July 5, 2022

Scout Survey: Feeling the buzz right before the 2022 NHL Draft

We’re in the endgame now. 

With the 2022 NHL Draft just moments away, we thought it’d be a good time to get a gauge on how the cast and crew at FCHockey was feeling about what’s about to unfold.

We polled six of FCHockey’s scouts — Austin Broad, Derek Neumeier, Brandon Holmes, Donesh Mazloum, Joshua Frojelin, and Curtis Schwartzkopf — to gauge their thoughts on a variety of topics heading into Thursday’s opening round, and who they’ll willing to go on the record as shooting up, tumbling down, and who they’ll stake their reputation on, amongst other topics.

Welcome to the final Scout Series of the season.

Who goes No. 1?

Broad: Shane Wright goes first. He’s been the best prospect in this class since the preseason and, while others may have closed the gap, too many people are writing off how good Wright actually is. He, along with most players from the Ontario Hockey League, missed a crucial year of their development, and while the production wasn’t where people would have liked to see it this year, Wright still has immense offensive upside. I think he will remind people why he was so highly touted very soon and will be a great addition to the Canadiens.

Neumeier: Wright. I’m sure Montreal has put in an exhaustive amount of work looking at Juraj Slafkovsky just to be safe, but centers are more valuable and Wright will probably be better equipped to handle the bright spotlight facing all Canadiens youngsters.

Holmes: Despite the big push at the end by Slafkovsky, I still believe that ultimately Montreal goes with Wright at first overall. It’s difficult to win without strong center depth, and the selection of Wright would give Montreal two key building blocks down the middle with Wright and Nick Suzuki.

Mazloum: Slafkovsky is making a late charge, however I still think that Wright brings the most complete package to the table at a premium position. Give me Wright at No. 1. 

Frojelin: I have Wright going first overall. He has been the obvious choice for over a year. I think a rookie general manager in Kent Hughes would not risk his first draft pick on Slafkovsky when there’s much less risk associated with Wright. The Canadiens would have a great center partnership for the upcoming decade if they take Wright.

Schwartzkopf: At the end of the day I think it’s Wright. I think it’s closer than anyone could have predicted several months ago, but Montreal shouldn’t overthink this and take the player who arguably projects the best to the NHL.

Nemec or Jiricek? Why?

Broad: I don’t think you can go wrong here, but I’ll give the slight edge to Simon Nemec. I think he’s the safest bet to become an impact blueliner at the NHL level. His all-around ability is arguably the best in the class and he’s already doing things in Slovakia that no one his age has ever done. I think he should be the first defenseman taken and in the conversation for top-5 overall.

Neumeier: Nemec by a hair. He’s smoother and more well-rounded. I think he’ll be better at the fine details of NHL play that reliably help drive possession. He’s also a little less physically developed than David Jiricek is right now, so I think he has more runway left in his development.

Holmes: I lean the way of Nemec. I believe his poise, mobility, and potential as a puck-mover are better suited for the role of a modern day NHL defenseman than Jiricek, but it is very close.

Mazloum: This would be a relatively easy choice if I was making the selection, as I believe that Nemec is the only player in the draft with the potential to be a true No. 1 defenseman. Jiricek has great physical tools and is a safe bet to play meaningful minutes in the NHL, but the way Nemec sees the game and his ability dictate the pace of play at both ends puts him over the edge in my eyes.

Frojelin: I lean toward Nemec narrowly. His offensive ceiling is comfortably higher than Jiricek. After the first three picks, I see a drop-off in this class. Therefore, I would want my team to select the higher upside player in Nemec. Jiricek is a solid player, I just see him as a two-way defenseman who will play top minutes alongside a dominant player. Nemec has potential to be a dominant player.

Schwartzkopf: Nemec all day for me. He has that dynamic ability and extra gear that Jiricek doesn’t. I also believe the decision-making, especially under duress, is much better and more consistent with Nemec. Jiricek has the tools to be a top pair defender but will need some time for it all to come together whereas I believe Nemec is much more polished. I also believe Nemec attacks the middle of the ice extremely well and helps create more dangerous opportunities in the high slot. Less risk with Nemec with a similar reward as Jiricek from my perspective.

Who will be the surprise pick in the top-10?

Broad: Marco Kasper will be a top-10 pick and it’ll be a bit surprising to most. I think Kasper has great tools to work with and his work ethic isn’t matched in this class. He doesn’t do anything overly flashy, but he finds a way to be effective and I think his game will translate really well to the NHL and because of that he will go earlier than most think.

