Draft picks are currency when it comes to the NHL trade deadline and this year will be no different. While Frank Seravalli reported on the 2023 first-round picks being more desirable, there’s still a good chance a number of firsts change hands for the 2022 draft.
With that in mind, I wanted to put together a very early mock draft, just to give fans an idea of the types of players their teams would be giving up on having an opportunity to select this summer. It’s a very rough estimate this far out as many players are still finding their own draft stocks fluctuating.
I think there’s still some value in this draft, but things get a lot thinner a lot faster, especially outside the lottery range. Those lottery picks are very unlikely to change hands, but those late firsts could be among the bigger pieces moved before Monday’s cutoff.
A couple of notes before we start: A mock draft is not the same as a draft ranking. You can read my mid-term ranking here. This is more of an idea of what I think could happen if the draft was today. Additionally, the draft order is simply based on place in the NHL league standings as they looked prior to the games on March 15.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs
The Habs could set up their top two centers for a long time by pairing Wright with Nick Suzuki. Wright has really picked up his game in the second half of this season, but there are still some concerns about how honestly he’d contend for a No. 1 center slot. With Montreal, he doesn’t have to be the No. 1 C, at least not for a while. That’s a good situation for him and the team.
2. Seattle Kraken: Logan Cooley, C, U.S. National U18 Team
After drafting one National Team Development Program alumnus, why not make it two? Matty Beniers is the do-everything, two-way center with skill, while Logan Cooley brings dynamic speed and talent to the lineup. I’m sure the Kraken would love to land some more immediate help in this slot and as a result may look at Juraj Slafkovsky or one of the top defensemen. Cooley would spend at least one season at the University of Minnesota before turning pro, but I think he’d be worth the wait to have long-term centers in Beniers and Cooley in the system.
3. Arizona Coyotes: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS
Arizona is still a long way away from truly competing for postseason berths, but it may be able to inject some more immediate help into its system if it were to select Slafkovsky. His stock is skyrocketing after his tremendous Olympic performance and it’s hard to find players with his combination of size and high-end skill. He may be a good fit in the top six a few years down the road.
4. Philadelphia Flyers: Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg ICE
The top scorer on the best team in major junior this season, Savoie has dynamic skill and strong skating ability. While not particularly big, he’s long been one of the best players in this draft class and has really seen his game hit a new level this year. He’s not your typical Flyers pick, but he’s going to be one of, if not the best player available in this slot.
5. Ottawa Senators: Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg ICE
The Sens have been a little more size obsessed at the draft. They can get a big center here who is averaging over a point per game, has skill and can play a power game. There’s no real consensus for how the top of this class is going to look, so I could see the Sens going with a type of player they’ve targeted in recent drafts, especially last year when they looked for a lot more physicality and heavier games. Geekie checks multiple boxes.
6. Buffalo Sabres: David Jiricek, D, Plzen
The Sabres are loaded up in the top four on the left side of their defense, but the right side could use a little attention. After picking left-shot Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power with No. 1 picks, they could use another high draft choice on Jiricek, who I think is one of the most well-rounded defenders in this class with some offensive upside, too. He’s been injured for a good chunk of the year, but the Sabres can balance out their blueline with another big body with good mobility.
7. New Jersey Devils: Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra
The Devils have built a solid prospect system but could really beef up their blueline with a talented player who already has a lot of pro experience. Nemec is a smooth operator, moves pucks well, and can really defend. He has good two-way skills that would look good in a top-four role on the right side of New Jersey’s defense.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (via CHI): Joakim Kemell, LW, JYP
A high-end goal scorer with shifty puck movement, Kemell isn’t exactly cut from the same cloth as Patrik Laine, but there are definitely some similarities. Kemell missed a chunk of the season after World Juniors, but remains an especially intriguing talent due to his high-end hand skills and lethal shot. I’m sure the Jackets would jump at the chance to add one of the top-end defensemen if Nemec or Jiricek ended up in this range.
9. Detroit Red Wings: Frank Nazar, C, U.S. National U18 Team
The Red Wings wouldn’t have to go far to get a good book on one of the draft’s most purely skilled forwards. Nazar may not have the size of some other forwards in this group, but he’s been among the most impressive talents on a loaded NTDP squad. He’s headed to Michigan next season, but he also just makes sense as the Red Wings need to continue adding more and more scoring talent to their mix.
