Updated 2022 NHL Mock Draft Predictions

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2022

Updated 2022 NHL Mock Draft Predictions

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    On Sep. 26, we published our Way-Too-Early 2022 1st-Round NHL Mock Draft. Now that we've entered the new year and with more than a third of the 2021-22 schedule already played, it's a good time to review and update our predictions.

    With the clubs sitting at between 28 and 37 games played, we're using the standings as of Jan. 6 for our updated draft order.

    Since 2020, COVID-19 has made it difficult for amateur scouts to evaluate the best prospects around the world. While the pandemic continues to affect schedules at all levels of hockey, the scouts have had a better opportunity to follow and assess this year's draft-eligible youngsters.

    As a result, there will be some changes compared to our previous rankings. Some prospects, such as Shane Wright of the Ontario Hockey League's (OHL) Kingston Frontenacs, remain among the top 10. Others, however, will have risen or fallen based on their performances this season.

    Without further ado, here are our modified 2022 NHL Mock Draft predictions. 

1. Arizona Coyotes: Shane Wright

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    In the midst of rebuilding their roster, the Arizona Coyotes sit at the bottom of the NHL's standings. Should they remain there when the regular season ends in April, they'll be in a good position to win the 2022 draft lottery. They could use the first overall pick to select Shane Wright of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs.

    A skillful two-way center, the 18-year-old is 26th among the OHL's leading scorers. With 30 points in 22 games, he sits fifth among the Frontenacs. The youngster had just five multi-point games in his first 17 contests but four in his final five before joining Canada's roster for the IIHF 2022 World Junior Championship, which was canceled amid the spread of the omicron variant.

    That slow start could be attributed to him playing his first OHL hockey since 2019-20, as the league was shut down by COVID-19 last season. The 6'1", 187-pound Wright could also be dealing with the additional pressure that comes with being considered the top prospect entering this season by NHL Central Scouting.

    Wright's early-season difficulties haven't hurt his standing atop the 2022 prospect rankings of every major scouting publication and website. His ability to control the game with his elite playmaking skills and accurate shot while playing a responsible two-way style prompted TSN's Craig Button to compare him to Boston Bruins star Patrice Bergeron. Those skills would make him a key part of the rebuilding Coyotes' long-term plans.

2. Montreal Canadiens: Logan Cooley

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    After reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens are mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. While they traded their first-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for center Christian Dvorak, they can retain it if one or both picks are in the top 10. They would instead send the Coyotes the Carolina Hurricanes' pick, which they received as compensation for the Hurricanes signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

    Assuming they end up selecting second overall, the Canadiens could target Logan Cooley of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP). Their long-term depth at center took a hit when they lost Kotkaniemi. They'll need someone at some point to fill the second-line center position behind Nick Suzuki.

    Cooley was second on TSN's Craig Button's November ranking. He praised the 17-year-old center's "high-end skill with a high motor." A gifted forward with excellent speed and playmaking ability, he also plays a responsible defensive game.

    With 14 goals and 33 points in 22 games, the 5'10", 174-pound Cooley sits third among USNTDP skaters. Given his youth and his upside, he has the skills to blossom one day into a talented all-around NHL center. He could be just what the Canadiens are looking for in this year's draft.

3. Ottawa Senators: David Jiricek

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    The Ottawa Senators' rebuild isn't over, as they are once again near the bottom of the standings. Should they end up third overall in the draft, they could look at bolstering their blue line. David Jiricek of HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga could garner consideration.

    At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Jiricek uses his size to break up opposition attacks in his own zone. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino observed that he plays with confidence and moves the puck well, with 11 points in 29 games this season. He was also part of the Czechia team at the 2022 World Junior Championship.

    Jiricek would still require some seasoning at the North American level. He has considerable potential, but his 49 penalty infraction minutes (PIMs) this season suggest he needs to work on his self-discipline. Then again, some NHL clubs could appreciate his aggressive style.

    The Senators are well-stocked with talented young top-six forwards but could use more skill on defense. They have young defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker (age 21) and Erik Brannstrom (22) within their system and promising Jake Sanderson (19) in their prospect cupboard. Nevertheless, it wouldn't hurt to add a right-handed shot with Jiricek's size and physical edge.

4. Seattle Kraken: Simon Nemec

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    The Seattle Kraken aren't going to replicate the stunning expansion-year success of the Vegas Golden Knights four years ago. They're showing a strong competitive nature but need to draft and develop young talent. Having selected University of Michigan center Matty Beniers in the 2021 draft, they could turn their focus toward their defense and choose Simon Nemec of Slovakia's HK Nitra.

