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The 2022 NHL Draft is only hours away. While NHL draft rankings will differ and the discussion of potential trades has the final order of the opening round in doubt before it begins, here is a look at how the first round could play out. First up will be the Montreal Canadiens selecting in front of their home crowd, and the opening round will be capped off with the third pick of the Arizona Coyotes, acquired from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
Here is Yahoo Sports’ 2022 Mock NHL Draft:
1. Montreal Canadiens: Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): Kent Hughes has the opportunity to add Shane Wright, a player any team would covet, a player who can compete on both sides of the puck and lead the Canadiens back to contention. Whether he plays as their first or second line center, Shane Wright will change the landscape of his future team for the next decade.
2. New Jersey Devils: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS Turku (Liiga): Set down the middle with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, expect the Devils to take the top winger available, Juraj Slafkovsky. Having played against men in Liiga and the world championship, the 6-foot-4 Slovakian winger can slot directly into the Devils’ lineup without the pressures of needing to be a game-changer from Day 1. There was a lot of late talk about Slafkovsky being the top ranked prospect, and he could turn into that on a soon-to-be star studded Devils roster.
3. Arizona Coyotes, Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP: Things are not good in Arizona right now, but Logan Cooley, a likely top two centerman, can change some of that for the Coyotes. Cooley could step in immediately, but with how bad the Coyotes look to be again, the Arizona will happily protect Cooley allowing him to play a season in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota.
4. Seattle Kraken, Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia): It became clear at the NHL trade deadline the Kraken were in for the slow build. They traded away veterans, accumulating prospects and picks, so taking a franchise defender like Simon Nemec and allowing him time to patiently marinate, whether it be in protected NHL minutes or a season in the AHL, fits the bill. When he’s coming into his prime, the Kraken will be ready to turn the corner.
5. Philadelphia Flyers, Joakim Kemell, LW, JYP (Liiga): Despite the fact David Jiricek is likely the guy to go here, the Flyers need to find scoring, especially if they further dismantle their veteran core this year. Joakim Kemell would slot in well to the Flyers’ lineup, immediately if needed, and could prove to be the best pure scorer in the draft aside from perhaps Slafkovsky.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Chicago), David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Extraliiga): The Blue Jackets’ success rested heavily with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski on the blueline for multiple seasons. The duo was one of the best pairings in the NHL. That era is over however, and the Blue Jackets could go a long way in replenishing their back end by selecting Czechian blueliner David Jiricek, a player who drew comparisons to Moritz Seider this year.
7. Ottawa Senators, Cutter Gauthier, LW, USNTDP: The Sens are deep at every position in their prospect pool, so selecting for a position of want, Ottawa could target a winger. Cutter Gauthier saw a last minute rise up most draft boards following the combine and pre-draft interviews. While the talent surrounding him in the draft order could see Gauthier slide just outside the top 10, it would not be a reach to see the Ottawa Senators reach for the American star at No. 7.
8. Detroit Red Wings, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, RW, Djurgarden (SWE U20): As Steve Yzerman has proven in his two seasons running the draft for the Red Wings, rankings mean nothing. That said, Jonathan Lekkerimäki fits the type of high end skill Detroit has targeted recently. He could bring back a bit of the lustre lost when recent Wings legends Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk retired.
9. Buffalo Sabres, Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL): Matt Savoie could be the cherry on top for a youthful Sabres forward group that will add the likes of Peyton Krebs and Jack Quinn to an already full cupboard next season. If Savoie is still on the board, it’s because of concerns over his size, not skill. He’s dynamic and would be another incredible component to the future Sabres attack.
10. Anaheim Ducks, Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL): Anaheim needs help on the blueline, so the Ducks could break formation here and select for need. Kevin Korchinski is the logical next blueliner off the board. He saw his stock rise all season, so there’s nothing stopping the Thunderbirds defender from jumping into the top 10. Anaheim could also trade down here to add immediate help and still pick a valuable blueline prospect.