Mazloum: I don’t think necessarily think we’ll see a Tyler Boucher level of surprise this year however if a defence needy team wants to swing on a potential home run pick, Owen Pickering could be that guy. Jimmy Snuggerud is another name my gut says will go higher than expected.

Neumeier: Pickering. Every team would love to add a huge, mobile defenseman who can play in all situations, and he’s in an excellent position development-wise. His game could really skyrocket in the next few years as the go-to defenseman in Swift Current. I won’t be surprised at all to see a team reach that high to grab him in the hopes that he eventually reaches his NHL ceiling of becoming a top-pair defender who can log 25 minutes per night.

Holmes: I believe Kasper ultimately finds his way into the top 10 on draft day. He has an incredibly high-motor, has speed and skill, and is a great dirty areas scorer, someone is going to pounce on him early.

Frojelin: If there was to be a shocking player taken in the top-10 of the 2022 NHL Draft, I would have to think it is Isaac Howard. After a dominant performance at the Under-18s, Howard has tons of momentum heading into draft day. If a team needs a sniper, and does not want Joakim Kemell or Jonathan Lekkerimaki, I could see Howard drafted high.

Schwartzkopf: I will go with Liam Ohgren for this one. He’s such a well rounded player and is pretty well built physically already that teams may see him as on a faster track to the NHL.

Which goalie is the first taken, and in which round?

Broad: Hugo Havelid will be the first goalie taken, and I’ll say in the third round. The goalie class isn’t as strong as years past, but Havelid was really strong in under-18 and under-20 action this season. He’s a bit undersized for a goalie prospect but he’s got the athleticism and track record to warrant being the top goalie.

Neumeier: Tyler Brennan, and in the early third. It’s not a good year for goalies, so the team picking him might not feel overly confident, but he has projectable tools, and the existing book on him is a little longer than most of his peers in this class.

Holmes: I think Brennan ends up being the top goalie selected, but we won’t see him go off the board until the third round.

Mazloum: Topias Leinonen will be the first goalie taken and I think he will go higher than many people expect in the second round.

Frojelin: This draft will unfortunately lack a netminder like Jesper Wallstedt, Yaroslav Askarov, or Spencer Knight. In the third round, I could see Brennan being selected. The 6-foot-4 goaltender is probably the top North American, and will cost a high pick.

Schwartzkopf: Brennan, and somewhere in the late third round. It wasn’t the greatest year for Brennan, but he’s got that prototypical size teams are looking for and given the lack of depth at the position this year, someone will take a chance around here.

Who is the biggest ‘boom-or-bust’ prospect in the draft?

Broad: Adam Ingram has all the makings of an elite scoring power forward. His size and physicality, coupled with his elite shooting, ability gives him the potential to turn into a physical force at the next level. The concerns are that he doesn’t consistently use his tools to their fullest ability and if he can’t find consistency at the next level he’s going to struggle to get into the lineup. Ingram has become one of my favourites and I’ll bet on him ‘booming’ rather than flaming out.

Neumeier: I’ll have to go with Brad Lambert here. If he ends up being one of the top five players to come out of this draft I won’t be surprised. At the same time, I also wouldn’t be surprised if a team selected him high but then he dramatically underperformed expectations. His skill is undeniable, but can he actually translate that skill in a way that works in the NHL? That’s the question.

Holmes: Lambert. He had a rocky year in Finland this year with low production split between two teams, but almost no one in this class has better individual tools than he does. If he can put it all together on a more consistent basis and improve his problem solving skills on the ice he could be a top flight point producer at the pro level. But without those improvements he may have a hard time sticking.

Mazloum: There are few options to pick from in this draft and I want to make special mention of Lambert, however I’m not sure a player fits the bill more than Ivan Miroshnichenko. It would be hard for any general manager to take feel comfortable picking a player after a mid-season cancer diagnosis scuttled their season, but add in general concerns about Russian players at the moment, and there is a chance that a team will get a future star deep in the draft.

Frojelin: I think Lambert has the potential to be both a first-line forward or the next Alex Galchenyuk. I’m higher on him than many scouts, but even I admit that Lambert can often make poor choices and improperly read plays. His offensive tools are great and will need to continue developing to become a worthwhile NHLer.

Schwartzkopf: This one is easy — Lambert. I think the lack of production concerns are overblown and his skating ability with the puck gives him first line potential. There’s a scary floor with him because of how he can play aimless hockey at times but in the right development system, Lambert could thrive and easily be the best player to come out of this draft class in a few years.

Which overager are you most curious about?