    While the Kraken already possess an adept puck-moving defenseman in captain Mark Giordano, the 38-year-old is approaching the end of his NHL career. He's also an unrestricted free agent in July and might not return. They'll need someone like Nemec who could fill that role on their blue line in the next several years.

    The 17-year-old Nemec already has good NHL size at 6'1" and 192 pounds. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino indicated he's a heads-up player who utilizes his stick well to break up plays, while Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey cited his forechecking and puck-moving ability.

    Nemec is enjoying a good performance with HK Nitra with 14 points in 24 games. He also skated in two games for Slovakia at the 2022 World Junior Championship.

5. Buffalo Sabres: Matthew Savoie

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    Having finally traded Jack Eichel earlier this season, the Buffalo Sabres could be seeking a center with first-line potential in the 2022 draft. One option could be Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

    Savoie might not be ready to make the jump to the Sabres as quickly as Eichel did after he was chosen second overall in the 2015 draft. Nevertheless, he has the offensive ability to one day become a first-line NHL center.

    The 5'9", 179-pound Savoie spent most of last season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL) as the pandemic shut down the WHL. He finished fourth among Dubuque scorers with 38 points in 34 games. This season, he's the WHL's leading scorer with 52 points in 34 games.

    Savoie's production could be enticing for the low-scoring Sabres.

    "He's just so dynamic offensively," TSN's Craig Button said. "He continues to progress in a lot of areas of the game where his impact and contributions are becoming greater."

6. New York Islanders: Ivan Miroshnichenko

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    While the New York Islanders reached the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, they were also among the NHL's lowest-scoring clubs during that period. That trait has continued this season, becoming a contributing factor in their low placement in the standings. They could consider addressing that need over the long term by selecting Igor Miroshnichenko of Russia's MHL club Omskie Yastreby.

    This season has been disappointing for the Islanders, but it provides a golden opportunity for them to add a future scorer to their ranks. At 6'1" and 185 pounds, the 17-year-old Miroshnichenko possesses a big shot and strong skating ability. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino singled out his power and skill as well as his finishing ability.

    Miroshnichenko had five goals and 11 points in 27 games this season with VHL club Omski Krylia before moving on to Omski Yastreby. He also finished fourth in scoring at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with four goals and nine points.

    The Islanders need skillful long-term depth at left wing. Captain Anders Lee is now 31, and his best seasons appear to be behind him. Anthony Beauvillier, 24, has been inconsistent, while 23-year-old Kieffer Bellows has struggled to earn a full-time roster spot. A promising young gun like Miroshnichenko could one day give them a left winger to skate alongside first-line center Mathew Barzal.

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

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets got a conditional first-round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the return in July's Seth Jones trade. It will belong to the Jackets unless the Blackhawks win one of the draft lotteries and the lottery win results in the pick being in the top two overall. With that selection, the Jackets could take Denton Mateychuk of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors.

    Having selected a right-shot defenseman in Corson Ceulemans with one of their three first-round picks in last year's draft, the Jackets could seek to balance that out with a left-shot blueliner. That could prove vital if they're unable to re-sign Vladislav Gavrikov before his eligibility for unrestricted free agency in 2023.

    Mateychuk is a mobile rearguard with terrific offensive skills. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino singled out his leadership and character as well as his two-way abilities. His puck-moving talent could alleviate some of the burden from top defenseman Zach Werenski, whose six-year contract ensures he'll still be around by the time Matheychuk is NHL-ready.

    The 17-year-old Mateychuk is 5'11" and 187 pounds but could fill out more before he turns 20. He's enjoying a fine season with the Warriors as their highest-scoring defenseman with 30 points in 34 games.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Isaac Howard

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    The Jackets could end up holding two top-10 first-round picks in this year's draft. With this selection, they could add a forward such as the USNTDP's Isaac Howard.

    Patrik Laine is the only natural scoring left winger on the Jackets roster. Assuming the team re-signs Laine to a long-term contract, the 5'10", 183-pound Howard could provide some additional depth at that position in a few years.

    A nimble forward with a terrific shot, Howard stick-handles well and is a good playmaker. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey pointed out he can overhandle the puck and can struggle under pressure. However, he could overcome those issues as he matures.

