Today we convey you our NHL Draft Confidential. This piece contains conversations I’ve had with NHL personnel over the previous weeks and months in regards to the prime names and the most important questions within the 2022 NHL Draft.
Draft protection can typically get slowed down an excessive amount of in private opinions, what folks like me take into consideration sure gamers or what I believe will occur. Ultimately, I’ve no sway in what’s going to occur on draft day. So we flip to the choice makers — the individuals who may have a say in the place the gamers go and who your favourite crew may choose — to inform you what the league actually thinks about this draft class.
As a be aware, references to “Scout 1” or “Executive 1” throughout varied questions don’t imply these solutions got here from the identical particular person. Meaning “Scout 1” might seem in numerous questions however could also be answered by completely different folks.
We begin on the prime. The No. 1 general choose is the primary and arguably greatest debate within the 2022 NHL Draft. Nearly everybody within the NHL world has an opinion about it and this matter dominated loads of my conversations with league personnel over the previous couple of months. The debate has centered on Kingston heart Shane Wright and TPS winger Juraj Slafkovsky in my conversations. There are outlier opinions advocating for USNTDP heart Logan Cooley at No. 1, however in my conversations across the league it’s largely change into about Wright vs. Slafkovsky.
So we begin off with that looming query: Who would you are taking in case you had the primary general choose within the 2022 draft?
NHL Scout 1: “It’s probably still Wright, but you’re not walking up to the podium excited to call that name.”
Scout 2: “I would take Wright. He didn’t have an amazing season, but it was still an excellent year. You combine that with the full body of work over his last few years and I think he’s the top guy.”
Scout 3: “People are too harsh on Wright because he doesn’t have the flashy highlights. I think he’s a stud. He makes a ton of plays, he can really shoot it, he plays with pace, he’s a great two-way center.”
Scout 4: “I would take Slafkovsky. He’s a difference maker, you saw it at the Hlinka, the Olympics, the Worlds. I’m not sure Wright is a difference maker type of player. There were a lot of games I wondered where the effort and drive to take over the game was from him.”
NHL Executive 1: “Ten months ago it was Wright with a bullet. Now it’s still Wright but you’re not feeling confident about it. He didn’t play like a No. 1 this year, but there’s still a ton to like about the player: You love his body of work. You know you’re getting a well-rounded NHL center at the minimum who can score and there is some star upside at the top.”
Scout 5: “I would take Slafkovsky. At first overall I want unique, scoring dominance and someone who steps up when it counts. He checks all those boxes for me. Look at his Olympics and World Championships and imagine trying to stop this guy game after game in an NHL playoff series. He’s well beyond a goal-scorer — the way he controls the puck and sees the game is special.”
Executive 2: “It’s definitely Wright for me. You look at the body of work between him and the alternatives and it’s not even close. I don’t know where this debate came from all of a sudden.”
Executive 3: “It would be Wright for me. He scored 39 goals as a U16. Nine goals and 14 points at the U18s as an underage. He’s a right-shot center with size, scoring touch and has a two-way game. Slafkovsky has closed the gap but I’m taking Wright and sleeping peacefully that night about it.”
Scout 6: “I would take Slafkovsky. The trajectory there is the deciding factor for me. Slafkovsky keeps getting better and better the more I watch him as time has gone on. Wright seems to have stagnated from where he was as a 15-year-old. This may be what he is.”
Scout 7: “It’s Slafkovsky for me and I don’t think it’s that close. Slafkovsky is a really unique prospect, he’s going to be a game breaker in the NHL.”
Scout 8: “I’m guessing we would pick Wright, and you’re basically hoping this is the next Brandon Saad or Cam Fowler where it was an off draft year but he bounces back right after. You’re probably really scared hoping for that at No. 1 though.”
Scout 9: “It would be Slafkovsky. You look at the upwards trajectory he’s on, you look at what wins in the playoffs and he’s got a lot of it. I think he has a lot more NHL attributes than Wright.”
