Mark
Dubreuil
July 6, 2022

There’s some hidden gems to be had in the 2022 NHL Draft class

There are players that slip through the ranks of every NHL Draft season and end up getting selected later than their skillset or defensive prowess suggest they should. 

It happens each and every year, and to no surprise.

It’s usually a result of an element that turns teams off, too.

There may be some glaring issues with either their skating, hockey IQ, physicality, or some other factor that may dissuade an NHL team from selecting said player early in the draft, though their stats or play may suggest they should get drafted higher.

Years after the fact, NHL teams and even fans of the game may scratch their head and say to themselves, “How did that player slip so low in the draft?” 

RELATED: FCHOCKEY’S 2022 NHL DRAFT GUIDE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD!

This year is no different.

And, after consulting with the cast and crew of FCHockey, the 2022 NHL Draft has more than its fair share of players that will wind up as potential ‘steals’ of the class based on the current rankings and analysis. 

Jordan Dumais of the Halifax Mooseheads is certainly one of those players. 

Dumais had one of the most productive offensive outputs among all draft eligible players this season. In 68 games for the Mooseheads, he tallied a whopping 109 points (39 goals, 70 assists). His 1.60 points-per-game was best in the entire CHL for draft eligible players — even ahead of the FCHockey’s consensus No. 1 ranked prospect, Shane Wright’s 1.49 points-per-game effort. 

“Of the players that will more than likely be available outside of the top two rounds, Dumais I believe would be the highest swing on offensive potential,” FCHockey scout Brandon Holmes said. “He’s been a prominent producer everywhere he’s been along the way throughout his junior hockey career and led all first-year eligible CHL skaters in scoring this year. He’s an undersized player and has below average speed and skating technique for a player his size, but he’s a slick small areas puckhandler who owns excellent playmaking vision and is a capable shooter. 

“If Dumais can improve his skating and add strength, I believe there is enough skill and offensive intelligence there to be an offensive contributor at the next level.”

Dumais looks to be a third round selection, with FCHockey slotting him at No. 95 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2022 draft. 

There is no question that Dumais has strong offensive instincts and a soft touch around the net combined with a high hockey IQ which helps him to process the game at high speeds. 

The one weakness in his game that stands out is his skating, which is not that strong and mechanically inefficient. Some power skating may help him improve upon that, but making it to the next level and maintaining the pace of the NHL will be his biggest obstacle to emerging as a sleeper from this class. 

Isaiah George of the London Knights also has upside to be just that — and skating won’t hold him back.

George, a defenseman, is an effortless skater with good puck-handling abilities. He is defensively responsible and has good gap control, which along with the aforementioned strong skating translates into a well balanced defender. 

“In an NHL that has continued to get faster and faster year over year, George fits the mold of the modern defenseman,” Holmes said. “He is an excellent skater who can get up and down the ice with ease, transition pucks through the neutral zone, and can control gaps against opposing attackers and deny zone entries when defending on the rush. George plays for a famously strong program at churning out NHL talent in the London Knight, and if he continues to find more ice time and round out his game-to-game consistency he has the potential to become a meaningful contributor at the NHL level.”

The only concerning part of his game is his hockey IQ. George, slotted at No. 70 at FCHockey and N0. 53 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, tends to stumble with distribution when entering the offensive zone and lacks the offensive awareness sought after by most hockey clubs. His offensive numbers were only subpar compared to many of the top blueliners in this draft class. He ended up with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 67 games.

In order for George to become more of an offensive threat, he needs to simplify his offensive-zone entries and not rush and/or force plays as much, which could potentially translate into better offensive numbers.

Ben Hemmerling, with 47 points (10 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games, had respectable offensive numbers in limited opportunity with the Everett Silvertips. 

The one thing that stands out with Hemmerling is his ability to find open lanes when passing the puck. He is a very good disher and can thread a pass at a high pace of play and also finds the open player in crowded spaces. 

His hockey IQ is above-average and this helps him accomplish skilled passes. His skating and physicality needs some improvement in order for him to compete at higher levels, and next season will determine if he can elevate his game to accomplish that task.

“Hemmerling is already a mature player with strong details to his game,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier said. “He doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but I really like his odds of eventually finding an NHL support role, which won’t be the case for a lot of boom-bust guys taken ahead of him. However, what gives me the most hope about him is the quality of Everett’s program, and how big of a role he is likely to play for them the next two seasons.”

It will be interesting to see how his game evolves next year and will determine his progression into a solid pick or someone who will just be a good minor league player.

Back on the blue line, defenseman Jake Livanavage has a bit of that boom-bust potential.  

Livanavage had himself a respectful offensive season, scoring 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) in 61 games played. But don’t let the numbers fool you — most of his points, including 24 of his assists, came on the power play. His shot was obviously not the biggest threat from the point, with only three goals during the season, but his dishes more than compensated.

Another weakness that might limit Livanavage, No. 87 at FCHockey, from being that ‘steal’ down the road is his skating. He can manage against players his own age at the junior level, but he will need to broaden his straight ahead speed and lateral movement in order to keep pace at the professional ranks, especially for a defenseman who is only 5-foot-10. 

“He has all the makings of a true top-four defender,” FCHockey scout Austin Broad said. “He plays big minutes, is a great puck mover who can drive transition play. In the offensive zone he’s a high-end playmaker who shows immense poise with the puck. He’s also an adequate defender using his skating to effectively maintain gaps and take away time and space from his opponents. 

“Players with his skillset scream top-four defender, and if you can get that outside of the top two rounds you take that every day of the week.”

If Livanavage can improve upon his five-on-five play and firm up his defensive abilities, he may become a dependable middle-to-bottom pairing in the NHL and a value pick in the 2022 draft. 

Viktor Neuchev might as well. 

Neuchev is a highly skilled and creative forward who spent most of the season in the MHL, Russia’s top Junior league, where he posted 67 points (40 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games with Avto Yekaterinburg in Russia’s junior circuit. Yes, his 40 markers was good enough for third-highest in the entire circuit. 

The 6-foot-2 Russian enjoys attempting creative plays against defenders anytime he breaks into the offensive zone. The only issue is with that confidence comes mistakes and turnovers, where at times making an easy play or passing off would deliver better results and potentially more scoring chances for the team.

“Neuchev very quietly put together a very strong season for Yekaterinburg in the MHL this year, and in my eyes he stands out as one of the top goal-scoring talents that will likely be available in the middle rounds of the draft,” Holmes said. “Neuchev has many attributes that you look for in a goal-scorer, with a strong wrist shot, deceptive shot release, a shoot-first mentality with the puck on his stick, and strong one-on-one puck skills that allow him to open up space when attacking on the rush.

“Neuchev will need to round out his all-around game, add strength, and show more consistency in his effort to make it at the pro level, but the upside on his scoring potential I believe is quite high if he’s able to put everything together.”

Skating, if you can sense a theme, may be an issue for the big forward, as he lacks the explosiveness and first step acceleration needed to pull off one-on-one moves he likes to attempt against opposing defensemen. Neuchev is slotted in at No. 64 by FC Hockey. 

He could outpace that projection, though. 

And he won’t be alone in this class.


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