    Howard's offensive numbers are noteworthy. He had 33 points in 28 games last season with the USNTDP junior squad in the USHL and has 12 points in 10 games with them this season. He's also among their leading scorers on their under-18 team with 36 points in 30 games.

9. Philadelphia Flyers: Seamus Casey

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    A lack of skilled right-shot defensemen has been an ongoing issue for the Philadelphia Flyers. They could attempt to address that need over the long term by selecting USNTDP rearguard Seamus Casey.

    The 5'10", 161-pound Casey is small by NHL standards but had the offensive skills that could make him comparable to undersized Colorado Avalanche superstar Cale Makar. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey praised his puck-possession abilities, hockey smarts and confidence.

    Those traits have enabled Casey to rise up in the USNTDP ranks. He has 19 points in 30 games with the USNTDP U18 team and six points in nine games skating with their Junior squad in the USHL.

    The Flyers' immediate need for a top-pair right-side defenseman was why they acquired Ryan Ellis last summer from the Nashville Predators. Adding a promising youngster like Casey could provide them with a puck-moving defenseman who could fill that first-pairing role within several years.

10. New Jersey Devils: Juraj Slafkovsky

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    Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer are three talented young forwards selected by the New Jersey Devils in recent drafts. They could add to that group by choosing Juraj Slafkovsky of TPS in Finland.

    At 6'4" and 225 pounds, the 17-year-old Slafkovsky is already a big forward by NHL standards. The Slovakian left winger is in his third season in Finland following stings in TPS' under-16 and under-18 ranks. He had 18 points in 11 games with their under-20 squad and has four points in 20 games with their champions league club. Slafkovsky also appeared in two games for Slovakia at the 2022 World Junior Championship.

    A versatile forward, Slafkovsky can also skate at center. McKeen's Hockey's Will Scouch praised him for his size, skill and creativity. Those attributes have served the big forward well at every level thus far.

    The Devils could use a reliable top-six left winger who can skate alongside centers Hischier and Hughes as part of their long-term future. Slafkovsky could be a good fit.

11. Dallas Stars: Tristan Luneau

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    The Dallas Stars could face the departure of defenseman John Klingberg via this summer's free-agent market. Tristan Luneau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's (QMJHL) Gatineau Olympiques wouldn't be an immediate replacement, but he has the puck-moving skills to perhaps help them over the long term.

    Luneau, 17, is tall and slender at 6'2" and 174 pounds but should fill out his frame as his body matures over the next couple of years. He's a good mobile defenseman with solid offensive skills.

    With 18 points in 31 games during the coronavirus-shortened 2020-21 season, Luneau was named to the QMJHL Rookie All-Star Team. He has 15 points in 26 games this season with the Olympiques.

    In addition to Klingberg's uncertain future, the Stars will face Esa Lindell's free-agent eligibility and Ryan Suter's likely retirement in 2025. Stocking up on promising young defensemen such as Luneau could help them adjust to those eventual blue-line changes down the road.

12. Detroit Red Wings: Brad Lambert

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    Once considered a top-five prospect in the 2022 NHL draft, Brad Lambert's struggles this season with JYP in Finland's top professional league (Liiga) saw his stock drop in several scouting reports this season. Nevertheless, he could be an enticing draft target for the Detroit Red Wings if he's still available at this stage in the first round.

    A versatile forward who can skate at center or right wing, the 6'0", 179-pound Lambert has only managed six points in 24 games with JYP after showing promise with a 15-point effort in 46 contests last season. However, he had five points in just two games for Finland at the 2022 World Junior Championship before COVID-19 forced that tournament's cancellation.

    Lambert was considered to have high-end offensive skills and speed entering this campaign. TSN's Craig Button attributed "the drop of the JYP forward to this being a more comprehensive scouting year after COVID-19 impacted so many leagues around the globe last season."

    After several seasons of rebuilding, the Red Wings are on the rise thanks to promising youngsters such as defenseman Moritz Seider (sixth overall, 2019) and winger Lucas Raymond (fourth overall, 2020). Despite Lambert's difficulties, his skill set could make him a good fit in Detroit.

13: Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Chesley

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    We predicted the Vancouver Canucks could select USNTDP defenseman Ryan Chesley in our way-too-early mock draft in September. We see no reason to change that assessment if the 17-year-old blueliner is still available to the Canucks at this stage.

