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.
The added benefit of crossovers is their deceptive nature; once he gains the neutral zone here, Savoie uses three crossovers in each direction in order to drive in, then drive out — opponents have to respect both options, and often end up backing off to protect the net.
At about 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, the center’s skating needs to be well above NHL average if he is to make it, and it very much is. His speed, his acceleration, the way he navigates tight quarters, his four-way mobility and edgework, all project as above NHL average tools. The only knock is his tendency to stop moving his feet when receiving the puck in dangerous areas.
Now we move on to the best shooter; this is a prospect whose production level in the Finnish Liiga just can’t be ignored, although some prospects’ shooting mechanics are similar to his:
Joakim Kemell, RW – JYP, Liiga
Before showing any clips, I want to talk about the numbers: Kemell has 12 goals and six assists for 18 points in 16 games, in Finland’s top level of men’s hockey. This is the best per-game rate in goals and points for a draft-year Liiga forward — get this — ever. Better than Barkov’s, better than Laine’s, better than any other draft-year forward who’s ever played more than one Liiga game (Devils forward Janne Kuokkanen scored two goals in his only game at 18 years old, but that’s essentially the definition of a small-sample outlier).
Kemell naturally leads his team in points, despite playing up to 10 less games than his successors. The prospect’s skating and hands are also very well-refined, and he can distribute body checks with regularity and ease, despite a slighter frame at 5-foot-11, 176 pounds. He can find open lanes and exploit them well, but doesn’t create them himself when carrying the puck, relying on simple low-to-high or rim plays to keep the puck alive in the offensive zone.
If the prospect continues to put up points like this, a top-five pick is almost inevitable. This type of record-breaking goal-scorer doesn’t come around often in drafts, and he should be able to stifle any concerns regarding his defensive weaknesses, given how offensively-gifted he is. We’ve seen it recently with Cole Sillinger and Mason McTavish: if you can score, you can play — often sooner than others your age.
Finally, I wanted to single out the best two-way forward in the 2022 NHL Draft, a prospect who is lower on many boards than he should be:
Logan Cooley, C – USNTDP, USHL
I’d be hard-pressed to find a prospect in this draft who is better at preventing opponents’ scoring chances than Cooley is. The way he controls opponents’ decisions, whether by pressing them hard or by angling them in the direction he wants them to go, is especially impressive due to how smart his interventions are. Not only does he react quickly, but he has the right instincts to take pucks out of his zone or away from his opponents’ sticks. He pre-scans more often than not, taking information in quickly before executing on his next move, and has a nifty habit of lifting defenders’ sticks for additional scoring chances.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound center has great edges and can build up a decent amount of speed, displaying above-average puck skills as well; his stickhandling is especially noticeable, as the prospect uses quick, soft puck touches to misdirect opponents and goaltenders in tight quarters. He has great velocity and accuracy on his shot and gets in dangerous areas for his chances more often than not, and he can pull off a variety of passes through a variety of lanes. The more I watch him, the more I see a top-five pick, or at the very least top-five adjacent. The 2022 NHL Draft is looking deeper by the minute.
Thanks for reading — follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for all of your fantasy prospect needs!