The 2022 NHL Draft has finally come and gone with plenty of excitement starting right at the top with former consensus number one overall pick, Shane Wright, falling into the laps of the Seattle Kraken with the fourth pick of the draft. There were plenty of surprise picks throughout the first round and some great late picks as well, but how did some of the current and future NCAA players do in the draft?
Freshman Draft Year Seasons
Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern University
With his father, Kent Hughes, spearheading the draft for the Montreal Canadiens there was plenty of speculation that perhaps we would see Hughes’ name get called early in the second round, but we had to wait a bit until Los Angeles scooped him up at 51st overall.
Jack Hughes went from scoring nearly a point a game in his U17 NTDP season to notching 16 points in 39 games for the Huskies as a freshman — not a bad haul. Hughes’ success mostly came from his physical skills such as his speed and size, but he shows a good understanding of how to unlock defenses with quick, well-placed passes that can catch the opposition sleeping. While not the most creative player on offense, he plays well as a complementary player on a line with other skill players for him to ride along with and feather a nice pass into or provide himself as a trigger-man option. He went a little later in the draft than we expected, ranking him at 41, but joining a top-end prospect pool like Los Angeles can hopefully aid him in expanding upon his skill set to become more of a driver on offense.
Jack Devine, RW, University of Denver
Devine’s season was a curious one in the sense that he did not see too much playing time, averaging about 12 minutes per game, but was able to accumulate 19 points in 36 games en route to the Pioneers becoming National Champions. All of that then culminated in the Florida Panthers selecting him with the 221st pick of the draft, certainly lower than many of us expected at the start of the season. Devine racked up plenty of points as he played for the high-octane Pioneer offense that saw Carter Savoie, Bobby Brink, Carter Mazur, and a few others post point per game, or nearly point per game seasons.
Devine is a strong body on and off the puck and was able to force his way inside throughout the season and look to generate opportunities in close situations where he could potentially do some damage. He is a tireless worker and gives you his all in each zone, putting in hard-nosed shifts and doing a nice job closing down the opposition any chance he gets. While Devine may have had a disappointing freshman season with the Pioneers he is still a decent player and one who has some tools to like in his arsenal, the Florida Panthers do not need the immediate help up front so some extra time to work on his game and continue to develop at Denver should benefit him greatly as he looks to tap into some of the offensive production he had at lower levels of competition.
Cutter Gauthier, C/W, Boston College
After putting the finishing touches on an excellent season with the NTDP, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Gauthier with the 5th overall pick in the draft, making him the second highest American off the board behind teammate Logan Cooley. Gauthier was only one goal shy of the joint most this season and the majority of his production came in the second half of the season where he really began to find his groove. He is an intelligent player who uses his speed and strength well along the boards and has a wicked wrist shot that saw him score 19 times in 22 USHL games this season.
Gauthier is capable of pretty much anything on the ice and will do so with a high work rate and great determination. He spent lots of time as a winger but played center as well and during the draft interview process there were teams asking about him being able to play center at the NHL level, so the versatility across forward positions is certainly another thing to admire about his game. As a high-end complementary player Gauthier is able to play whatever game is required of him, be it a run-and-gun style, physical dominance, or a puck possession based style — he has the ability to do it all, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons he climbed so high on draft boards this season. Heading to Boston College next season should be a good chance for him to show that he can find continued success without playing with some of the elite talents that this year’s crop of NTDP boasted.
Rutger McGroarty, C/RW, University of Michigan
A player with a toolkit that very much appeals to NHL teams, Rutger McGroarty is a name that gradually slipped in our scouting team’s rankings throughout the season, ultimately ending up at 27 in the final cut. Wiinpieg selected the sturdy forward at 14th overall during an unpredictable first round, and there are plenty of reasons as to why they chose to do so. First and foremost, his shot is heavy and accurate and he uses his strength to get into soft areas of the ice where he can let it rip and leave the goalie with minimal chance of stopping it. Tallying 35 goals in 54 games is a nice return, 15 goals in 25 against USHL competition, it’s clear that Rutger is a capable finisher when given the opportunity.
Despite not being the best skater, he works very hard to make up for it by being proactive and winning the cerebral matchup against his opposition and identifying open space on the ice, seeing where the play is heading towards, and getting there before the defense recognizes it. Once he gets to that space he can set up shop, win the physical battles, and capitalize on the opportunity that he was able to identify and seize. McGroarty’s skating is something that was criticized all season and there are concerns that he will struggle to match the pace of play at higher levels, this upcoming season at Michigan could provide him with a chance to begin ironing out the kinks and doing so in a competitive environment.
Ryan Chesley, D, University of Minnesota
Ending with one of my personal favorites from this draft class only seems right, and Ryan Chesley’s selection at 37th overall by Washington could be a very good one. He has many tools at his disposal, none more obvious or important than his mobility; he is a nightmare to try and beat one-on-one, as he keeps up with the puck carrier so well with sharp cuts and good edgework to maintain his positioning between the puck and the net. Chesley’s physical frame combined with his skating ability is a blend that every team covets and wishes they had on their blue line. He maintains very sound defensive positioning and keeps a tight gap to the puck carrier with his stick, and can quickly step to his man and tie him up against the boards and force a puck battle that is more likely to end in his favor than not.
His ability to make the correct decisions both on and off the puck is what makes him such an enticing player from the blueline. He has offensive tools and can see the plays develop, and while he may not always succeed in his endeavors, you can see the gears turning behind his eyes and he has been studying the game as it is being played. His shot from the point is a big part of his game as he has a real cannon and he is not afraid to use it, he averaged the most shot attempts and shots on goal per game from the blue line for the NTDP. His decision-making on when to shoot could use some refining as sometimes he gets a little too eager to force a shot on goal, but he is a capable powerplay option given his ability to move pucks and fire them on goal while providing great defensive cover. Chesley is someone whose game will be fun to watch, and he will play a feature role with the Golden Gophers in his upcoming freshman season.