    Vancouver's overall play has improved since the team hired Bruce Boudreau as head coach Dec. 5. But with veteran defensemen Tyler Myers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson slowing down, they must draft and develop future talent to join their blue-line corps.

    The 6'0", 194-pound Chesley already has NHL size and plays a steady two-way game. He has five points in 29 games with the USNTDP's under-18 team and has played eight games in the USHL with its junior squad.

    Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino indicated that Chesley has "risen to the challenge of defending against the opposition's best." He also possesses a strong right-handed shot. He could one day become a defense partner alongside Quinn Hughes on the Canucks' top pairing.

14. Boston Bruins: Simon Forsmark

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    With Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo filling two of their right-side defensive positions, the Boston Bruins could consider selecting a left-side defenseman to provide long-term depth to that side of their blue line. One option could be Simon Forsmark of Orebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

    Elite Prospects described Forsmark as a "poised two-way defenseman with good size." The 6'2", 194-pounder began this season with Orebro's junior team but moved up to the main club after tallying 25 points in 22 games.

    The 18-year-old Forsmark will benefit from competing against SHL professionals. He plays a smart game at both ends of the rink and uses his size well to break up offensive attacks.

    Urho Vaakanainen is the most notable left-shot defenseman in the Bruins system, but he's had difficulty cracking their blue line on a regular basis. Should Forsmark continue to improve and develop over the course of this season, he could become a tempting draft option.

15. San Jose Sharks: Danila Yurov

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    The San Jose Sharks got themselves a highly touted young winger in last year's draft in William Eklund, who saw action in a handful of NHL games before being returned to the Swedish Hockey League for more seasoning. They could pursue another promising young forward such as Danila Yurov of Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

    Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino cited the power element to Yurov's game and his competitiveness, though he lacks the finishing ability of countryman Ivan Miroshnichenko. The 6'1", 179-pound right wing skates very well. He's strong on the puck and plays a good two-way game.

    Yurov garnered attention last season with 25 points in 23 games with MHL club Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk. A 12-point performance in just six games this season earned the 18-year-old another promotion to Metallurg after he saw action in 21 games with that team last season. He also played for Russia at this year's World Junior Championship.

    While the Sharks have improved this season, their 2.80 goals per game ranks among the bottom third in the NHL. With veteran winger Logan Couture aging (32) and Tomas Hertl possibly departing via free agency this summer, they must stock up with talented young forwards. Yurov could be a good addition.

16. Los Angeles Kings: Joakim Kemell

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    The Los Angeles Kings have been rebuilding for the past three seasons but could use some depth at right wing in their prospect pipeline. Joakim Kemell of Finnish club JYP could be just what they're looking for.

    Kemell got off to a terrific start in his first season with JYP, tallying 12 goals and 18 points in his first 16 games until he was sidelined in November for three to four weeks. He recently returned to action and was held scoreless in two games with Finland during the recently canceled World Junior Championship

    The 5'11", 176-pound Kemell's blazing start caught the eye of TSN's Craig Button, who pointed out the young winger was leading the scoring race before he got hurt. Button considers him "a dynamic offensive winger."

    Should Kemell struggle to regain his early-season form he could slide down the draft rankings. Nevertheless, his offensive skills suggest the young Finn has the potential to become an NHL scoring star.

17. Winnipeg Jets: Elias Salomonsson

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    The offseason acquisition of Nate Schmidt and the play of steadily improving Neal Pionk enabled the Winnipeg Jets to address their need for skillful right-side blue-line depth. However, they should still bring in some promising youth to ensure they can maintain that depth down the road. One option could be Elias Salomonsson of Sweden's Skelleftea AIK J20 national team.

    Another tall and slender defenseman at 6'1" and 172 pounds, the 17-year-old Salomonsson will likely fill out his frame as he matures over the next couple of years. Elite Prospects praised his two-way game, puck-moving and passing abilities and how effectively he uses his long reach to strip opponents of the puck.

    Salomonsson enjoyed a solid debut with 15 points in 14 games for Skelleftea AIK J20. He's up to 17 points in 23 games this season.

    Salomonsson has the ability to become a future top-four right-side NHL defenseman, and he could become a potential replacement for Schmidt or Pionk in a few years.

18. Edmonton Oilers: Cutter Gauthier

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    The additions of Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele last summer provided the Edmonton Oilers with left-wingers for their top-two forward lines. Nevertheless, it could be a good idea to bolster their prospect depth at that position as future replacements for those veterans. One option could be the USNTDP's Cutter Gauthier.

