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The 2022 NHL Entry Draft is almost upon us which means it’s time for our annual mock draft.  As is tradition, we’ve picked the entire first round.  In addition, we’ve also picked Montreal’s first four selections after the top round.

Joining me to pick the draft this past Tuesday (June 28th) were HW writers Norm Szcyrek and Kevin Leveille.  Montreal’s selections were made on a consensus basis while picks for the rest of the first round were made on an alternating basis; the writer for each pick is noted in the write-up.

#1 – Montreal Canadiens – Shane Wright, C, Kingston (OHL)

The top-rated North American prospect in the best major junior hockey league.  Wright joined the OHL as a 15-year-old, only the sixth underage player to be granted exceptional status.  He earned the Rookie of the Year award, scoring just over a point per game. The pandemic appeared to have hindered his development since he had a slow start to the 2021-22 season after nearly 18 months of pandemic shutdowns.  Shane turned up his offence for the second half, ending the regular season with 94 points in 63 games.  Wright does everything well, including his two-way play although he is not the type of player that pulls you out of your seat.  He has a Patrice Bergeron or Mika Zibanejad-like ceiling, and who wouldn’t want a player like that on their team?

#2 – New Jersey Devils – Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga)

(Brian) The debate of Wright versus Slafkovsky has been covered from all angles so I won’t rehash it here.  Slafkovsky has the tools to be a top-line winger if he can put everything together and play with consistency while his size (6’4) is certainly appealing.  He also happens to be a perfect fit for what the Devils need as they’re in good shape down the middle with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier while Alexander Holtz is showing plenty of promise on the right side.  Slafkovsky would fit their front line of the future quite nicely.

#3 – Arizona Coyotes – Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP (USHL)

(Kevin) Arizona is in no rush to win so waiting a year on Cooley and taking the player that has the highest ceiling of the entire draft was an easy selection once Wright was off the board. Cooley is the most dynamic player in this draft and his ability to make plays at high speed, his willingness to play in the dirty areas, and his intelligence make him a top-six option up the middle even when moving up to the NHL.

#4 – Seattle Kraken – Simon Nemec, RD, HK Nitra (Slovakia)

(Norm) The Kraken have a big need for many pieces to get their franchise off the ground.  Their team has practically no depth at all positions.  There are likely to be two solid, right-shooting defencemen available, both capable of becoming their team’s number one blueliner. I lean towards Nemec who has more offensive upside.  Simon played well at the highest Slovakian league; he began in that league at age 15.  Nemec is a mobile defenceman, who plays a very mature game overall.  His offensive game is very good, and he finished the postseason strong, scoring 17 points in 19 games, to lead all defencemen in scoring.

#5 – Philadelphia Flyers – Cutter Gauthier, LW/C, USNTDP (USHL)

(Brian) Power forwards always carry high value around the league and they tend to go early in drafts so I could see the Flyers leaning this way, especially with an intention to become a grittier team.  It’s encouraging to hear that Gauthier will be used down the middle at Boston College which only bolsters his upside as well.  He can play in all situations which makes him a safe bet to play in the top six and if he does move to the wing, a spot on the top line is certainly doable.  While Gauthier is going the college route, he should move to the pros fairly quickly.

#6 – Columbus Blue Jackets – Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)

(Kevin) With an already deep prospect pool, the Blue Jackets swing for the fences with the Savoie selection. While smaller in size, he ranks above average in all the scoring tool departments. He plays a heavy game too despite his size and for someone this skilled, he plays with an edge which makes him a perfect fit for an Eastern Conference team that plays a Western-style game.

#7 – Ottawa Senators – Brad Lambert, C, Pelicans (Liiga)

(Norm) The Canadian-Finnish speedster has very strong offensive skills but has struggled somewhat the past two seasons in the Finnish top league. He likely was rushed up the ranks after dominating the Finnish junior league.  Brad was rated as a potential top-five player before the season began, and although he did not shine as bright as expected, he still has a pro-level skillset in many categories.  Lambert may end up shifted to the wing at the NHL level, and the Senators could use a strong prospect on the right side. He needs more time to develop, but he could be one of the biggest surprises from this draft.