Executive 4: “I would pick Wright, but I’m somewhat glad we didn’t get the No. 1 pick because there would have been a war in our draft meetings between him and Slafkovsky.”
The Winnipeg ICE had been one of the scouted groups on the earth this season. On prime of being a prime CHL crew, they’d two forwards in Conor Geekie and Matthew Savoie that had been extremely rated for years. At occasions they had been the crew’s prime two line facilities, however Savoie pushed to the wing extra within the second half.
So we requested: Who would you relatively have, Matthew Savoie or Conor Geekie?
Scout 1: “Geekie. He’s a true center, I’m not convinced Savoie is a center and it’s close enough that teams will take the center.”
Executive 1: “Savoie. He has legit top six offense. He has NHL pace, skill, compete. Geekie is just big and has skill, but there’s no motor in his game.”
Executive 2: “Savoie is too power-play reliant. I don’t see him driving a line in the NHL. Geekie will at least be able to use his size to win battles and help you a bit at evens so I lean Geekie.”
Scout 2: “I want to love the idea of Geekie but when I actually watch the ICE, Savoie just accomplishes more.”
Executive 3: “I would take Savoie. He’s a really good player, he will be a top six guy in the NHL. Geekie has the better toolkit but I think he can be too indifferent some games.”
Scout 3: “Geekie has a lot of upside, he’d have bigger point totals on a different team. I buy him as a top six NHL center so my preference would be him.”
Scout 4: “When he’s on, it’s Geekie. He’s a big center who can be physically imposing on his opponents and has legit skill. He’s so in and out though, so my preference is Savoie, who I think is much more consistent.”
After Slafkovsky goes, two of the very best remaining wingers are each European goal-scorers who’re right-shots with comparable frames in Joakim Kemell from Finland and Jonathan Lekkerimaki from Sweden. Which do some groups favor?
Scout 1: “Kemell for sure. He has the skill and the shot, but he has an edge to his game. Lekkerimaki doesn’t get inside, can’t push a line by himself.”
Exec 1: “Lekkerimaki would be my choice. Kemell is a good player, plays hard, but Lekke has a lot more skill and offensive upside.”
Scout 2: “It would be Kemell. There’s more pro there, the compete is quite good, and you saw how well he did versus men this season when healthy. Lekkerimaki there’s a lot of talent but a lot of projecting still left to do.”
Executive 2: “I would guess Kemell just based on what he did production-wise in Liiga. I think both are a little overhyped. There was a time where you thought both could go top 10, but I think one if not both of them will slide out of that range. It’s hard to sell your GM on small wingers who aren’t special at the top of the draft.”
Coming into the season, it was broadly anticipated that Brad Lambert would go close to the highest of the draft. He’d been on the draft radar for years and has at all times seemed like a dynamic ahead. There had been some warning indicators that his inventory would possibly slip — equivalent to his so-so U18 World Championship in 2021 and U20 summer season showcase — but it surely wasn’t till his Liiga season began and he wasn’t scoring that the rumor mill beginning buzzing about him falling. After he switched Liiga groups and nonetheless didn’t rating, it begged the query: What do you do about Brad Lambert’s season?
Executive 1: “If you’re thinking of stepping up in the top 10 or 12 and taking him thinking he’s so talented he’ll figure it out, you’re kidding yourself. In the back half of the first when the next best alternative has nowhere near the tools he has then it will start to make more sense.”
Scout 1: “I would take him somewhere in the teens. He didn’t have a great season, but you have to remember all he’s done before, and how good the skating and skill package is.”
Executive 2: “He’s not for me. I’ve seen little progress in his game year over year. The skating is awesome but there’s not much else there that interests me, lot of circling the perimeter, doesn’t make many plays. We’ll let someone else take him.”
Executive 3: “People talk about how talented he is, but outside a couple World Junior games when I watched him this season he didn’t really accomplish anything. If I had a top 20 pick I would hope to get a better player.”