    After tallying 12 goals and 21 points in 32 games last season with their Juniors squad in the USHL, the 17-year-old Gauthier has 19 goals and 31 points in 30 games thus far with their Under-18 team. He's also netted eight goals in nine games of USHL action.

    At 6'2" and 190 pounds, Gauthier already has NHL size with strong scoring instincts and a terrific shot.
    Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey cited his high-octane speed and promising playmaking ability. In a few years, he could become a good addition alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

    Gauthier is scheduled to play next season with Boston College. Two or more seasons in the NCAA should enable him to hone his skills and join the increasing number of American college players making the jump to the NHL.

19. Calgary Flames: Conor Geekie

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    Calgary Flames centers Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund will be eligible for unrestricted free-agent status within the next two seasons. The team could be on the lookout for a future replacement for at least one of them, and Conor Geekie of the WHL's Winnipeg Ice could be on their radar.

    We had the Flames selecting Geekie in our original projection. At 6'4" and 205 pounds, his size and offensive abilities should make him an enticing option in this year's draft.

    Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino was impressed by Geekie's playmaking and his poise; however, he felt the youngster must improve his decision-making. That's something that should improve over time as his game matures.

    Geekie had a promising WHL debut last season with 23 points in 24 games. He's on a slightly better production pace with the Ice this season with 38 points in 34 contests.

20. Minnesota Wild: Jonathan Lekkerimaki

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    Right wing depth remains an issue for the Minnesota Wild within their prospect system. One possibility to address this could be Jonathan Lekkerimaki of the SHL's Djurgardens IF.

    Elite Prospects lists him as a center, but TSN's Craig Button, Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino and McKeen's Hockey's Will Scouch list the 17-year-old Lekkerimaki as a right winger. That versatility could work in his favor as the Wild could also use depth at the center position.

    Lekkerimaki had 12 goals and 16 points in just eight games last season with Djurgardens IF's Under-18 club. He has 17 goals and 31 points in 22 games with their Under-20 squad and two goals and three points in 10 games with their SHL team.

    Cosentino praised Lekkerimaki's energy, creativity and ability to handle the puck at high speed. Scouch cited his powerful shot and playmaking skills. Those traits could make him a good addition to the Wild's top-six forwards one day.

21. Arizona Coyotes (via Colorado Avalanche): Ty Nelson

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    The Arizona Coyotes acquired this pick from the Colorado Avalanche last summer as part of the return in the Darcy Kuemper trade. As we have them selecting a center in Shane Wright with the first overall selection in this draft, they could choose a defenseman with this pick. Someone like Ty Nelson of the OHL's North Bay Battalion could be in their sights.

    Having loaded up with first- and second-round picks in this year's draft, the rebuilding Coyotes will likely bolster their prospect depth at every position. Nelson could one day develop into a crucial part of their blue line down the road.

    At 5'10" and 196 pounds, Nelson is a small but gifted puck-moving defenseman. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey singled out his pass vision, skating agility and impressive point shots.

    Nelson's OHL debut last season was derailed when COVID-19 forced the league to shut down. However, he's showing no signs of rust this season with 26 goals in 31 games.

22. Anaheim Ducks: Frank Nazar

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    Thanks in part to younger players such as Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry and Jamie Drysdale, the Anaheim Ducks are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase this season. They'll want to continue stocking up their prospect cupboard, especially at right wing. One possibility could be the USNTDP's Frank Nazar.

    Nazar enjoyed a productive 2020-21 with the USNTDP's Under-17 team (55 points in 45 games) and with their Junior club in the USHL (36 points in 31 games). This season, he has 32 points in 30 games with the Under-18 squad and 10 points in nine games in the USHL.

    A versatile forward who can skate at right wing or center, the 5'10", 174-pounder plays a hard-working, two-way game. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino pointed out he plays with an abundance of energy and his strong skating. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey also appreciated his raw energy and determination.

    With Rickard Rakell possibly departing this summer as a free agent and Jakob Silfverberg now 31, the Ducks will need some talented young right wingers within the next few years. Nazar's uptempo two-way style could make him an attractive option if he's still available by this stage of the first round.

23. St. Louis Blues: Calle Odelius

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    In our previous mock draft, we noted the St. Louis Blues' need for a top left-shot defenseman among their notable prospects. Calle Odelius of SHL club Djurgardens IF could be an option available to them if they're still at this position in the draft order.

