After the World Juniors were unfortunately cut short due to Covid protocols, it is time to look ahead towards the NHL draft. Although teams only played in 2 games, we were able to get a
glimpse of the impact some of the 2022 draft-eligible players could have in the future. So for the fans of teams that are ready to throw in the towel, here is a way to early mock draft that is sure
to look completely off by July 2022, when the draft takes place.
1. Arizona Coyotes – Shane Wright, C Kingston (OHL) Dobber Rank: 1
The clear choice at number one is potential franchise center Shane Wright. The Arizona Coyotes are in an obvious rebuild, hoping to build around core players like Jakob Chychrun, Dylan Guenther and Clayton Keller. The one piece every rebuilding team looks for is a franchise center and Wright falls into the laps of the Coyotes. Wright has had a somewhat disappointing season and followed it up with an okay performance at the World Juniors. Although Wright was awarded exceptional player status for the OHL, he shouldn’t be compared to Connor McDavid. His style of game is more suited to the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron, which is not a bad type of player to build a franchise around.
2. Montreal Canadiens – Matthew Savoie, C/W Winnipeg (WHL) Dobber Rank: 3
After a thrilling run to the Stanley Cup last year, Montreal finds themselves near the bottom of the standings in the NHL. Looking at the current roster, they could really use a burst of offense and there is almost no better offensive player in this class than Savoie. The undersized forward is a fantastic playmaker with high-end offensive instincts. He currently leads all draft-eligible players in points in the CHL with 52 points in 34 games played so far. While he is playing center now, a move to the wing is more likely for him, when he makes it to the NHL. Overall, Savoie will provide a much-needed offensive flare to the Canadiens lineup.
3. Ottawa Senators – Brad Lambert, C JYP (Liiga) Dobber Rank: 13
I debated a lot between Lambert and Nemec for this spot, but ultimately chose Lambert. Ottawa has a ton of young and upcoming talent, but lack a true number one center. In steps Brad Lambert, the Finnish center has seen his draft stock all over the place in many public draft spheres, but re-assured his spot in the top of the draft with his explosive play at the World Juniors, leading all draft-eligible players with five points in two games. Yes, it is a small sample size, but there is more to Lambert’s game than just points. He plays an extremely refined transition game, always seeming to find a way to get the puck in the offensive zone.
The area that concerned many scouts with Lambert was the fact that he played most of his game from the perimeter. During the World Juniors, we started to see how Lambert’s game is elevated when he exploits the middle of the ice, dominating both Germany and Austria in the two games the Finns played. With a true number one center to build around, it would add to the Sens core of Sanderson, Tkachuk, Stutzle and more.
4. Seattle Kraken – Simon Nemec, RHD HK Nitra (Slovakia) Dobber Rank: 4
After taking a franchise center last year in Matty Beniers, Seattle looks to bolster the blueline for the future with Nemec. It is rare to find a minutes-eating right handed defenseman like Nemec at the top end of a draft. Ron Francis enjoys rebuilding teams, and Nemec is the perfect piece for their blueline. He is an extremely polished player, who has a large role in the Slovakian men’s league as an 18-year old. He is a strong skater, with good mobility in all areas of the ice, who constantly scans the ice and rarely makes the wrong read. Those are rare traits for a young defenseman to posess. While he may not be the flashiest or most dynamic player on the ice, Nemec is a sure-fire NHL player, who will play huge minutes and make an impact on every team he plays for.
5. Buffalo Sabres – Logan Cooley, C U.S. U18 (USNDTP) Dobber Rank: 5
After trading their disgruntled franchise center to Vegas this season, Buffalo looks to shore up down the middle. They select one of the safest prospects in this draft in Logan Cooley. The center uses his excellent speed to push play into the offensive zone where he thrives, posting 31 points in 21 games for the USNDTP program. He was first on his team in points before leaving for the World Juniors, where he was the only draft-eligible player on the US team and ended up playing in a top-six role for them. A future with Logan Cooley and Peyton Krebs down the middle plus Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin on the back end, is starting to look promising for Sabres fans who have had very little to cheer for in a long time.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (Via CHI) – Joakim Kemell, W JYP (Liiga) Dobber Rank: 2
The Blue Jackets are in this fun retool mode, where you get to see glimpses of the future in Sillinger, Boqvist, Laine, Bean, Tarasov and more, but they are bad enough to get lottery picks to improve their future. This pick is from the Seth Jones trade, which I originally thought was a steal for the Blue Jackets when they made it. With this pick acquired from the Hawks, the Jackets select Kemell, who at the start of the year was on a record-setting point streak in Liiga, the top Finnish men’s league, before sustaining an injury. After that, his production came back down to Earth. Kemell recently made the World Junior team and participated in the two games they played before the tournament was shut down. Kemell’s best tool is his shot; it is powerful and can be used both as a wrist shot or a one-timer. Adding Kemell would add to the trend of Columbus taking strong shooting prospects with Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger taken last year.