#8 – Detroit Red Wings – David Jiricek, RD, Plzen (Czechia)

(Brian) Is this really Detroit’s biggest need?  Not really, but it’d be hard to pass up the value here.  There’s a case to be made for Jiricek as the best defenceman of this draft class as a two-way threat with a strong shot.  He has his weaknesses – skating is a big one – and a knee injury that cost him most of the year certainly doesn’t help in that regard.  But if everything pans out, Jiricek could be a top-pairing defender and at this point of the draft, that would be a great pick-up.  I’m skeptical that Filip Hronek is part of their long-term plans so in a couple of years if he moves on, Jiricek would step into that spot quite nicely.

#9 – Buffalo Sabres – Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)

(Kevin) What Buffalo selects here is a physical sniper who wants to score on every shift. His ability to elevate his game in crucial moments and his desire to win are what really make him stand out. He’ll have the perfect mentor to round out his game in Buffalo in Alex Tuch, so this might be the best place for this small bulldog to end up. This is a high-floor pick that fits the needs of the Sabres who already have Victor Olofsson and Tuch at the position for now.

#10 –Anaheim Ducks – Denton Mateychuk, LD, Moose Jaw (WHL)

(Norm) A very mobile defenceman who enjoys jumping into the rush with aplomb.  His puck-carrying skills are elite at this level.  Denton is arguably the best skater in this draft among defenders.  In his own zone, he also defends very well.  His hockey sense is excellent.  The Ducks moved two veteran defencemen before the trade deadline so they very much need to replenish their depth in that department.

#11 – San Jose Sharks – Kevin Korchinski, LD, Seattle (WHL)

(Brian) There are a few words that come to mind regarding San Jose’s back end.  Overpaid, overrated, and disaster are some of them.  The prospect pool doesn’t have a lot either so this is one of those areas where team need and BPA line up nicely.  Korchinski has the offensive skill set to be an impact defender and as he fills out and learns to play a more mature defensive game, he should become a well-rounded player over time.  If his playmaking finds another gear, he could be a top-pairing player and if not, he’d fit in nicely inside their top four just as their aging veterans are getting ready to retire.

#12 – Columbus Blue Jackets – Pavel Mintyukov, LD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

(Kevin) After selecting Savoie at #6, the raw potential of the offensively gifted Mintyukov was just too much to pass up on at this point. The Jackets already have Zach Werenski and Adam Boqvist at the position, but Mintyukov is a player that will need some seasoning on the defensive side of things. His raw talent is undeniable as he scored at a near-point-per-game pace on a team that was in the basement in terms of scoring in the OHL.

#13 – New York Islanders – Liam Ohgren, LW/C, Djurgardens (SWE Jr.)

(Norm) An excellent skater with both acceleration and speed, combined with a high compete level. Ohgren is a very good two-way player also, with high-level hockey sense and passing skills.  Has a pro-sized body already, and played well enough in the Swedish men’s league, although he got little ice time.  While playing in the Swedish junior league, he was the most dominant scorer, setting a record for 1.93 points per game.  He has a very deceptive shot, that he can launch in different ways to foot a goaltender.

#14 – Winnipeg Jets – Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)

(Brian) What once looked like a long-term solution down the middle in Winnipeg isn’t looking so certain now.  Pierre-Luc Dubois doesn’t want to sign a long-term deal and Mark Scheifele’s future seems murky as well.  The prospect pool isn’t great either so this is more of a needs-based pick than BPA.  Geekie plays a physical style that should fit in well in the Western Conference and while he probably isn’t a future top centre, he should be able to slot in on the second line.  The Jets should have had more viewings of him than anyone else so if he doesn’t wind up going here, it might be a bit of a red flag.

