2022 NHL draft: Grades for each team
The NHL draft is an opportunity to reset, or to set a new course altogether. Some teams do that by compiling picks, while others use assets to make trades.
The 2022 NHL draft saw a mixture of both, as well as some unpredictable selections. Here is a report card grade for each of the league's 32 teams.
Buffalo Sabres: A
Buffalo had and made three first-round picks - Matt Savoie, Jiri Kulich, and Noah Ostlund. If there is any knock on that list, it’s that all three are forwards, but when your blue line already features Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin, perhaps the worry disappears. It’s a lot of skill added to an already burgeoning forward group. Buffalo also took the first netminder of the draft, selecting Finnish goaltender Topias Leinonen 41st overall.
Montreal Canadiens: A
Heads turned, but only momentarily when Juraj Slafkovsky came off the board first overall. The big, scoring winger was thought by many to be the second best forward in the draft, and Montreal needed a centre. The Habs addressed that issue by trading for former third overall pick Kirby Dach. Later in the opening round, Montreal took Slovak Filip Mesar. Where the Canadiens truly won was with the first two picks of Day 2. Here they grabbed Owen Beck and Lane Huston, thought by many to be first-round talents. Huston in particular is among the best in the draft skill-wise; it was only his 5-foot-8 frame as a defender that scared teams. Montreal looks positioned for a rapid upward swing in its rebuild.
Seattle Kraken: A
How it happened, no one quite knows, but when Shane Wright fell to fourth overall, the Seattle Kraken were there to catch him. Now with Matty Beniers and Wright down the middle, Seattle has the foundation to win in the future. In Round 2, the Kraken stole another player with first-round skill in Jagger Firkus. Exceptionally creative, and dangerous from all areas of the offensive zone, when Firkus fills out, he could fill the net for the Kraken. On Day 2, Seattle took Ty Nelson 68th overall. The undersized blueliner could become a steal. Seattle also found good value from Tucker Robertson and David Goyette.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A
If Columbus had left this draft with only three picks, its choices of David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, and Luca Del Bel Belluz would have been enough. The Blue Jackets got two of the top five defenders in the draft, and there’s a legitimate chance Jiricek ends up being a player other teams regret allowing to slip to sixth. Columbus played by the rules and rankings, with few early round surprises, and perhaps that’s a good thing.
Minnesota Wild: A-
With two first-round selections, the Wild added Liam Ohgren 19th overall, and then stole Danila Yurov, considered by many to be a top 10 talent, at 24th. Beyond this pair, who both project as sure-fire NHLers, Minnesota did a tidy bit of work on Day 2 by adding Hunter Haight and Rieger Lorenz. Haight is an intelligent two-way centre, and Lorenz has late first-round upside.
Winnipeg Jets: A-
The Jets took two very different players in the opening round. Brad Lambert was once considered a top five prospect, and he is undoubtedly a high-skill performer. He could be a steal at No. 30. While some might say they reached for Rutger McGroarty at No. 14, no one can blame the Jets as there’s a lot to love about the hard-nosed, disruptive, momentum-driving game McGroarty plays. Beyond this pair, Winnipeg found value in Elias Salomonsson and Danil Zhilkin in the second and third rounds.
Anaheim Ducks: A-
There is a lot to like about the Ducks’ draft class. Pavel Mintyukov is one of the elite offensive defenders in the draft, and Noah Warren and Tristan Luneau add instant depth to a blue-line pool that was weak outside of current NHLer Jamie Drysdale. Anaheim addressed that organizational need with emphasis. The icing on the cake for Anaheim was grabbing big forward Nathan Gaucher in the opening round. The Ducks went into the draft with a clear goal to address their biggest team need, and they were successful.
Arizona Coyotes: B+
Choosing Logan Cooley over Wright at third overall was questionable, but the Coyotes restocked their prospect pool by volume alone. Moving up in the first round and then choosing Maveric Lamoureux, who would have been available later, was also a bit perplexing. With their other first-round pick the Coyotes made a safe choice by grabbing Conor Geekie at 11. In the second, Artyom Duda became the Coyotes' second blueliner, followed by Julian Lutz, who could turn into a late-blooming steal. If Geekie and Cooley turn out as planned, the Coyotes' draft could become an "A" but the players passed over with their third, 29th, and 36th picks could make a redraft down the road the reliving of a nightmare.
Carolina Hurricanes: B+
The Hurricanes' staff should earn praise for their 2022 draft class. What they were able to achieve without a first-round pick is impressive. Gleb Trikozov and Alexander Perevalov are both legitimate prospects who had a chance to go in the opening round. Perhaps they dropped to picks 60 and 71 because of the NHL’s hesitation toward Russian players, but it could benefit Carolina. Simon Forsmark was another astute pick, while Chaz Lucius is an intriguing sleeper who saw less spotlight on a deep USNTDP team, but could pan out as a middle-six forward. Carolina’s biggest steal could be fifth-round pick Vladimir Grudinin.
