Ramblings: 2022 Draft-Eligibles on the Rise

Kyle Watson

2021-10-29

Welcome to my biweekly ramblings!

I am proud to say I am now a Junior Editor here at DobberProspects and will be providing some insight into the prospect world every other Friday.

I wanted to start the season off by talking about some 2022 draft-eligible prospects that did not play last season – or experienced abbreviated seasons – due to COVID-19. 

Most nights I have found myself electing to watch the OHL – sometimes instead of the NHL – just because of how fascinating it has been to see how far the players have come in their development despite a majority of them not playing hockey for a year.

The London Knights, in particular, have been a very exciting team to watch this season. Led by fourth-year players Luke Evangelista and Brett Brochu, they have shot up the CHL Power Rankings, starting the campaign off with seven consecutive wins.

Something unique is happening in London this year: they are seeing a lot of draft-eligible players play significant roles. Usually, the Hunter brothers like to ease their kids in and let the 19 and 20-year-olds see most of the ice time. However, this season they have six 2022-eligibles all earning their ice time and forcing their coach to run all four lines. 

Jackson Edward received a “B’ rating and Colton Smith, Ben Bujold, Landon Sim, Brody Crane, and Isaiah George all receive “C” ratings on NHL Central Scouting’s preseason watchlist, alongside Brochu and re-entry Stuart Rolofs.

This week they added to that total by signing import pick Ruslan Gazizov – who won a gold medal at the Youth Olympics and Hlinka-Gretzky Cup alongside Matvei Michkov and Ivan Miroshnichenko.

The two standouts for me thus far have been Isaiah George and Colton Smith. 

George was a top name heading into the 2020 OHL Draft but fell to the fourth round due to his interest in playing college. He has been logging minutes on the first pairing alongside fourth-year Gerard Keane and has not looked out of place. He plays the game with poise beyond his years: he is an excellent four-way skater and provides a calm presence at both ends of the ice. I haven’t seen much offensive flair from him yet, but I would put his pro ceiling as at least a second-pairing defenseman who kills penalties.

As of writing this article, Smith is second in team scoring with six goals and nine points in seven games, including a hat-trick. He was a second-round selection by the Knights and was not projected to explode offensively like this. However, he spent the offseason training with fitness coach Tony Greco, alongside the likes of Brandt and Graeme Clarke, Rolofs and Canucks pick Connor Lockhart and it really shows. His first step looks quicker and he can really rip the puck:

 

Both are currently listed as “C” ranked prospects by Ce