    Slender at 6'0" and 185 pounds, the 17-year-old Odelius will likely pack more muscle on his frame once he's NHL-ready. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey observed how well he uses his speed, agility and hockey sense to his advantage at both ends of the rink. The young blueliner is also a skillful passer.

    Odelius has 17 assists and 20 points in 26 games this season with Djurgardens IF's Under-20 club. He's also seen action in seven games with the parent club.

    The Blues will eventually need replacements for left-side rearguards such as Torey Krug and Marco Scandella. Odelius' smooth skating and puck-moving abilities could give him the makings of a future top-pairing NHL rearguard.

24. Pittsburgh Penguins: Rutger McGroarty

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have relied upon their dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as their top-two centers since 2006-07. With the pair now in their mid-30s and Malkin eligible for unrestricted free-agent status this summer, it's time for the Penguins to start seeking potential replacements.

    Rutger McGroarty of the USNTDP could be an intriguing choice for the Penguins. Elite Prospects singled out his elite scoring and playmaking skills. The 6'0", 205-pounder's high hockey IQ and upside earned praise from Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino, though he noted inconsistency to his game. That should improve as he matures and develops.

    McGroarty netted 35 points in 35 games last season with the USNTDP's under-17 team along with 12 goals and 19 points in 30 games with their junior club in the USHL. With the under-18 squad this season, he has 30 points in 24 contests.

    It won't be an easy task for the Penguins to find replacements for future Hall of Famers like Crosby and Malkin. Nevertheless, they could still find some promising youngsters who could become stars in their own right. Perhaps McGroarty could become one of those players.

25. Nashville Predators: Marco Kasper

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    Last summer, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said his club was in the midst of a competitive rebuild. So far, they're exceeding expectations by jockeying for first place in the Central Division. However, they still must look to the future with centers such as Mikael Granlund and Ryan Johansen becoming unrestricted free agents in three years' time.

    Marco Kasper could be a replacement if he's still available at this stage in the first round. The 6'1", 183-pound Austrian is in his second season with SHL club Rogle BK after solid performances with its junior clubs. He also captained Austria in this year's World Junior Championship.

    A skillful skater and playmaker, the 17-year-old Kasper has played 24 games this season with Rogle BK. He also appeared in two games for Austria at the aborted 2022 World Junior Championship. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey praised his smart, responsible 200-foot game.

    Kasper's ability to hold his own against veterans players in the SHL indicates a maturity to his game that could prove enticing to NHL clubs. He could become the type of player Poile envisions as he rebuilds his roster on the fly.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs: Gleb Trikozov

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    As we observed in our September mock draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs are lacking skilled right wingers among their top prospects. Gleb Trikozov of Osmkie Yastreby in Russia's junior hockey league (MHL) could be worth consideration.

    The 6'1", 185-pound Trikozov is a versatile shoot-first forward who can skate at center or right wing. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey cited his quick release and offensive-zone creativity, though he felt the youngster's game still needs refinement.

    Trikozov tallied 15 goals and 30 points in 49 games during his debut last season with Omski Yastreby. He's at almost a point-per-game pace this season with 14 points (including eight goals) in 15 games this season.

    With top-two right wingers Mitch Marner and William Nylander in their playing prime, the Leafs aren't in dire need of bringing in future replacements. Nevertheless, it would be worthwhile to start stockpiling and developing promising youngsters such as Trikozov.

27. Buffalo Sabres (via Vegas Golden Knights): Liam Ohgren

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    The Buffalo Sabres acquired the Vegas Golden Knights' 2022 first-rounder as part of the return in last November's Jack Eichel trade. They could use this pick to continue bolstering their depth in prospect forwards by selecting Liam Ohgren of Djurgardens IF in the SHL.

    Sitting among the NHL's lowest-scoring teams after trading away Eichel and Sam Reinhart, the Sabres must draft and develop promising young scorers who can one day help this club become a playoff contender. Someone like Ohgren might help them achieve that goal down the road.

    Ohgren has just two points with Djurgardens IF this season, but he has considerable potential as a scorer. He has 18 goals and 27 points in just 15 games with its Junior Under-20 squad this season.

    Despite struggling to adjust to playing against professionals in the SHL, Ohgren should benefit from the experience and should become a better player going forward. Will Scouch of McKeen's Hockey considers the 6'1", 187-pound left winger as a high-intensity forward who plays a 200-foot game.