#15 – Vancouver Canucks – Frank Nazar, C, USNTDP (USHL)

(Kevin) With rumours of a J.T. Miller trade, drafting a centre might be the most logical thing for the Canucks. However, Nazar is a smaller player and may end up moving to the wing at the next level. I think this is the steal of the first round, as many rank Nazar as a high-ceiling player who skates like the wind and has fantastic vision. Some have even compared his ceiling to Cooley. Much like Cole Caufield a few years ago, if that amount of skill slips this far, there should be no hesitation for Vancouver.

#16 – Buffalo Sabres – Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgardens (SWE Jr.)

(Norm) Lekkerimaki is a pure sniper and is able to shoot in different ways from anywhere on the ice to fool goaltenders.  He’s a strong skater also, capable of carrying the puck into the offensive zone and then setting up a teammate for a good scoring chance. Jonathan is one of the biggest risers in this draft, partly due to an outstanding performance at the Under-18 tournament this spring. Lekkerimaki is a decent defensive player, capable of playing well both ways. He can be inconsistent in that aspect of the game, but that’s common with forwards who are focussed on first-line duties.

#17 – Nashville Predators – Marco Kasper, C, Rogle (SHL)

(Brian) There’s a lot of projection with Kasper compared to others in the top half of the draft which makes him a candidate to slip a bit.  He’s a very safe selection and his floor is a physical power centre that can play an important role for a long time.  But will his offensive game, which needs a lot of work, develop enough for him to become a top-six player?  The question mark is enough to drop Kasper out of the top ten and the Predators, whose future centre depth isn’t great, would make sense as a landing spot.

#18 – Dallas Stars – Danila Yurov, LW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)

(Kevin) Yurov is a higher floor guy which is perfect for Dallas who already has Jason Robertson at the position for years to come. His ceiling is likely as a second-line winger, but he accomplished a rare feat by getting, and staying with his KHL club as a 17-year-old which displays the maturity in his game. He plays a 200-foot game, but also showed some flashes of wow when playing in the MHL earlier in the season. The challenge might be getting him to North America.

#19 – Minnesota Wild – Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omsk (VHL)

Editor’s Note: When the mock draft was done, this pick belonged to Los Angeles before being traded to Minnesota in the Kevin Fiala trade.

(Norm) Ivan was expected to be a potential top-five pick before the season started. However, a diagnosis of non-Hodgins Lymphoma set him back this season. The reports out of Russia state he has responded well to treatment and started to train again for next season. He is an enticing combination of size, speed, and skill. He both fits a need at left wing and has top-six talent; Ivan was in discussion for a top-five pick before the season started but the non-Hodgins diagnosis set that back but he’d be good value for anyone in the back half of the draft.

#20 – Washington Capitals – Noah Ostlund, C, Djurgardens (SWE Jr.)

(Brian) Ostlund’s stock appears to be on the rise with one of the biggest negatives being that he simply isn’t that big.  He has a good all-around game and a high motor that will fit in well on any team.  Washington has stocked up on centres a bit lately but if Ostlund can develop, his playmaking abilities will make him a quality top-six piece.  Besides, if all of their centre picks were to pan out, one could always be traded down the road.

#21 – Pittsburgh Penguins – Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

(Kevin) A big body who needs to develop his skating but has a booming shot and plays a power game, he seemed like a very truculent Brian Burke pick. He also plays intelligently to overcome the skating disadvantage. If he can find a play-driving centre, like, say, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, he could easily find himself on the right side of 20 goals.

#22 – Anaheim Ducks – Jiri Kulich, C/LW, Karlovy (Czechia)

(Norm) Good offensive skills, with a heavy yet accurate shot.  Kulich is a strong leader and is very positionally sound, especially in defensive situations.  Very competitive on both the forecheck and backcheck, Jiri has great speed to help compliment both.  Like a few other top prospects in this draft, he had a slow start to the season but finished very strong with nine goals in six games during the Under-18 spring tournament.  Although he played centre this season, his skill set may be better suited to play on the wing when he’s ready for the NHL.