11. San Jose Sharks, Frank Nazar III, C, USNTDP: New GM Mike Grier will have an interesting decision to make in his first draft: does he play it safe or swing for the fences. Assuming a safe pick is the choice, US National Team Development Program standout Frank Nazar III would give the organization a heralded prospect who brings a variety of intangibles to the roster. Plus, seeing the success of the University of Michigan in developing elite players recently, Nazar will be in good hands next season.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets, Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omsk (VHL): Having already selected in the top 10, the Blue Jackets could use this pick as trade bait, or they could swing for the fences. Ivan Miroshnichenko was once considered a top five prospect until health concerns derailed his draft year. Miroshnichenko is back on the ice, and could turn into the steal of the draft… or be an average first round pick. Columbus can risk it here.
13. New York Islanders, Marco Kasper, C, Rogle (SHL): Marco Kasper’s name will be in the discussion in the first round’s second tier. He could be a player to watch when the Islanders step to the microphone. Kasper fits the Islanders' desperate need for a risk free prospect. New York’s youth is already in the NHL, and Kasper is closer to NHL ready than many prospects in the opening round having already played in the SHL, which could entice the Isles.
14. Winnipeg Jets, Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL): A hometown selection of big bodied Winnipeg Ice forward Conor Geekie would fit in many ways for the Jets. Winnipeg is losing recent first round pick Kristian Vesalainen back to Europe this season, and Geekie would replace his size and could usurp his upside. Perhaps as important, Geekie would have no issue playing in Winnipeg, a statement that isn’t true for every NHL player.
15. Vancouver Canucks, Brad Lambert, C, Pelicans (Liiga): No risk, no reward. Vancouver has a shallow prospect pool. Perhaps the team goes for a defender to address a specific organizational need, but seeing Vancouver swing for high-end skill and betting on their poor season as an aberration, not a trend, could see the team jump at Brad Lambert. Once considered a top five pick in this draft, Lambert has become polarizing. One thing is certain, he can dazzle, and if he does, he could be a game-changer in Vancouver. Seeing Lambert play alongside Elias Pettersson would be entertaining and down right exciting.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from Vegas), Danila Yurov, RW, Magnitogorsk (KHL): Having already selected once, the Sabres could take a “risk” here. Considered a top 10 prospect, Danila Yurov might slip due to the uncertainty surrounding Russian prospects. If he does slip, the Sabres will be ready to catch him with their second pick of the first round. More skill up front for an already stacked future Sabres forward corps.
17. Nashville Predators, Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Nashville has an organizational need on the blueline and could use its pick to grab one of the top offensive blueliners in the draft. Mintyukov excelled for Saginaw of the OHL and would feel at home in an organization used to watching the likes of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis join the rush and run the Predators’ power play.
18. Dallas Stars, Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL): With top prospect Thomas Harley moving to the NHL, there is no heir apparent to the blueline throne of Dallas’s prospect pool. Watch for the Stars to take a defenseman here and Swift Current Broncos' Owen Pickering oozes upside for a team in no rush to bring in their selection. Pickering moves well for a 6-foot-4 prospect, and although a few seasons away, has the chance to be something special when he arrives.
19. Minnesota Wild (from Los Angeles), Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP: The top rated player still on the board goes to the Wild here. Isaac Howard loves to score and showed that with Team USA at the under-18 world championship and all season with the USNTDP. As the main return for Kevin Fiala’s recent trade, Howard brings value to the exchange.
20. Washington Capitals, Jiri Kulich, C, HC Karlovy Vary (CZE): The Capitals seem to be a team that prefers European offensive talents in the opening round. They’ve veered from that path at times, but Jiri Kulich could get them back on that path. Watching Alex Ovechkin age, targeting a pure goal scorer like Kulich, who showed incredible upside in international competition this year, could add a next generation scorer to help slow the effects of Ovechkin’s twilight.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins, Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): Aside from P.O. Joseph, who is ready to step into the NHL, the Penguins don’t have a top end defensive prospect. Denton Mateychuk would rectify that issue. He’s exciting and brings an offensive element that will have Pens fans longing for Kris Letang’s youth smiling.
22. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston), Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USNTDP: Having grabbed their defender earlier in the draft, the Ducks could take Jimmy Snuggerud here. The team looks to have locked in a superstar from the USNTDP in Trevor Zegras, and going back to that team makes sense. Many believe Snuggerud to be an underrated and unheralded first round pick.
23. St. Louis Blues, Rutger McGroarty, LW, USNTDP: After winning the 2019 Stanley Cup, the St. Louis Blues know the type of player that puts a team over the top. Rutger McGroarty is that type of player. Hard to play against, physical and finds a way to score. His leadership in the USNTDP was well discussed. He looks like a Blues protoype who would complement their current core.
24. Minnesota Wild, Filip Mesar, RW, HK Poprad (SVK): Filip Mesar would look good in a Wild uniform. Having played professional men’s hockey this season, Mesar will need to come to North America to work out the transition in ice size, but he could become an affordable solution to the Wild’s ever evolving cap issues in the near future.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs, Liam Ohgren, LW, Djurgarden (SWE U20): Sticking to his skill first mentality, Kyle Dubas will be hard pressed to pass on Liam Öhgren. Internationally against peers, Öhgren looked dominant. Against men playing with Djurgårdens in the SHL, Öhgren showed flashes in limited time, but needs scoring line minutes. There is no need to rush in Toronto, but having a skilled top six replacement ready will be necessary at some point.
26. Montreal Canadiens (from Calgary), Lian Bicshel, D, Leksands IF (SHL): What will Kent Hughes do here? Well, he could trade the pick for roster help. Or, he could stick to the traditional rebuild plan and pick Lian Bichsel. With an elite forward group rounding into form, and several defensive prospects nearing NHL ready, Montreal could pick for a project player like the 6-foot-5, 225-pound blueliner. With his connections to the U.S. system, Hughes could also opt for skilled Seamus Casey.
27. Arizona Coyotes (from Carolina via Montreal), Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): Adding another safe pick who can be NHL ready in a few years in Nathan Gaucher makes sense for the Coyotes. There are higher risk, higher reward players available here, but Gaucher brings size and a power forward dimension to the desert with little risk.
28. Buffalo Sabres (from Florida), Seamus Casey, D, USNTDP: Not one, not two, but three first-round picks. As long as the Sabres don’t trade one of their selections, Seamus Casey would fit right into a puck-moving group anchored by Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin in the future. A USNTDP standout, Casey evades checkers and jumps into scoring position without significantly sacrificing defensive responsibilities.
29. Edmonton Oilers, Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): There is talk of trades from the Oilers and it’s been proven that the NHL’s elite scoring duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can’t win alone. Drafting Moose Jaw Warriors standout Jagger Firkus and seeing him beside these players soon would be an exciting addition to the Oilers. Exceptionally creative, a high hockey IQ, and with ability to play with pace, Firkus could be an affordable and effective sidekick to Edmonton’s perennial Art Ross challengers.
30. Winnipeg Jets (from Rangers), Ryan Chesley, D, USNTDP: With a forward already under locks, Winnipeg could and likely will diversify its second pick of the opening round (if they don’t trade it away) and choose a defender. Dependable Ryan Chesley has appeared high on several draft boards this year. Skill-wise, the USNTDP player is probably a second-round pick, but in terms of projecting a long term NHL player, Chesley has the tools to be a middle pairing defender who a team can depend on.
31. Tampa Bay Lightning, Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Luca Del Bel Belluz was the OHL Eastern Conference’s most improved player with the Mississauga Steelheads. With Tampa’s ability to develop, and patient approach, adding a player already on the ups has the potential to be a successful combination. A solid two-way player who could provide valuable secondary scoring in the NHL, Del Bel Belluz could go anywhere between picks 20-50 in the draft.
32. Arizona Coyotes (From Colorado), Lane Hutson, D, USNTDP: With two safe forwards already in the mix from this draft, Arizona can trade its third pick of the first round, as there are more than a dozen players who could go here. If the Coyotes want to keep the pick, swinging for a real game-changer makes sense here. Diminutive and dynamic Lane Hutson brings question marks as a 5-foot-8 defender, but his skills are absolutely meant for the first round.
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