7. New York Islanders – Danila Yurov, W Metallurg (KHL) Dobber Rank: 6
After a couple years of successful deep playoff runs, the Islanders find themselves stuck with some bad contracts and near the bottom of the standings in the NHL. The Islanders are looking
solid in net and have some good young defensive pieces but are really lacking offensive production. This is where Danila Yurov steps in, he plays the game with fast pace, high IQ and excellent offensive skills. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the best draft year, not because of his skill, but because of the lack of playing time in the KHL. When Yurov isn’t playing in the KHL, he is lighting up the Russian junior league, the MHL, recording 12 points in 6 games so far this year.
Yurov was hoping to use the World Juniors as a stage to broadcast his talent, but was given sheltered minutes in his first game for the Russian team and when it finally looked like he was going to make an impact on the team, the tournament got shut down. It may take a couple years for Yurov to come over to the NHL, but when he does, he would be the perfect complement to Matt Barzal on the wing for the Islanders.
8. New Jersey Devils – Frank Nazar, C/W U.S. U18 (USNDTP) Dobber Rank: 8
The New Jersey Devils continue to go down the USNDTP pipeline, after taking Jack and Luke Hughes in the 2019 and 2021 1 st round, respectively, they choose Frank Nazar in the 1 st round this year. Nazar is an undersized forward at 5-10, but combines high-end speed with a creative mindset to set up his teammates. Nazar has 20 assists and 31 points in 29 games for the USNDTP this year. He has been utilized on both special team units for the development program this year, due to his strong play away from the puck. Whether they use him on the wing or at center, Nazar is a great addition to this young New Jersey core and will help set up the likes of Jack Hughes and Alexander Holtz for years to come.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets – David Jiricek, RHD HC Plzen (Extraliga) Dobber Rank: 7
With their second pick in the top-10 the Blue Jackets turn their attention to the blue line and take high-flying offensive blueliner David Jiricek. Jiricek is an extremely mobile defenseman, who uses his speed and puck handling skills to advance the play into the offensive zone. When he is in the offensive zone, teams have to look out for his wicked shot. Defensively, he is no slouch either, he is fairly aggressive with his defensive play using his advantage in mobility and long reach to quickly deny chances off the rush. Another plus quality of Jiricek is his physical game, at 6-3, 190 Ibs, you do not want to get in a battle with him in the corner. Unfortunately, Jiricek suffered a bad knee injury while playing against Canada in the World Juniors and will require surgery which will keep him out for a couple of months. It is uncertain how this will affect his draft stock, but time will tell if he is still worthy of a top-10 selection.
10. Philadelphia Flyers – Juraj Salfkovsky, W TPS (Liiga) Dobber Rank: 14
This is probably not the season Flyers fans expected when they made the moves to acquire Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan Ellis in the off-season, but never the less here they are in the
lottery. They select the big bruising power-forward in Juraj Slafkovsky, who has been playing well between the U-20 SM-Sarja and Liiga. Slafkovsky has a strong tool-kit with good playmaking
abilities. His biggest strength is his physicality, which he uses to protect the puck, whether in transition or on the cycle in the offensive zone. In the offensive zone, teams also have to be
aware of Slafkovsky’s goal scoring ability as he has shown to have a powerful shot, while also being a menace in front of the net deflecting pucks. Slafkovsky is the type of power-forward that
the Flyers usually look at come draft time.
11. Dallas Stars – Filip Mesar, C/W HK Poprad (Extraliga) Dobber Rank: 12
Mesar, like Slafkovsky and Nemec, represented team Slovakia in the World Juniors for the small duration of that tournament. In the small sample size, we were able to see his speed and
tenacity when he has the puck. Mesar plays all around the ice and has played mainly center in the Slovak league, but has played all three forward positions throughout the year. Mesar is a
coach’s dream, as he is extremely quick and a pest on the forecheck, often taking the puck off opposition’s stick and turning the play over for his team. The downside to Mesar is his small
frame at 5-10, 172 Ibs. While he is small, it shouldn’t be the reason he is overlooked and it won’t impact his success playing hockey. The Stars are a team looking to add help on offense,
specifically up the middle. If they take Mesar and feel comfortable with him playing down the middle, he could be a nice piece to compliment Robertson and Hintz in the future. The Stars are
a nice mix of veterans and young players, however their veterans have not been producing, so adding a player like Mesar should help, if they start to lean towards a rebuild.