#23 – St. Louis Blues – Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands (SHL)

(Brian) There are some teams that are still big proponents of having a bigger player on the back end and with how much St. Louis showed interest in Ben Chiarot at the trade deadline, I’m inclined to think they’re one of them.  Bichsel isn’t just a big guy that can clog up lanes either, there is a developing offensive skillset in there.  He’s definitely a project defender but with their top three blueliners signed through 2026-27 at a minimum, they can afford to look at a project on the back end.

#24 – Minnesota Wild – Rutger McGroarty, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

(Kevin) One of the best shots in the class and his ability to be a strong presence in board battles make him a complementary piece to play alongside Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, Tyson Jost, and Marco Rossi. The Wild will need to compete with the Avalanche and Blues for the foreseeable future, so they’ll need a bit more of the physical edge that McGroarty can bring when space is restricted.

#25 – Toronto Maple Leafs – Filip Mesar, RW/C, HK Poprad (Slovakia)

(Norm) A small but offensively gifted forward, Mesar has played in the Slovakian men’s league for most of the last two seasons.  He’s got a lot of offensive skill and is a great skater who’s very quick, elusive, and a great puck handler.  He likes to use his speed to create turnovers while his skating could even get better after he physically matures.  Filip’s skating style also grants him a low centre of gravity, so he’s difficult to knock off the puck despite his small stature.  His style will fit in well with a puck-possession team.

#26 – Montreal Canadiens – Ryan Chesley, RD, USNTDP (USHL)

Ryan is an excellent skater, who’s equally good moving in any of the four directions.  He has decent size for a draft-eligible defenceman and has some untapped offensive potential that has not yet come through. When he’s given only defensive responsibilities, he has really stepped up. He can be a shutdown blueliner in that situation and is keen on stepping up to make a big hit with good timing.  Ryan appears to enjoy playing a physical game, without being overly aggressive; he performs well in penalty-killing roles.  Chesley’s offensive skill set and hockey sense are only average at this time, as such he projects as a bottom-half defenceman.

#27 – Arizona Coyotes – Owen Pickering, LD, Swift Current (WHL)

(Brian) After getting the centre early in Cooley, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Coyotes pivot to a defenceman.  Pickering is already a capable defender but still has a long way to go to fill out after a late growth spurt.  There is some extra projection involved in terms of assessing what his toolset might be once he bulks up – I’m particularly intrigued about his physical play – so he’s another one that might need a bit of extra development.  By then, Arizona might be interested in trying to be competitive.

#28 – Buffalo Sabres – Tristan Luneau, RD, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

(Kevin) Luneau is a safe defender who knows how to pick his spots offensively. He’s got a high floor as a likely second-pairing guy but doesn’t have the skill to really have a top-pairing ceiling. While Seamus Casey was still on the board with more skill, Luneau was the better prospect to develop next to Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power in that he can be the quiet partner who allows his star partner to shine. Casey couldn’t offer that, so Luneau was the smart selection for the Sabres here.

#29 – Edmonton Oilers – Owen Beck, C, Mississauga (OHL)

(Norm) An excellent skater, Beck has a pro-level shot and decent passing skills.  His defensive game might be even better with really good anticipation. Owen is very strong on faceoffs and his coach trusts him to take key draws.  Owen showed some inconsistencies during the season but was also a rookie in the OHL, who had to share ice time with fellow draft-eligible centre Luca Del Bel Belluz. He did improve his play when the playoffs began. Like many draft-eligible players, Beck needs time to continue developing at the junior ranks, and it will be very interesting to see the impact he has at the pro level in a few seasons.

