It has barely been a month since the 2021 NHL Draft wrapped up but hockey never sleeps and our team has already begun work on the 2022 class. The 2021 draft cycle was an unusual one – to say the least – but the hockey world looks to be getting back on track and scouts got an early look at some of the top names for 2022 at the recent U18 World Championships, as well as the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and World Junior Summer Showcase.
Before we get to our preliminary rankings, let me introduce you to the 2021-22 DobberProspects Draft Scouting Team:
Eetu Siltanen | Head of Scouting/Director of European Scouting (@siltaneneetu)
Nick Richard | Director of North American Scouting (@_NickRichard)
Samuel Tirpák | Czech/Slovak/Central European Regional Scout (@SammyT_51)
Alexa Potack | Swedish Regional Scout (@alexa_potack)
Zack Szweras | Russian Regional Scout (@Zack_Szweras)
Marek Novotny | European Crossover Scout (@MarekNovotny96)
Jacob Barker | OHL Regional Scout (@JacobMBarker12)
Caitlin Berry | OHL Regional Scout (@caitlinsports)
Brayden Olafson | QMJHL Regional Scout (@olaf1393)
Jameson Ewasiuk | WHL/BCHL/AJHL Regional Scout (@JamesonEwasiuk)
Alexander Annun | USA Regional Scout (@Annun_Scouting)
AJ Gidaro | North American Crossover Scout (@AlfredoGidaro)
Danny Tiffany | Goaltending Scout (@dantiffany30)
It is still extremely early and it is important to remember that this is a very preliminary glance at the 2022 NHL Draft class. Think of it as a starting point, or watch list of sorts. Many of the names you see here will fluctuate on boards throughout the year and there will surely be highly ranked players on future rankings that aren’t on this list.
With that in mind, we decided to put players in tiers to begin the season. The first three tiers are our top 20 ranked prospects with players in tiers four and five being listed alphabetically. Additionally, we have identified the top five goaltenders to watch as the 2021-22 season gets set to begin.
Without further ado, let’s get to the rankings.
1 | Shane Wright | C | Kingston (OHL) | 6-1 | 187 lbs
Jacob Barker: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Shane Wright is in a tier of his own in this class right now. Wright first came onto the radar as a 15-year-old playing a year up on the stacked Don Mills Flyers team featuring the likes of Brandt Clarke and Brennan Othmann. He starred in the prestigious OHL cup and posted 18 points in 10 games, including the game-winning assist in overtime to clinch the tournament title. Wright was then granted exceptional status to play in the Ontario Hockey League one year before he was age-eligible and certainly did not disappoint. After going first overall to a struggling Kingston Frontenacs franchise, he proceeded to have an incredibly impressive season despite having minimal support, posting 39 goals and 66 points in just 58 games. This accounted for a significant amount of the club’s offense, as Wright was relied upon to play first line minutes immediately due to the lack of talent up front. After a significant absence from gameplay due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wright captained a stacked Canadian team at the U18 World Championships in Texas where it looked like he did not miss a single beat. Wright was dominant in every game he played, posting nine goals and 14 points in five games en route to captaining Canada to a championship in an entertaining win over a talented Russian squad.
Insane point totals aside, let’s talk a little more about what Wright brings to the ice, and honestly, there is very little that he doesn’t do for his team. First and foremost, you can’t ignore his blistering wrist shot which he can release quickly and in a variety of areas in the offensive zone. This forces defenders to attempt to close him down quicker than they may like, which Wright then uses to lure his opponents closer and create space for his teammates. Once that is done, he uses his elite-level offensive awareness and playmaking ability to find his teammates in areas where they can be successful. Wright also has smooth and speedy skating ability, which enables him to move the puck efficiently up the ice in a variety of ways. He does so mainly through attracting attention and dishing it to teammates, followed by finding space for himself to receive the puck again in dangerous spaces. Skillset aside, I think what makes Wright such an incredible prospect is his unmatched understanding of the game in all three zones of the ice. He has a knack for just knowing what is going to happen before it happens, which makes him very reliable defensively as he is also not afraid to get in the lanes and throw his body around as well. I am not usually one to rely on player comparables when analyzing draft-eligible prospects, but Craig Button’s comparison of Wright to Patrice Bergeron with slightly more offensive flare is spot on. At the NHL level, I anticipate Wright being an elite first line center, with whatever team wins the draft lottery happily receiving a potentially franchise-altering talent.
2 | Šimon Nemec | RHD | Nitra (Slovakia) | 6-1 | 192 lbs
Samuel Tirpák: Our highest ranked defenseman, and the only one in this tier, is Šimon Nemec. He is an extremely smart two-way defenseman who excels at both ends of the ice. His understanding of space is excellent, using his vision and high hockey IQ on both the defensive and offensive sides of the game. Defensively, he has excellent gap control and is great from a positioning standpoint, often disrupting passing lanes just by being in the right spots and using his stick properly. Offensively, he controls the tempo of the game extremely well and uses his passing to open up forwards and create opportunities. He understands timing perfectly, knowing when and when not to jump into the play. In addition to being able to control play at even strength, his shot and puck distribution from the point also makes him a great powerplay quarterback.