Marco Kasper is a participant whose inventory saved going up because the season went alongside. He performed very nicely within the SHL playoffs and held his personal on the World Championships. He ended prime 10 on my private record, however not everybody agrees with that slotting. So I requested groups: Are you shopping for the Marco Kasper hype?
Scout 1: “I’m in on him as a top 15 pick, maybe even top 10. His compete and character are excellent. The offense isn’t all-world, but he has good skills and plays a pro-style game.”
Executive 1: “I think you’re for sure getting a player. He’s a third line center all day. Can he be a 2? I’m not sold there’s enough offense there.”
Executive 2: “I’ve thought third line forward most of the season, but towards the end he started to persuade me there may be more offense to his game. I could buy a second line center but top 10 seems a little rich.”
Scout 2: “I think he’s a stud. If we had a top five pick he would be in our conversation. I think he does a lot of things at a clear NHL level.”
While there could also be some outlier opinions within the scouting world, virtually each scout I speak to believes Czech defenseman David Jiricek and Slovak Simon Nemec are alone as the highest tier of D-men. So it begs the query: In this draft class, who’s the very best defenseman?
Executive 1: “I would take Nemec. His hockey sense is elite. Jiricek is great but I always just lean to the guy who thinks it better.”
Scout 1: “It’s really close for me between Nemec and Jiricek. I lean Nemec, but it may come down to what traits you prioritize and what type of defenseman you need in your org.”
Scout 2: “I would prefer Jiricek. It’s tight, but I think Jiricek has more pro upside, his size and physical play will translate better to the NHL.”
Executive 2: “Jiricek is a guy who is easier to imagine having success in the NHL. He’s not as good, but you look at what Moritz Seider has been for Detroit, I think you are hoping this guy steps in and plays that kind of game.”
And after these two are off the board, there’s some debate within the scouting world about who the following greatest defenseman is. So we requested scouts: Who is the third greatest defenseman within the draft (presuming Jiricek and Nemec are prime two in some order)?
Scout 1: “Denton Mateychuk. Kevin Korchinski and Pavel Mintykuov have the flashy talent but they don’t play defense. Mateychuk can make plays and competes in his own end even though he lacks size at 5-foot-11.”
Scout 2: “I think Mintyukov would have the slight edge on talent, but due to his Russian passport I would take Korchinski.”
Executive 1: “I say Korchinski but with the caveat that I think it’s a massive drop from 2 to 3 on the D list. I wouldn’t take any non-Nemec/Jiricek defensemen in the top 15.”
Scout 3: “It’s Lane Hutson for me. I get the size concerns but all he does is makes plays. He’s an elusive skater, and he has a high compete level. He was one of the best players in every game I saw him.”
Scout 4: “It’s for sure Korchinski. He could be a top 10 pick. He’s a dynamic player, a guy you’re projecting as the next Shea Theodore.”
Executive 2: “It’s Korchinski for me. Don’t over think this one. He’s 6-2, he’s a great skater, he makes a ton of plays. The upside is really high in his game.”
Kevin Korchinski and Pavel Mintyukov are two of the highest rated defensemen within the draft. They are each extremely entertaining prospects to look at with dimension, skating and ability. The massive debate with scouts all season is: Do Korchinski and Mintyukov defend nicely sufficient to be excessive picks?
Executive 1: “I think both are overrated for that reason, I don’t think either think it well enough in their ends or care enough about defending. They get you excited with their rushes and o-zone play but they’ll frustrate the hell out of coaches.”
Executive 2: “I’m not as worried about it with Korchinski. The ice tilts when he’s on the ice, he must be doing something right in his own end. Mintyukov I don’t think tries to play defense, but I think part of that is what the team told him to do.”
Scout 1: “Mintyukov is a little wild with his pinches, but he plays hard and can be heavy on his checks. I think you can work with him. Korchinski just never engages physically, I’m worried he’ll get pushed around in the NHL.”