10. New York Islanders: Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirit
The Islanders’ system has needs all over, but it’s particularly light on defense. Mintyukov is one of the OHL’s best scoring defensemen and is seeing his draft stock rise rapidly as a result. I’m not sold he’d go this high just yet, but if the Isles are looking to address their blueline, Mintyukov may be the best available defenseman in this range.
11. San Jose Sharks: Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djugardens
After dominating Sweden’s U20 ranks, Lekkerimaki has been up with the pro team for Djugardens and he’s handling himself very well. With seven goals and nine points in 26 games, he’s made an impact. The Sharks already have top prospect William Eklund with Djugardens, so why not add one of the most promising Swedes of this draft class as well?
12. Anaheim Ducks: Danila Yurov, RW, Magnitogorsk
The Ducks have a new regime in place, so it’s tough to know how Pat Verbeek’s staff will handle his first draft, but coming from the Steve Yzerman school of management, I wonder if he won’t be risk averse. NHL teams are currently weighing how to handle Russian prospects and whether they are willing to take on the risk of drafting one, especially with the NHL and KHL severing communication and a memorandum of understanding on player movement. Yurov could be a much higher pick if things were different. He has some good power, skill and offensive sense. He’d fit into what they’re building in Anaheim.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets: Rutger McGroarty, LW, U.S. National U18 Team
After adding so much skill in the last draft and with Kemell already selected in our mock draft, perhaps the Jackets would be interested in some ruggedness up front. McGroarty is a big strong forward who plays a good power game and can make space for his teammates. He’s also especially good at the net-front.
14. Winnipeg Jets: Isaac Howard, LW, U.S. National U18 Team
The Jets have never been shy when it comes to digging into the American ranks. Howard is committed to the University of Minnesota Duluth and likely is a few years away, but he has high-end skill, good playmaking ability and can score. There’s a lot of debate about what order NHL teams are going to put the NTDP forwards in when it comes to the first round, but I think Howard checks a lot of boxes.
15. Vancouver Canucks: Cutter Gauthier, LW, U.S. National U18 Team
You can never have enough scoring and Gauthier is a scorer. He has good size, good speed and he can absolutely hammer a puck. Gauthier is headed to Boston College and has just kept getting better and better over the course of the season. He has 30 goals in 42 games.
16. Buffalo Sabres (via VGK): Brad Lambert, LW, Lahti
The Sabres have built one of the best prospect systems in the NHL and have multiple firsts, which gives them a little more wiggle room to take on a little more risk. Lambert has been one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. The skills are all there, but the results have not been for him. At one point believed to be no worse than a top-three pick in this draft, he’s a long way away from that, but maybe the Sabres view it as high-risk, high-reward here.
17. Edmonton Oilers: Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle Thunderbirds
The Oilers are building up an improved prospect pool, but they could definitely shore up some depth. Korchinski has been one of the rising players in this class and already has topped 50 points in the WHL. He is a lanky, smooth-moving left-shot defenseman who can absolutely get pucks up the ice.
18. Dallas Stars: Marco Kasper, C, Rogle
Kasper is an especially intriguing forward who has played a good chunk of this season in Sweden’s top pro league, averaging middle-six minutes. He has skill and sturdiness, plays a decent enough two-way game and there’s some snarl to him, too. Kasper isn’t especially intimidating, but he has some good skills and has clearly been trusted to play a regular shift as a pro at 17.
19. Los Angeles Kings: Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, U.S. National U18 Team
The Kings have more prospects than they know what to do with at the moment. Adding a player in Snuggerud who is going to the University of Minnesota next year and maybe could stay for as many as three years is not a bad thing. Plus, he’s a gifted scorer with some size who can make plays down low.
20. Nashville Predators: Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors
The Preds have gotten better up front in recent drafts, but they’ve always drafted and developed defensemen particularly well. Mateychuk is a slightly below-average sized defenseman, but he is putting up big numbers in the WHL and confidently moves pucks. He plays a style that would fit with how Nashville is built.
21. Washington Capitals: Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current
The Caps have certainly loved their WHL defensemen over the years. Pickering is a 6-foot-4 blueliner with some two-way capabilities. He’s not the most productive, but there are flashes of higher-end offensive ability. Projections for him are all over the map, but he’s an intriguing prospect to be sure. The Caps don’t have much depth in their system, so they could use help everywhere.
