Austin
Broad
November 4, 2021

Broad Strokes: Who’s the top American in 2022

When I wrote my Rutger McGroarty deep dive earlier in the season I stated that he should be the front runner to be the first American taken in the draft. 

Now, into November, there’s a legitimate battle amongst a handful of US National Team Development Program members that are in contention for the top ranked American in the 2022 NHL Class.

There are a handful of ‘true contenders’ in the group, and a few names that I think have an outside chance to climb up the rankings and challenge those believed to be at the top.

Let’s explore those that might vie for that crown.

True Contenders

These are the players that will likely be in the conversation for the first American to be taken off the board when the draft begins in July. They’ve been highly touted since last year, and have been great to start their draft years.

Logan Cooley, C
FCHockey Rank: 12

Logan Cooley is a two-way center, with great playmaking ability. He understands the game extremely well for a young player and knows exactly where to be and when to be there. His draft year has gotten off to a great start, scoring 13 points (seven goals, five assists) in his first 11 games with the NTDP this season.

“Overall, I think Cooley’s skill set makes him one of the most translatable players in the draft,” FCHockey video scout Sebastian Death wrote in a recent scouting report. “He is a high-end first-round talent that will be highly coveted at the 2022 NHL draft as any coach would love to have him on their team.”

Cooley’s name will likely rise up in the draft rankings as the year goes on, and he deserves to be in the conversation of the top ranked American skater in this draft class. 

Rutger McGroarty, C
FCHockey Rank: 8

Rutger McGroarty has one of the most interesting skillsets of any American forward in the class. He’s got a big frame and possesses a ton of strength, but also plays the game with a ton of skill and finesse on offense.

He’s a multi-dimensional offensive weapon, capable of creating opportunities for himself, or beating goalies with his lethal shot. Through eight games with the NTDP to start the season, McGroarty has been solid with 10 points (four goals, six assists).

“Offensive ability and mindset are the first things that come to mind watching McGroarty play,” FCHockey video scout Curtis Schwartzkopf said in a recent report. “McGroarty possesses a very strong defensive game, too, showing patience covering the point and never over committing to his opponent — which enables him to force the play where he wants it to go.”

He was the top American in our Preliminary ranking for the 2022 draft, and with his all-around game and offensive potential he should firmly be in the conversation as the best American in 2022. 

Frank Nazar, RW
FC Rank: 21

Frank Nazar came in at No. 21 in our preliminary list, but his start to the season has fully thrust him into the conversation as a potential top-10 prospect in the draft class. Nazar is almost producing at a point per game through 13 games (five goals, seven assists) and has proven to be a consistent offensive threat over a long stretch of games. His defensive game is an area that needs some improvement, but there’s no denying his offensive upside.

A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have put Nazar in this category, but seeing the growth in his game since the season’s start he has forced my hand and I genuinely believe he could contend for the top American in the upcoming draft.

In the hunt

This category is for players that are outside of the top-10 but have the potential to climb the rankings. They might not be the top American’s available but these players are names that people are going to need to remember when the draft comes around.

Isaac Howard, LW
FC Rank: 11

Isaac Howard is one of my favorite prospects in the 2022 class. He’s a pure goalscoring talent on the wing that can deceive goalies with his release, but he’s shown that he can be more of a playmaker early on this season, making him a multi-tooled offensive weapon.

Howard has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) through 13 games this season. 

“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,” FCHockey scout Mat Sheridan wrote in a scouting report. “ In the offensive zone, he is always moving around to find open space for himself for a scoring chance.”

His offensive upside and ability to work off the puck will translate to the next level, allowing him to pose a legitimate scoring threat in the professional ranks. Howard is a name that can’t be ignored when talking about the crop of American players. 

Ryan Chesley, D
FC Rank: 15

Ryan Chesley is one of the many talented two-way right-handed defensemen available in the 2022 NHL Draft and is the top defender from this American class. He pushes the pace of play with his skating and ability to drive the transition game and has a lot of upside at both ends of the rink. His production isn’t the greatest right now, scoring once and adding two assists in 13 games, but his game is about more than production.

“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,” FCHockey video scout Brandon Holmes said in a scouting report. 

Chesley will push to be the first American blue liner taken if he can’t rise up the ranks high enough to become the first American born player to be selected in the draft.

Longshots

These players will likely be drafted in the mid-to-late first round but have a chance to force their way up the rankings if they continue to play the way they have to start the year.

Seamus Casey, D
FC Rank: 18

Seamus Casey is a talented offensive defender who pushes the play with his transition ability and puts up points from the backend. Through 13 games Casey is the highest scoring blueliner for the NTDP with two goals and six assists for eight total points.

His skating ability and offensive awareness allows him to activate and join the rush, adding an extra scoring threat to the NTDP’s rush attack. Casey fits the mold for the modern offensive defenseman, relying on high-end skating ability to allow him to impact the game. 

Cole Knuble
FC Rank: 45

Cole Knuble finds himself in this category simply because he’s one of the best non-NTDP prospects the USA region has to offer in the 2022 NHL Draft class. Knuble is a spark plug with a ton of high-end offensive upside. He lives in the high-danger scoring areas and has a lethal shot that can beat any goalie from in close. His energy and motor allow him to excel in 50/50 puck battles, an area of the game than can sometimes be underrated.

He’s going to climb up the ranks if he continues to produce the way he has for the Fargo Force. Knuble has eight points (three goals and five assists) in nine USHL games this year, putting him in fifth amongst 2004 born USHL players in scoring.

He won’t be in contention to be the top American drafted, but he might force his way into the later half of the first round if he continues to play the way he has early on in 2021-22.  

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