Scout 2: “Do I think they’re great defensively? No. But I’m not that concerned about it. They’ll generate so much offense and help you in transition that on balance you’ll be really happy to have them on your team.”
One participant who has risen up the boards is Swiss defenseman Lian Bichsel. Bichsel is a big, bodily defenseman with good ft for his body. He doesn’t have a lot of a historical past of placing up factors, so the query is: Does Bichsel have sufficient offense to be a prime 4 defenseman?
Executive 1: “Not for me. I like him but I don’t see enough there to do it in the first round. He’s just big and physical.”
Executive 2: “I think so. People are sleeping on this guy, not dissimilar to how they slept on Moritz Seider in his draft year. I don’t think he’s as good as Seider, but there are rhymes in their games.”
Executive 3: “If he’s top four, it’s a No. 4 probably due to the puck-moving game.”
There aren’t many 5-foot-11 defensemen who can play prime 4 minutes within the NHL. Is Denton Mateychuk the following one?
Executive 1: “Where a lot of the public lists have him like top 15 is rich, I just don’t think that’s reality and where he fits in a draft. Once you get to 20-25, that’s where it starts to make more sense, where the talent level will be so much higher than the alternatives you’re willing to take on the size risks.”
Scout 1: “I like him. He steadily grew on me as the season went along. I think you can get higher upside defensemen in the front half of the first like Korchinski and Mintyukov, but in the back half he’s more in play for us.”
Scout 2: “I don’t see it. I get the skating and the skill, but there aren’t many top four D who look like him.”
Scout 3: “I’m a believer. He makes a ton of plays, his team always has the puck when he’s on the ice. His skating is excellent so I think it will work in the NHL.”
Executive 2: “If he was 6-1 we would be talking about him in the top five of the draft.”
U.S. National Team Development Program
When the season began, Logan Cooley was thought-about the highest USNTDP participant by a transparent margin for the 2022 draft. Then there was a bunch of a number of different gamers who might be second-best — equivalent to forwards Isaac Howard, Jimmy Snuggerud, Frank Nazar, Cutter Gauthier and defenseman Ryan Chesley. Top 2023 prospect Charlie Stramel and heart was injured for the primary half of the season, and thus Gauthier, who usually lined up at wing, received prolonged time down the center. He excelled when he did and it was when watching a 6-2/6-3 heart who can skate, present offense and play the center that the NHL hype practice actually began to construct. He performed the center on the All-American Prospects Game as nicely.
By the top of the season, it’s change into clear he’ll be the No. 2 USA participant, however given how a lot of a riser he’s been, simply how excessive can Cutter Gauthier go?
Scout 1: “I think he could go top three, he has immense pro potential. I’m not sure Cooley is a better pro prospect.”
Scout 2: “He could be a top five pick for sure, especially for a team that covets those big, fast, hard type of players. I wouldn’t rule out even top 3, although top 5 is more realistic.”
Scout 3: “I would project him between 4-8. I would guess that’s where most of the league has him, with a third higher having him higher or lower than there.”
Executive 1: “He will go top 10, but I would personally have reservations on him there. The tools are awesome, he’s big, fast, strong, can shoot it as well as anyone but his brain concerns me.”
Talked to Cutter Gauthier on the mix right now. He stated many of the groups he is interviewed with see him as a middle as a professional. He additionally stated Boston College plans to make use of him at heart subsequent season.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) June 2, 2022
Executive 2: “He’ll be a prime 10 choose however his ceiling is 6. I believe there’s a grouping on the prime of 5 gamers: Wright, Cooley, Slafkovsky, Nemec and Jiricek who’ve distinguished themselves.
Scout 4: “He’ll go somewhere between 4-7. I think he’s a guy teams will keep talking themselves into bumping up their list as draft day approaches due to how toolsy he is.”
Given the aforementioned grouping of gamers, who’s the third greatest participant on the USNTDP (presuming Gauthier is second)?
Executive 1: “It’s clearly Nazar for me. His skating is awesome, he plays on the inside, he has a lot of skill. I think the potential there is really enticing.”
