2022 NHL Draft: American players to watch
Another draft year is upon us and it’s another year that will feature a strong American presence.
With FCHockey getting prepares for the upcoming season, here’s a list of five names from the USA region that you’ll want to keep an eye on as the year progresses. The list features names from the USHL, NCAA and (as usual) the United States National Team Development Program. Americans will have a big presence in the first few rounds.
Here are the five prospects in the United States to watch this season (in alphabetical order):
Ryan Chesley, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)
Ryan Chesley is one of the many talented right-handed defensemen available in this class. A product of the Shattuck St. Mary’s program, Chesley joined the US National Team Development Program for the 2020-21 season and had immediate success with the U-17 team. He nearly averaged a point-per-game with 34 points (11 goals and 23 assists) in 37 games played, and was able to get some time with the U18 team as well.
One of the narratives surrounding this draft class right now is the amount of two-way, right-handed defenders available. Chesley is one of the best the American crop has to offer.
“Chesley has solid four-way mobility and was able to control his gaps well, and did an excellent job of playing aggressively on opposing puck carriers with strong stick and body positioning,” FCHockey video scout Brandon Holmes said in a scouting report. “He takes good angles on puck carriers, forcing them towards the boards and keeping them to the perimeter of the offensive zone, and at times he was willing to lay the body to separate players from the puck.”
Prepping for a full season with the U18 squad, Chesley will look to become of the team’s top defenders heading into his draft year.
Logan Cooley, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
The NTDP has another strong class heading into the 2022 NHL Draft as every player on this list is either a part of the program or an alumnus. Logan Cooley is a two-way center that split the season between the U18 and U17 teams during 2020-21. Cooley has an ability to drive play while producing points and an understanding about the importance of his play away from the puck. He should find his name near the top of the list for Americans in the 2022 class.
“Defensively, Cooley does a good job at coming back and helping out his defenders. He was able to keep opponents to the outside and used his stick to intercept passes and break up scoring chances,” said Sheridan. “With the puck on his stick, he was able to generate speed using his crossovers and attacked open lanes driving through the neutral zone.”
Cooley should be one of the top centers on the USA U18 roster for 2021-22 and with a strong draft year could end up being one of the first Americans off the board come draft night.
Jack Devine, RW, University of Denver (NCAA)
Jack Devine will be heading to the University of Denver for the 2021-22 season in hopes of continuing his development before the 2022 NHL Draft. As a late 2003 birth-year, Devine is one of the older Americans in the class. Last season he shined as a smooth-skater and a playmaker. In 30 games with the NTDP, Devine had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists).
He has strong two-way capabilities that will allow him to transition to the NCAA rather smoothly and can impact the game even if he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet.
“Defensively, Devine is very responsible, showing a tendency to cover for his defensemen that pinch or move down low in the offensive zone,” FCHockey video scout Curtis Schwartzkopf said. “Devine looks for areas of open ice and avoids crowded areas when he doesn’t have the puck which make it easy for him to pick up loose pucks that pop out.”
With his all-around ability, Devine should hope to have a smooth transition to the NCAA game and have a strong impact in his draft year.
Isaac Howard, LW, USA U-18 (NTDP)
A natural goal-scoring threat, Isaac Howard is deadly in the offensive zone because of his ability to always get open and his ability to deceive goalies with his shot. Howard played well all year for the USNTDP, playing for both the U18 and U17 teams this season. For the U17s Howard scored 54 points (27 goals, 27 assists) in 34 games and for the U18s he managed 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 17 games.
“In the offensive zone, he is always moving around to find open space for himself for a scoring chance,” Sheridan said. “He has a quick release and is able to get a lot of power behind his shot, posing a threat to score in high danger areas.”
Over the last few years, the NTDP has been able to develop talented goal-scoring forwards and it appears that Howard could be the next one on the list.
Rutger McGroarty, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
Rutger McGroarty is big-bodied center with a dynamic offensive skillset. In his 2019-20 season, McGroarty played 63 total games for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 15U team and finished with 160 total points (82 goals, 78 assists). He spent the 2020-21 season playing with both the USA U18 and U17 teams and appeared in the WJC-18 tournament. In his 30 USHL games, McGroarty finished with 12 goals and seven assists.
“He does a good job at finding open ice in the slot to present himself as a passing option and always battles hard for positioning in front of the net,” FCHockey scout Mat Sheridan said. “He has good vision and is able to hit teammates in the slot with a crisp, hard pass, even under pressure.”
McGroarty’s draft year will be something to monitor. He has all the potential to be one of the top selections in this year’s class and with his offensive ability, there might not be a better pure goal scorer available.