22. Minnesota Wild: Ryan Chesley, D, U.S. National U18 Team
A steady two-way defender who skates very well, Chesley has not seen his numbers take off this season like I expected them to. He plays a ton of minutes in all situations and has shown flashes of better offensive ability than his numbers suggest. He’s another one of those polarizing prospects, but I could see Minnesota being interested in a defenseman here with the added bonus that Chesley is a local player headed to the University of Minnesota.
23. St. Louis Blues: Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques
The Blues have some decent defensemen in their system but not a ton in number. Luneau is a solid two-way right-shot defenseman who has 30 points in 44 QMJHL games this year. He also comes in at 6-foot-2 and just plays an easy game. He makes a lot of sense in this range.
24. Boston Bruins: Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern University
He’s the son of new Canadiens GM Kent Hughes, so how awkward would this be? Probably more awkward if he wasn’t a really good player who has seen his draft stock fluctuate but is back to trending up. Hughes is a dazzling playmaker when he’s at the top of his game. He’s been playing his best hockey of the season of late and is reminding us why he was so highly regarded coming into the year.
25. Montreal Canadiens (via CGY): Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts
A right-shot, two-way center with size, Gaucher has been among the more challenging prospects for me to get a handle on this year, but I know he has plenty of fans in the scouting community. There’s enough skill there to be productive, but he’s not going to blow you away with it. I don’t love putting Quebec kids to the Habs in mocks, because how often does it really happen in the end? But this is a pick where I could see it happening just based on slot.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs: Filip Mesar, C/W, Poprad
An average-sized forward with good speed and skill, Mesar is definitely right in Toronto’s draft type wheelhouse. He’d also provide really nice value here. He’s currently playing professionally in Slovakia. I wonder if the Leafs would be able to get him to North America quickly to get him acclimated a bit faster.
27. New York Rangers: Liam Ohgren, C/W, Djugardens U20
Ohgren averaged better than a goal per game in the Swedish U20 ranks. He’s had a harder time finding the offense with the pro side, but he’s gotten into 25 games at just 17. He’s been up and down a lot and every time he gets sent back to the U20 time, he scores a whole bunch of goals. The Rangers have a lot of solid prospects in a lot of positions and Ohgren would be a nice get in this range.
28. Pittsburgh Penguins: Adam Ingram, LW, Youngstown Phantoms
The St. Cloud State-bound forward has been among the best draft-eligible players in the USHL this season. He’s averaging better than a point-per-game, plays with decent enough pace and can score. Youngstown has been one of the USHL’s worst teams, but Ingram continues to produce and give good effort. The Penguins have needs upon needs in their prospect system, and Ingram might be the best player left on the board.
29. Tampa Bay Lightning: Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion
One of the best offensive defensemen in the class, Nelson has 46 points in 55 games for North Bay this season. He moves pucks remarkably well and defends adequately enough. Size has never particularly mattered to the Bolts, and at 5-foot-10, Nelson might be below average in that regard, but the skills are there for him to manage that.
30. Buffalo Sabres (FLA): Sam Rinzel, D, Chaska H.S./Waterloo Black Hawks
As more prospects come due for contracts, it never hurts to have a longer-range prospect in the mix. Rinzel is a big, rangy defenseman who has some impressive puck skills for his size. He’s heading to the University of Minnesota next season, but the ceiling on his game is sky-high. It’s not a guarantee he sneaks into the first round, but I think it could happen and the Sabres would be wise to lock down another right-shot D.
31. Arizona Coyotes (via CGY): Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm
A big two-way center with some good energy and some serious skill, Zhilkin hasn’t necessarily produced at the level that was expected this year, but he’s got the tools. He is a dual Russia-Canada citizen who played for Canada at last year’s World U18 Championship and has a long track record of production over the years.
32. Arizona Coyotes (via COL): Ivan Miroshnichenko, RW, Omskie Yastreby
As a rebuilding team, Arizona may not be in the best place to take a risk with a first-round pick, but they do have multiple firsts to work with. Miroshnichenko, as you may know, was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. His treatment could keep him out of the lineup for more than a year, and then there’s the additional challenges NHL teams are facing in regards to how to deal with Russian prospects and players. Still, before everything changed, Miroshnichenko was my No. 3 draft-eligible prospect. High-risk, potential for massive reward.