russia, he moved to Canada at an early age with his family. TSN's Craig Button included him among his September rankings for this season's top prospects.

    A center who can also skate at left wing, Zhilkin showed promise by tallying 15 points in 60 games during his rookie season with the Storm in 2019-20. The OHL's shutdown last season limited him to seven games for Canada at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

    The Athletic's Corey Pronman singled out Zhilkin's skill and offensive creativity but feels he needs to improve his competitive level. If the youngster has a standout performance this season with the Storm, he could prove enticing to the Lightning.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!