Broad Strokes: NCAA talent garnering attention
The United States is home to many different paths to the NHL.
So far this season I’ve highlighted the USHL and the National Team Development Program.
Now is the time to bring to light some of the players eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft currently playing in the NCAA. The 2022 class isn’t nearly as high-end as the 2021 class was, but there are four key names to watch out for. Two are first time draft eligible players, and the other two were passed over in 2021, but are potentially worth a look this time around.
Last year, we saw three NCAA players (all Michigan Wolverines) go in the top five picks of the 2021 edition, and while there is no virtual lock for a first-round NCAA player this year, these players deserve their moments in the spotlight.
Below are four players who’s names you will want to keep an eye on if your team decides to look at the NCAA this draft:
Jack D. Hughes, C, Northeastern (Winter Rank: 37)
Of the NCAA players in the 2022 class, Jack Hughes has the best shot at being drafted in the first round. The playmaking center has gotten off to a good start with Northeastern this year. Through his first 18 games Hughes has netted nine points (five goals, four assists). He’s second in goals and fifth in points on Northeastern. He’s not a guaranteed first rounder, but he’s the cream of the crop for this year’s NCAA group.
“Hughes is an unbelievable facilitator of the puck with great offensive awareness making him a real fun player to watch, his biggest strength in is game is his passing ability, and there’s no question about it,” FCHockey scout Douglas Larson said in a scouting report. “Defensively, he competes hard and glues himself to a player while defending.”
Jack Devine, RW, Denver (Winter Rank: 78)
Jack Devine has been really strong through the first half of Denver’s season. In 17 games, he has recorded 13 points (two goals and 11 assists). But his game is more than just the points. He’s aggressive and hard on the forecheck, works hard every shift and is the type of player every coach would love to have on their team.
Devine doesn’t have the pure offensive upside that Hughes has, but there is little doubt that he will be taken in the middle of the draft and find a way to be a solid player once he gets to the next level. His skillset can be placed anywhere in a lineup, and Devine’s work ethic alone will allow him to make a decent impact on an NHL roster.
“I think we’re looking at a player who’s going to be able to play up and down a lineup no matter what team he’s on and succeed in the role he’s given,” said Larson.
Matthew Argentina, C, Boston College (NR)
Matthew Argentina isn’t a flashy player by any means. He’s more of an energy guy who will go out there every shift and use his body and physicality to make an impact on the game. He’s only played nine games for Boston College this season and has produced two goals and one assist. He doesn’t have the offensive upside to be a regular contributor, but he can play a fourth-line role and play on the penalty kill if he does make it to the next level.
He was passed over in the 2021 NHL Draft after a less than stellar performance in the USHL during his initial draft year, but another year of finding his game could help Argentina. If a team needs a bottom-six player who gives their best effort on every night, he could be an appealing option in the later rounds of the 2022 NHL Draft.
“Argentina plays the role of a spark-plug for his team, he shows great effort every shift and engages in physical play,” Larson said.
David Gucciardi, D, Michigan State (NR)
David Gucciardi is another player who didn’t hear his name called during the 2021 NHL Draft, but the Michigan State defender has played well through 20 games with the Spartans. Even though he was originally passed over in his draft year, Gucciardi’s offensive upside has been evident since his days in the USHL. He had 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 33 USHL games during the 2020-21 season splitting time between Youngstown and Waterloo.
He has the offensive ability and strong puck-moving instincts that will appeal to NHL scouts, ranking second amongst Michigan State in both goals (4) and points (8) while appearing in all of the Spartans games.
The 2022 NCAA crop isn’t as strong or as deep as 2021, but the names above all stand out when looking at the draft eligible players. There is no doubt that Hughes and Devine are drafted, and Argentina and Gucciardi could force their way onto draft lists by the time July rolls around.
It might not produce any superstars this year, but the NCAA should have multiple players drafted by NHL teams yet again this year.