Scout 1: “I would take Snuggerud. He’s continued to get better and better, he’s so far ahead of where he was a year ago. He’s big, skilled, competes, and can score. I think he’s scratching the surface.”
Scout 2: “I saw the remark from Nazar about your scouting report that he can be like Brayden Point. That’s high, but I don’t think he’s that far off. He’s a big time talent whose game will work as a pro.”
Scout 3: “It’s Rutger McGroarty. His compete is elite, he has skill, he scores, he has good hockey sense. The feet are tough but you know he’s going to work at it to improve that area.”
Lane Hutson has been some extent of debate for some time in scouting circles. He’s clearly among the finest gamers in his age group. He is 5-foot-8 although and never an elite skater, and there are so few defensemen within the NHL who appear to be that. So will Lane Hutson make it?
Executive 1: “I love watching him play, he’s probably one the most entertaining players in the draft, but I can’t see us picking him, I just don’t see it working in the NHL.”
Executive 2: “I’m a believer. Torey Krug, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Grzelcyk, this guy’s next. He’s a unique small defenseman.”
Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the talk surrounding Russian gamers within the NHL Draft hasn’t stopped. It’s going to be an enormous matter on this draft and doable future drafts too. So what do groups assume will occur with Russian gamers within the draft? What will they do?
Scout 1: “Those are calls that are going to be at the GM level, ownership level. For the scouts, they’re talent evaluators. Our job is to tell our superiors where the players fit on talent. I will deliver my list to my superiors, not taking into account anyone’s passport, and if they want to skip Russian players due to various considerations that’s their decision to make.”
Scout 2: “I think you’ll still see three Russians in the first: Mintyukov, Danila Yurov and Ivan Miroshnichenko, but in general I think the top guys will slide a little and the B/C rated guys will fall a lot.”
Scout 3: “We’re not picking any Russians, I can tell you that. Those orders came from way over my head.”
Executive 1: “I don’t remember the NHL sending out any memos that we needed to waive all Russian players, so I’m confused why we should approach the 18-year-olds any differently.”
Scout 4: “One third of the league likely sees an opportunity to get some good players at value, another third will take them but only when they’re clearly the best player available, and another third will say ‘no thank you.’”
Most scouts contemplate Danila Yurov a prime 10 participant on this draft on expertise. However, he’s nonetheless in Russia, with one other yr on his KHL contract remaining. With the considerations on his passport, and the priority in regards to the league he performs in at its highest ranges in over 10 years, the place does Yurov go within the draft?
Executive 1: “I can’t see a team considering him in the top half of the draft. He’s top 10 on talent, but if he’s close to the next best player the GMs are going to pick the next best player. I don’t think serious conversations start with him until about 20.”
Executive 2: “He won’t go close to where he belongs on talent, but after 15 I think it’s going to be too tantalizing for a team. He’s a big-time player.”
Executive 3: “Everyone’s going to have a top tier of guys. For some it’s 8, 10, 12 players deep. It will depend. After those guys are all gone, you have to start talking about Yurov because the next best guy on your list won’t be close to the player he is.”
Executive 4: “I think he could get out of the first round or go very late in the first. We love the player, but I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on managers to not go that route.”
Plenty of the crew sources I speak to concentrate to what individuals are saying in media circles, public discourse and rankings. So I used to be curious the place they thought folks like me had been method off. I first requested who has the very best probability to crack the highest 10 exterior the standard consensus names? Are there any potential surprises on the market?
Scout 1: “Kevin Korchinski. He kept getting better as the season went along. He’s got a lot of pro upside.”
Executive 1: “Jiri Kulich. He looked the part in front of a ton of general managers and scouting directors in Germany at the U18s. I think that will be influential.”
Scout 2: “Noah Ostlund. He was the best player at the U18s even if he wasn’t named MVP.”
Scout 3: “It’s Korchinski. He’s a lot closer to Jiricek/Nemec than most people are giving him credit for.”