28. Arizona Coyotes (via Montreal Canadiens): Nathan Gaucher)

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    The Arizona Coyotes picked up their third pick in this round as a result of shipping Christian Dvorak last August to the Montreal Canadiens. As the Canadiens' own first-round pick will be among the top 10, they'll instead send the Coyotes the first-rounder they received from the Carolina Hurricanes as compensation for the latter successfully signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi with an offer sheet.

    Given the Hurricanes are currently among the top teams in the league, their pick could be at this position in the first round. The Coyotes could use it to select Nathan Gaucher of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts.

    Gaucher is a big-bodied center at 6'3" and 207 pounds. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino pointed out his ability to play in a number of situations. He plays a solid two-way game and uses his size well to separate opponents from the puck. He sits third among Remparts scorers with 15 goals and 26 points in 30 games.

    The rebuilding Coyotes need help throughout their roster. While they could land a potential star center in Shane Wright with the first overall selection, it's never a bad idea to have another solid center within their prospect ranks.

29. New York Rangers: Jack Hughes

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    Thanks in part to a crop of talented youngsters such as Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere and K'Andre Miller, the New York Rangers have emerged from three seasons of rebuilding into one of the top teams in the NHL. They could add to their youth movement by choosing NCAA Northeastern University's Jack Hughes.

    No relation to the New Jersey Devils' Jack Hughes, this 18-year-old center is a slender but skillful center. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino noted he's extremely agile with excellent vision and playmaking ability.

    Hughes spent last season with the USNTDP Under-18 team, collecting 26 assists and 34 points. He's fifth among Northeastern scorers this season with nine points in 18 games.

    The Rangers already have several young prospect centers in their system. However, it's never a bad idea to stock up at such a vital position.

30. Washington Capitals: Danny Zhilkin

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    The Washington Capitals have benefitted for years from having two top centers in Evgeni Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom and one of the NHL's greatest goal scorers in Alex Ovechkin. However, they must start preparing for the not-too-distant future when those players have retired or moved on. One option could be Danny Zhilkin of the OHL's Guelph Storm.

    Born in Russia, Zhilkin moved at an early age with his family to Canada. The 18-year-old center was named by NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale as one of three players upgraded last November to an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list. TSN's Craig Button listed him 25th on his November prospect list.

    Morreale cited NHL Central Scouting's Joey Tenute singling out Zhilkin's mature game. "He's a top player that plays in all situations for Guelph, so he's a big part of his team and he's a very strong skater," Tenute said.

    Zhilkin missed all of last season due to the OHL being shut down by COVID-19. He's off to a solid start this season, sitting second among Storm scorers with 10 goals and 24 points in 27 games.

31. Buffalo Sabres (via Florida Panthers): Lian Bichsel

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    The Buffalo Sabres landed this selection last summer as part of the return from the Florida Panthers in the Sam Reinhart trade. If this pick is among the top 10, it's to be exchanged for the Panthers' first-rounder in 2023. That won't happen unless the Panthers make a stunning collapse in the standings over the remainder of the regular season.

    Should the Sabres do as we predict and select two forwards with their two previous picks, they could opt to draft a defenseman with size with this selection. Perhaps they'll be enticed by Lian Bichsel of Leksands IF in the SHL.

    A big-bodied defenseman at 6'5" and 216 pounds, the 17-year-old Bichsel is only going to get bigger before reaching physical maturity. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino observed that his size and anticipation enable him to close quickly on plays.

    Bichsel plays a good two-way style. His long stride enables him to move the puck quickly. The Swiss native had seven points in 11 games this season with Leksand's Under-20 team and played for Switzerland in this year's World Junior Championship.

32. Tampa Bay Lightning: Alexander Perevalov

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    One of the hallmarks of the Tampa Bay Lightning's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships is their ability to draft and develop promising prospects into NHL stars. Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy are among the notables to come up through their system since 2011.

    Alexander Perevalov, 17, could be among the prospects available to the Lightning. The 6'1", 192-pound left wing currently plays for Loko Yaroslavl in Russia's junior league.

    An offensive-minded forward with solid scoring ability, Perevalov is among Loko Yaroslavl's leading scorers this season with 18 goals and 36 points in 26 games. He also had a brief stint with the parent club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL. He's 15th on Craig Button's November prospect rankings

    Perevalov has the ability to blossom into a top-six NHL forward within the right prospect system. His chances could be improved skating with a team with a solid record of player development like the Lightning.