Chicago Blackhawks: B+
If you were to judge the Blackhawks on their three first-round picks - Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, and Sam Rinzel - it’s a good day. In fact, those three players based on the draft alone could earn an “A” grade for the Blackhawks. General manager Kyle Davidson is either a genius, or made rookie mistakes in the mixed messaging of the day. He traded two of his youngest stars, 21-year-old Dach and 24-year-old Alex DeBrincat, who both looked like part of the future solution. In terms of talent, there’s no telling if the Blackhawks won or lost.
Washington Capitals: B+
Everyone is hoping this draft grade becomes an “A” for the Capitals. It very well could if Ivan Miroshnichenko’s health concerns are in the past. He’s a top 10, perhaps top five talent, and the Capitals claimed Miroshnichenko at 20th. Ryan Chesley was another player some scouts had in the top 20 and the Capitals selected the steady USNTDP defender at 37th. Washington played it safe the rest of the way, adding good depth.
New Jersey Devils: B
For an organization that needed defenders, grabbing Simon Nemec and Seamus Casey, two of the best puck-moving blueliners who both thrive in transition, was a win. Could the Devils have traded back, especially with Wright and Cooley on the board and still selected Nemec while picking up another asset? Almost certainly. But it’s a hypothetical we’ll never get answered. Big netminder Tyler Brennan has potential for the future. With the talent the Devils have in their system, selecting for organizational need was wise, even if they left talent on the table.
Philadelphia Flyers: B
Taking Cutter Gauthier at fifth overall is a pick loved by many, and questioned by some. Gauthier jumped up the rankings at the end of the season, seemingly following the NHL combine when scouting opportunities were over. He had a great U-18 World Championship and will be an NHL contributor, but if he belonged at fifth will only be seen in the future. Devin Kaplan, another USNTDP player has great potential.
Detroit Red Wings: B-
Don’t question Steve Yzerman. At least not yet. The team needed a centerman and secured that position at No. 8 by choosing Austrian Marco Kasper. Next up they selected USHL Rookie of the Year Dylan James. The draft day pick up of Ville Husso was another coup for Yzerman. What followed is where this draft will be judged for the Wings. The Red Wings swung for the fences with Dmitri Buchelnikov, and then did what they’ve become known for, picking lesser known Europeans like Anton Johansson and Maximilian Kilpinen.
St. Louis Blues: B-
None of St. Louis’ first four picks were outrageous. Jimmy Snuggerud is intriguing. On the stacked USNTDP it was hard to tell if Snuggerud was the benefactor of the skill that surrounded him, or if he was the catalyst. Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, a Finnish forward has a lot of upside as well.
Nashville Predators: B-
Some people saw Joakim Kemell as a top 10 player, and he could still become one of the top scorers from this draft class. Adam Ingram was a nice pickup at 82nd overall, but the Predators, who had holes on the blueline in their organizational depth chart did little to address the issue.
Tampa Bay Lightning: B-
Isaac Howard can have a one-track mind, but when his thought is to score and score often, it could be worse. His team play is a question mark, but there’s a lot to love, and he showed his personality on the draft floor, something the NHL needs more of. It was surprising to see Howard still available at 31st overall, but for the Lightning it was a case of the rich getting richer. Lucas Edwards was one of the most talked about overage players in the draft, and could be closer to the NHL than many.
Vancouver Canucks: B-
Vancouver was gifted Jonathan Lekkerimaki at No. 15. Many viewed his skill as top 10 worthy. He’s creative, he can score, he finds passing lanes where none exist, and he could be thrilling to watch alongside fellow Swede Elias Pettersson…no, not the Elias Pettersson the Canucks drafted in Round 3. It’s hard to get overly excited about this group aside from Lekkerimaki.
Dallas Stars: C+
Picking up Lian Bichsel has major upside. It’s hard to miss the towering defender, and while the Stars may need to be patient with his development, the benefit is worth the wait. Defense was obviously a focus for the Stars, who chose blueliners, also including Christian Kyrou and George Fegaras, with their first four selections. It’s not a bad group, but it’s lacking firepower.
New York Islanders: C+
Looking back, trading the 13th overall pick for Alex Romanov could haunt the Islanders. They're looking to retool and rebound, so the move could actually pay off in the short term. Their Day 2 selections, particularly defenders Calle Odelius and Isaiah George could both end up in the NHL. Fifth-round selection Matt Maggio might be a steal. He had an excellent season in the OHL. Forfeiting their first-round pick pushed down this grade.