Broad: Connor Kurth. He had a massive leap in production in the USHL and with his physical build I really think he can turn into a really strong player at the next level. He’s a guy that every team should have on their board and be confident that when they pick him they’re getting a top overager in this class.

Neumeier: Defenseman Graham Sward. He really grew and improved a lot this season — his defending was better, his skating was better, his offensive contributions were better. Spokane gave him a ton of ice time and a big role, and it wasn’t an easy job on a weaker team like that, but he handled it quite well. He has already shown the ability to progress, which is a good sign that he could do more of it moving forward.

Holmes: Gavin White is the overager that I’ve constantly come back to and been very interested in, especially after the OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup. White missed all of last year due to the OHL’s shutdown, but he manned a top-four role on Hamilton’s defense — a club that went to the Memorial Cup final — and displays very good four-way mobility and is consistently improving his offensive game.

Mazloum: I have been beating the drum for Red Deer defenseman Christoffer Sedoff for years now and after a big offensive step forward where he finished sixth in the WHL in scoring amongst blueliners. I am hopeful he’ll hear his name called this go around. I think he has all the tools to become a dependable bottom-pairing staple and I’m excited to see where he can go once in an NHL development program.

Frojelin: In a small sample, I really enjoyed what I saw from Luke Mittelstadt. He had great offensive instincts that were driven by his strong skating and vision. His defensive game was reasonable at the USHL level, and he would be even better if a little less aggressive in his passing.

Schwartzkopf: Overagers are always interesting, but this year especially so with it being a very strong and deep class of these prospects. Tucker Robertson was a huge victim of not having an OHL season in his draft year as he has proven without a doubt that he deserves to be selected this time around. The goal-scoring is there and he just turned 19 so he presents a ton of upside and has given teams a glimpse at how quickly his development has gone upward.

Who’s the one player outside of the first round ranking you’d stake your reputation on?

Broad: Christian Kyrou was phenomenal for the Erie Otters this past season. His skating, offensive instincts, and production were awesome. Kyrou has everything you want in an offensive defenseman — he drives transition, helps run the power play, and can get back and handle himself well in his own zone. The thing that sold me on him was how easily he stepped into filling Jamie Drysdale’s shoes. He followed up one of the most gifted offensive blue liners in recent memory and was able to do so without missing a beat.

Neumeier: I’ll tell anyone who will listen that Rieger Lorenz is going to be a player. Will he be a center or a winger? Will he be able to play in an offensive role, or will he be more of a checker? Those are valid and important questions, and they will hurt his draft stock to a degree. But with his frame, his skating, his athleticism and his competitiveness he’ll be a versatile player. Teams will want to have him somewhere on a roster.

Holmes: Isaiah George. The more in lead up to the draft I’ve watched the more I’m impressed in his potential as a modern-day NHL defenseman. His mobility stands out in a major way, as I think he’s one of the most agile players available, making him an excellent puck-mover while being effective at both ends of the rink.

Mazloum: While Kevin Korchinski, Mateychuk, and Owen Pickering are the defensemen that make the most headlines out of the West, Mats Lindgren is another blueliner that I have high hopes for at the NHL level. Often pigeon-holed as an offensive specialist, I actually really like his intensity and attention to detail in the defensive zone. If he reaches his ceiling I think he could have a Jared Spurgeon-like impact.

Frojelin: Alexander Pelevin has been possibly my favorite player to scout this season. His tracked data proves his defensive ability, and his offensive ability is still blooming. His transition offense is already a strength and his playing style is simply fun to watch. I’m eager to see how this Russian develops.

Schwartzkopf: There’s more to Paul Ludwinski‘s game than just effort level, which he consistently gives on a shift to shift basis. Ludwinski thinks the game extremely well and is effective at both ends of the ice at making good decisions with or without the puck. He’s shown he can play alongside high end talent in Kingston and has strong skating ability. There’s untapped offense in his game that I think when packaged with everything else he has, makes him a lock to make the NHL some day.

Best in class…

Who is the best at the following individual skill categories?

Scout Skater Puckhandler Shot Vision Off. Awareness Def. Awareness Compete
Broad Nemec Savoie Kulich Mateychuk Cooley Jiricek Kasper
Neumeier Lambert Nazar Kemell Hutson Cooley Chesley Kasper
Holmes Lambert Cooley Firkus Nzar Wright Chesley Kasper
Mazloum Lambert Savoie Kemell Mateychuk Cooley Nemec Savoie
Frojelin Lambert Cooley Lekkerimaki Savoie Cooley Sykora Nazar
Schwartskopf Lambert Cooley Lekkerimaki Nazar Wright Chesley Kasper

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