#30 – Winnipeg Jets – Reid Schaefer, RW, Seattle (WHL)

(Brian) Schaefer’s playoff performance is likely to have boosted his stock from being a candidate to go in the second round to a reasonable dart throw at the back of the round.  He plays a power forward style, is a decent skater for his size, and plays a good defensive game.  The question is whether or not he can become a top-six producer in the NHL.  With Winnipeg not really having a true power forward in the system, he’s the type of complementary player they’d benefit from having and might be willing to take a shot on Schaefer here.

#31 – Tampa Bay Lightning – Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

(Kevin) An early 20’s selection is almost a consensus for Howard, so seeing him still on the board this late in the round made it an easy pick. It’s a home run swing for the Lightning who can certainly afford to take that risk considering their current ranking in the league. In Howard, the Lightning select a high-ceiling guy with a hard shot who excels off the rush. Considering this is also the Lightning’s biggest area of need up front, this was a no-brainer.

#32 – Arizona Coyotes – Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw (WHL)

(Norm) A small but offensive forward, Firkus has moves like Jagger, on the ice.  He’s a very elusive skater, who has top-line talent across the board.  His shot is exceptional, one of the best in this draft, using deception on his release to challenge goalies.  Firkus is an equally good passer, puck handler, and playmaker.  He gives a solid effort in offensive situations.  Jagger’s defensive game needs some work. He shows good anticipation and hockey sense on offence, so he should be able to apply that to the other half of the rink. He is one of the lightest players in this draft, so he needs to improve physically to be able to work his trade at the pro level.

Before jumping into the next set of Montreal selections, it’s worth highlighting that we anticipate that the Canadiens will be trying to space out their signing deadlines.  Some CHL players are fine but those draft rights expire after two years whereas ones from elsewhere can be four years or longer.  With so many draft picks and prospects in the system already, it’s likely that the Habs are going to have to draft with that in mind so our picks kept that point in mind.

#33 – Montreal Canadiens – Filip Bystedt, C, Linkoping (SWE Jr.)

On the one hand, this might feel like another potential Jacob de la Rose pick, a big centre that has a high floor thanks to his good defensive game.  But he’s a strong skater and does a lot of things well in the offensive zone even if there isn’t a true ‘wow’ element to his game.  If all went well, Bystedt might have second-line potential and if the Habs could get that here, that’d be close to a ‘home run’ outcome without it being the typical ‘home run’ swing for a high-skill boom/bust type of player.

#62 – Montreal Canadiens – Julian Lutz, LW, EHC Munchen (DEL)

A big, strong, and fast playmaking power forward who is very responsible due to playing in Men’s pro leagues since turning 16, Lutz dealt with some injuries this past season. He is a streaky player but is so smart that he doesn’t hurt the team when he isn’t producing offensively. His shot is his biggest weakness, so I find the possible comparison to Joel Armia a ceiling Lutz may struggle to achieve.

#66 – Montreal Canadiens – Adam Sykora, C/LW, Nitra (Slovakia)

Sykora has been linked to Montreal with some regularity which is something we considered when pondering this pick.  He’s one of the youngest players in this draft class and he will be a longer-term prospect but he didn’t look out of place at the Worlds in a limited role.  He’s someone that is highly praised for his high compete level and willingness to play bigger than his size, elements that will give him a shot at making it as a bottom-six winger at a minimum.  In the third round, that’s a good return for any team.

#75 – Montreal Canadiens – Vinzenz Rohrer, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

If Lutz has a legitimate chance of still being on the board at 61, the Habs might need to get lucky to find Rohrer still available this late. He is a strong board presence despite his smaller stature. One of the youngest draft-eligible players, Rohrer doesn’t shy away from physical play and wins more than his fair share of puck battles. This is a very Gallagher/Harvey-Pinard pick and one that is quite logical this late in the draft.

Don’t forget to make your own predictions of who will go where by entering our Draft Pool.  Can you predict more correct selections than we can?