San Jose Sharks: C+
Hired only days before the draft, no one will hold this one against Mike Grier. Filip Bystedt was a questionable first-round pick. He has the tools to prove people wrong, but there were safer picks available. Perhaps the Sharks are those who dare to be bold. Cameron Lund was a nice selection in Round 2, and the Sharks used their other second-round pick on Mattias Havelid, one of the most skilled defenders in the draft. Havelid has sky-high upside, only overshadowed by his 5-foot-9 frame. The good news for Sharks fans is this class could turn to a B+ if Bystedt, or a few other high-risk, high-reward picks hit.
Ottawa Senators: C
With the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, the Ottawa Senators selected 24-year-old, perennial 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat. Not a bad choice. Beyond that, Ottawa is fortunate to already have a deep and emerging pool of prospects, as its 2022 draft class, which included nine players, was more about potential and long-term projects than sure things. The eye on future development was clear in the number of European and NCAA bound players the Senators chose. Perhaps their best pick was actually their third in Tomas Hamara, who was exceptional for Czechia at the men’s U-18 World Championship.
Los Angeles Kings: C
It’s hard to fault the Kings for using a pick to acquire Kevin Fiala. The team gained an immediate top-six player who can help it return to the postseason. Jack Hughes, selected 51st overall, likely factors into the Kings’ third line somewhere down the line, and could turn pro after next season having already spent a year in the NCAA. Los Angeles went huge with the final two picks of its seven-player draft class, taking 6-foot-8 defender Jack Sparkes and 6-foot-6 forward Kaleb Lawrence.
Pittsburgh Penguins: C
Seeing the Penguins step to the podium in the first round is a rarity. Seeing them select Owen Pickering, perhaps the defender with the most untapped potential in the draft was exciting. No one in the group will be NHL ready in the foreseeable future, with even Pickering best served returning to Junior, and then spending a year (or two) in the AHL. Beyond that, the timelines go even farther into the future, which isn’t ideal for a team headed for a decline.
New York Rangers: C
Selecting 63rd and 97th, the Rangers did well in finding Adam Sykora and Bryce McConnell-Barker. Sykora ended up playing for Slovakia’s senior men’s national team at the World Championship, and McConnell-Barker is an all-around forward who had a lot of love among scouts.
Vegas Golden Knights: C
Life in the NHL is going to catch up with the Vegas Golden Knights soon. As the team should know, the house always wins. And with fewer and fewer chips in the prospect pool, that time is coming. Taking Matyas Sapovaliv at 48th was good value, but beyond his selection, there is little guaranteed NHL help on the way from this group.
Toronto Maple Leafs: C
Fraser Minten looks like an NHL third-line player. But he also looks like the type of physical player Toronto needs (although his arrival will likely be near the end of the Leafs’ winning window). Dennis Hildeby, a 6-foot-6, 20-year-old netminder from Sweden could be a hidden gem. He didn’t play a lot this season, but the Leafs need a goalie, and his numbers were stunning.
Boston Bruins: C
This draft class will not inspire hope or confidence from Bruins fans. Matthew Poitras and USNTDP forward Cole Spicer are both decent prospects, but neither is a lock to contribute in the NHL. Some scouts were high on netminder Reid Dyck, who the Bruins spent a sixth-round pick on, but overall, it’s a lacklustre group without high-end talent.
Florida Panthers: C-
Selecting seven players in a seven-round draft, the Panthers could find a diamond in the rough. Their first pick, Marek Alscher, didn’t come until No. 93 in the third round. There is nothing wrong with Florida’s selections, but the group lacks star power and NHL certainty.
Edmonton Oilers: D
Nothing against Reid Schaefer, who some would say the Oilers reached for to close out the first round, but it was an underwhelming two days for Edmonton. The Zack Kassian trade was an embarrassing admission of guilt, and Edmonton did little to secure a brighter future. If Oilers fans aren’t seriously questioning and criticizing Ken Holland, they should be.
Calgary Flames: D
The Flames had only three picks. Their top selection, Finland’s Topi Ronni, could eventually turn into a third-line center. The cost of becoming a contender will soon catch up with Calgary’s prospect pool.
Colorado Avalanche: D
Who cares about draft picks weeks after winning a Stanley Cup? If you say it enough, it sounds true. The Avalanche made their first selection at 193rd overall, choosing Chris Romaine. Their second pick, netminder Ivan Zhigalov, was the final selection in the draft. But the Avs have a Stanley Cup and a core capable of repeating, so let’s cut the champs some slack.
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