Scout 4: “Nathan Gaucher. He’s a big right-shot center, he plays hard, I think there’s some offense there. He played well in front of a lot of GMs at the CHL showcase game too.”
Scout 5: “It’s not the question you asked, but I think people are sleeping on Lekkerimaki in the top five. When you talk pure skill and offensive upside there aren’t many better in this class.”
Scout 6: “Marco Kasper is my vote. He finished very well between the SHL playoffs and the Worlds. There’s a lot there to like from an NHL standpoint, he’s shown he can do it versus men, and he’s highly competitive.”
And on the flip aspect, I then requested who’s probably the most overrated prospect among the many consensus prime 10 or so names? Who has the most important probability to slip?
Scout 1: “Joakim Kemell. I like the shot and skill, but I don’t see him as a driver in the NHL. I think he’s close to a finished product physically too.”
Executive 1: “I think it’s Lekkerimaki. He’s got great skill and an elite shot, but I think he can be a bit of a passenger at even-strength. He drifts to the perimeter, can’t be the engine on a line. On the power play you love him, but I want more at the top of the draft.”
Executive 2: “Probably Yurov and it has nothing to do with the player — just due to his passport. He may not go top 20.”
Executive 3: “I don’t get the Conor Geekie hype. I get the big center thing. We all want big centers. He has skill but it’s not elite skill, he doesn’t skate that well and his compete is average at best.”
Scout 2: “I think it’s Shane Wright. For a guy who is a presumptive No. 1, when I watch him it doesn’t jump out to me. I have to put the pieces together and overthink on why he’s No. 1. It doesn’t mean he’s not great but at the top spot I want it to be obvious.”
Scout 3: “I would struggle taking either of Savoie or Lekkerimaki where they’re projected right now. They are great players, they will score in the NHL, but I’m not convinced you win with players like that.”
Executive 4: “I’m guessing it’s Kemell. He kinda came back to earth in the second half of the season after that run he went on. That 5-foot-9 ½ measurement at the combine didn’t help his cause either.”
It’s a close to common opinion that the 2022 draft class is a weak one for goaltenders. However, we nonetheless anticipate loads of goalies to be picked and there are two consensus goalie prospects that groups have keyed in on: Tyler Brennan from Prince George and Topias Leinonen from JYP. So who’s the very best goalie and the place would groups goal them?
Scout 1: “I think it’s Topias Leionen. He’s 6-4 and athletic. He’s got a lot of warts outside that but that’s the guy teams will want to work with and see if they can mold him.”
Goalie scout 1: “I would take Tyler Brennan. He’s a boring top goalie but I think he plays and could back up for you. Leinonen is more talented but he drives me crazy watching him.”
Executive 1: “It would be Brennan for me but I wouldn’t start to think about a goalie until the late second/early third round.”
Executive 2: “I guess it’s Brennan but you’re not excited to call that name.”
Scout 2: “Do I have to pick one or can I just say pass this year.”
Scout 3: “I think it’s clearly Leinonen. He’s a first round talent even if he didn’t have that type of year. You work with him, be patient and you could get a real player.”
Scout 4: “I’ll go off the consensus and pick Hugo Havelid. You look at what Dustin Wolf did in the AHL this season, I think this guy is just as good as Wolf.”
To finish this piece, I did an off-the-cuff ballot of scouts, asking them varied questions in regards to the prime prospects on this yr’s draft. What follows is a listing of questions centered totally on who has the very best instruments. Players are listed in alphabetical order, and solely proven right here in the event that they received a number of vote from a scout to the proposed query.
Who is the very best skater you noticed this season?
Which prospect has the very best puck abilities?
Luca Del Bel Belluz
Which prospect has the very best hockey sense?
Luca Del Bel Belluz
Who has the very best shot?
Who was probably the most aggressive prospect you noticed this season?
Who is the very best re-entry prospect within the 2022 draft?
(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos: Chris Tanouye / Getty; Andrea Re / Live Media / AP)