Prospect Ramblings: The Best Skater, Shooter and Two-Way Forward in the 2022 NHL Draft

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-12-02

Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, and let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.

This week, I wanted to take a quick look at the 2022 NHL Draft-eligible forwards who excel in specific aspects of the game, starting with skating, shooting and playmaking. The prospects I will mention below stand out from the crowd of high-end selections available in this draft due to refined tools in these specific areas, and more importantly, due to the ways in which they employ those tools.

Prospects who excel in these areas are hard to miss on, especially if the rest of their game is average or better; these are the three pillars of the NHL game, and any prospect with two or more of these assets in the bank is far more likely to be able to produce at professional levels.

Starting off, we have the 2022 NHL Draft’s most refined skater:

Matthew Savoie, C – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

If I were to encompass Savoie’s skating in one word, it would be “ideal”. I tried hard to find flaws in his stride — I slowed down tapes of him, ran them frame-by-frame, and compared them with notable high-end NHL skaters such as Matt Barzal and Mitch Marner — there’s barely anything negative at all to say about the way he carries himself on the ice.

It all starts with the ankles: the best skaters in the NHL are able to create an acute angle between their shin and their foot, bending their knees ahead of their toes to create a sort of “stack” — their hip sits more firmly upon the solid, spring-like base of the knee and ankle, allowing for smoother weight transfers, hip-based rather than knee-based strides, and effortless direction changes. Additionally, their upper body can assume a variety of positions while maintaining puck maneuverability, as their body is lower down on the ice, often leading to better stickhandling.

Savoie exemplifies this in the clip above, and in every single viewing I’ve had of him. The prospect is able to handle the puck at high speeds and create multiple zone entries, and does so by using a ton of crossovers. In the following clip, he doesn’t perform a single forward stride, using crossovers exclusively to build up speed.