12. Detroit Red Wings – Isaac Howard, W U.S. U18 (USNDTP) Dobber Rank: 10
Like the 2019 draft class, this is another strong year for the U.S. National Development Team Program as Howard is the third of four players from that team included in this way too early mock draft. Howard is tied for the lead in points with Jimmy Snuggerud for the USNDTP with 36 points in 29 games. The most dangerous part of Howard’s game is his wicked wrist shot, however Howard has shown some improvement in his playmaking ability leading the team in assists with 22. An underrated part of Howard’s game is his skating ability, he is an excellent skater, good on his edges and generates a lot of speed off the rush. Overall, Howard would fit in nicely with the group of prospects upcoming for the Red Wings. Firepower off the wings will be a focal point for the future in the Motor City.
13. Vancouver Canucks – Seamus Casey, RHD U.S. U18 (USNDTP) Dobber Rank: 11
After starting the year off poorly under Benning and Green, the Canucks made an in-season front office change for the better, as new head coach Bruce Boudreau has led the team to a winning record and has them back in the playoff hunt. If they still manage to not make the playoffs an area of need for them is in the back-end. In comes the anchor of the USNDTP blueline in Seamus Casey. Casey is arguably the best offensive defenseman in this year’s draft class. His strong suit is his mobility, he is an outstanding skater and uses his mobility to his advantage. With his agility and elite puck skills he weaves through the neutral zone to transition the puck into the offensive end, where he then scans the ice and, with his high IQ, he creates dangerous offensive chances for his forwards. Late in games having the potential pairing of Quinn Hughes and Seamus Casey should be salivating for Canucks’ fans for many years.
14. San Jose Sharks – Gleb Trikozov, C/W Omskie (MHL) Dobber Rank: 17
The Sharks are a fun team to watch this year with the excellent play of Meier, Couture, Hertl and the resurgence of both Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. While they are fun to watch and doing better than expected, they should still be looking towards the future and with a late lottery pick they take a gamble on Gleb Trikozov. A late August ‘04 birthdate makes Trikozov one of the youngest players in this draft, and while the 17-year old may not be the most refined player in the draft, he has extremely raw tools that some scouts are gushing over. The name of Trikozov’s game is transition, whether he is playing in the MHL or the VHL. When the puck is on his stick, Trikozov finds a way to advance the puck into the offensive zone. Once he’s there, he uses his sharp brain and great puck skills to find the open passing and shooting lanes and attack them accordingly. It may take some time for Trikozov to fully develop into what he can become, but if he reaches his full potential, we could all be wondering how he slipped this far in the draft.
15. Winnipeg Jets – Ty Nelson, RHD North Bay (OHL) Dobber Rank: 19
The Winnipeg Jets could desperately use some help on the back end of the ice, especially on the right side and in comes speedy offensive defenseman Ty Nelson. Nelson loves to use his mobility and agility to lead breakouts and put his team in the offensive zone. While the blueliner is undersized at 5-10, he still plays a big physical game as he weighs 196 Ibs and loves to throw his weight. When defending in transition, he controls his gaps quite well and uses his physicality to disrupt play in the neutral zone. Offensively, Nelson runs the power play for the North Bay Battalion and uses his good puck skills to set up teammates for high danger chances. When he is not looking for a pass, Nelson can also rip the puck on net with his strong shot from the point. Overall Nelson needs some work on his defensive game and needs to understand when to pull back from the offensive end, although that should come with experience. This is a pick that would address a need for the Jets on defense and also improve their offensive game.
16. Los Angeles Kings – Denton Mateychuk, LHD Moose Jaw (WHL) Dobber Rank: 16
This year we are starting to see the transition of the LA Kings from a bottom of the league team to middle of the pack due to the emergence of some of the young players the Kings have been
drafting over their lengthy rebuild. The Kings have taken plenty of forward talent over the last couple of years and are stocked up in that regard in the pipeline. The focus for the Kings now is
bolstering their blueline, which they have started with the likes of Brandt Clarke, Tobias Bjornfot, Jordan Spence and more. In comes Denton Mateychuk, another extremely mobile defenseman
who scans the ice well and has confidence when skating up with the puck.
He is another one of the prototypical modern-day defensemen that the NHL has seen take over. This also matches the defensive style that the Kings have been drafting over the last couple of seasons. With these extremely mobile, somewhat undersized defensemen, there is still work needed to be done in their own end. Although with their quality of player development, adding Mateychuk will only bolster the defense for the Kings in the future.