3 | Matthew Savoie | C/W | Winnipeg (WHL) | 5-10 | 181 lbs
AJ Gidaro: If anyone could supplant Shane Wright as the number one pick, it may be Matthew Savoie. Savoie is an intelligent dual-threat forward who plays with immense confidence. He is an agile and explosive skater, able to blow past opponents with skill and resiliency on the puck. In the offensive zone, Savoie is lethal and decisive. He moves the puck into dangerous areas with precision and doesn’t hesitate to fire a shot, boasting a quick and powerful release. Away from the puck, his game also shows promise. He uses his stick to free pucks and his explosiveness to retrieve them. With continued refinement and development, Savoie could be a number one center in the NHL.
4 | Ivan Miroshnichenko | W | Omskie (MHL) | 6-1 | 185 lbs
Zack Szweras: Miroshnichenko first cemented his position as a top-five player in the 2022 draft with his performance at the U18s back in May, scoring eight points in seven games. He followed up that tournament by captaining the gold medal winning Russian squad for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, finishing with nine points in five games. He is a fast-paced, dynamic winger with above-average vision and hands. His strongest attribute is his elite-level shot. Whether it’s off the rush or on the half wall of the powerplay, there is very little that goaltenders can do to prevent his shot from finding the back of the net. The only concern for him is his consistency. There are times when he’s on the ice that he becomes invisible and seems like his effort level is low. Overall, Miroshnichenko is a top-five talent who needs to prove it consistently day in and day out.
5 | Brad Lambert | C/W | JYP (Liiga) | 6-0 | 179 lbs
Eetu Siltanen: Lambert has serious offensive talent. His transitional game is very good, and he skates exceptionally well, having really good posture and fast feet. He also has great puck skills and with that skating/skill combination, he can fly through the neutral zone and initiate great zone entries. Lambert can create chances using his vision but there are times – especially at the lower levels – that he has shown a tendency to be a bit selfish. At lower levels and in junior international competition, he is able to dominate the offensive zone just by deking around players and skating past everyone, but he needs to expand his toolset and simplify his game in Liiga as he progresses towards the NHL. His upside is high because of his offensive talent but there are some concerns that are related mostly to his defensive game and physicality.
6 | Logan Cooley | C | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 5-10 | 179 lbs
Nick Richard: Cooley is an intelligent two-way forward who plays a mature game for his age. He reads the play extremely well in all three zones and is committed to his defensive responsibilities, getting involved down low and covering for his defensemen. He has good speed off the rush and applies pressure on the forecheck, taking efficient routes to cut off puck carriers and disrupt plays with an active stick. Cooley doesn’t have Shane Wright’s shot or Brad Lambert’s speed but he has a well-rounded offensive toolkit. He skates quite well and can separate on the outside, makes quick reads and accurate passes in the offensive zone, and has the hands to execute skilled plays in tight. Cooley’s combination of smarts and skill is sure to draw interest early in the 2022 NHL Draft.
7 | Juraj Slafkovsky | W | TPS (Liiga) | 6-4 | 225 lbs
Eetu Siltanen: Slafkovsky is an offensively skilled winger with a big frame. He is physically mature and even though he already weighs 225 pounds, he has good skating ability – especially in his posture and stride power. He plays with good pace but he just needs to keep his legs moving to stay at that pace more consistently. Slafkovsky’s skill level is very good and he is able to beat defenders with dekes but occasionally relies on his skills a bit too much. In the first few games of the season, he has shown some great passing ability and looks a capable playmaker. Slafkovsky can score goals and is especially skilled in front of the net, redirecting incoming shots and capitalizing on rebounds. He needs to improve his consistency, but his offensive skill level shows exceptional potential.
8 | Rutger McGroarty | C | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 6-1 | 198 lbs
Nick Richard: One of the most complete prospects in the 2022 class, McGroarty possesses a diverse skillset that allows him to impact the game in a variety of ways. He is a strong skater with good size, incorporating finesse elements with a power game. Using his strength and slick hands, he is able to come away with contested pucks and make plays off of the wall. He takes the puck into middle ice and has a heavy wrist shot that he can release quickly to beat goaltenders cleanly. He hunts pucks effectively on the forecheck and finishes his hits with a purpose, adding value as a puck retriever on top of being an offensive threat. If he can bring his best on a consistent basis in his draft year, McGroarty could enter the conversation as a potential top-five pick.
9 | Danila Yurov | W | Magnitogrosk (KHL) | 6-1 | 172 lbs
Zack Szweras: Danila Yurov is a fast-paced, highly intelligent, physical hockey player. His toolset allows him to be effective playing against tougher competition which was proven when he was given the opportunity to play some of his draft-1 season in the KHL. Yurov’s best tool is his brain. He is constantly scanning the ice, reading the play, and anticipating the next move to be made. He complements that with his smooth skating and plus vision to drive possession in the opposition’s zone. For someone who is only 6-1, he plays like he is the toughest player on the ice, never afraid to use his body and fight for the puck to help his team. Yurov is my dark horse to jump into the top-five come draft day in June.
10 | Isaac Howard | W | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 5-10 | 174 lbs
Alexander Annun: Isaac Howard is a gifted winger who can beat you with pure speed or with his high-end puck skills. He has a dangerous shot and does a great job of giving himself opportunities to let it rip. He handles the puck very w