Broad Strokes: Top high school talent shaping up the 2022 draft class
These players, unfortunately, do not get a lot of hype or press when it comes to NHL Draft coverage.
But that doesn’t mean those skating in the United States high school ranks aren’t worth of the attention. And in America, high school leagues have been pumping out high quality prospects over the years.
Last year alone saw seven players, including Scott Morrow, Brody Lamb, Kyle Kukkonen, and Cal Lamb plucked among the 224 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. While the jury is still out on them, there is no denying that you can find quality NHLers at the high school level if you look in the right places.
In this piece, I will highlight four names that people should keep an eye on for the 2022 NHL Draft, and explain what makes them worthy of a draft pick.
In no particular order, here are my four favorite NHL Draft prospects currently playing high school hockey:
Alex Bump, LW, Prior Lake High
Alex Bump has spent this year split between the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League and Prior Lake, and has done nothing but produce. In his 14-game stint with the Lancers he posted six goals and five assists. With Prior Lake he has been a dominant force, recording 70 points (37 goals, 33 assists) in only 27 appearances. Bump’s offensive potential is evident when you watch him play, at the high school level there are few players who can keep up with him, and he virtually does whatever he wants with the puck whenever he’s on the ice.
“Bump is a skilled power forward who can skate well and competes hard every shift,” FCHockey scout Douglas Larson said. “He’s real effective at protecting the puck with his big frame, and that allows for him to really take his time when it comes to deciding what to do with the puck.”
He has the rare combination of power and skill, and his dominance of the high school circuit combined with his impressive — albeit brief — USHL stint with Omaha should make him appealing to teams once the draft opens in July.
Sam Rinzel, D, Chaska High
Sam Rinzel is a raw prospect, the big-bodied offensive defender has a ton of potential. He is a strong skater with great offensive instincts and impressive physical traits, but is still learning how to put his entire game together. He’s played three games with the Waterloo Blackhawks this year and recorded three points (a goal and two assists), while impressing at the high school level. Rinzel has 35 points (eight goals and 27 assists) in 26 games for Chaska High while logging massive minutes on their blue line. Rinzel appeared in the Bio-Steel All-American Prospects game as well, showing that can play with some of the best talent the country has to offer.
“Rinzel is a two-way defenseman with a big frame and skating ability to impact the game on both ends of the ice,” Larson said. “He’s got a great toolbox and if he can improve his hands along with contributing more offensively, we could be looking at one of most complete defensemen to come out of this class in a couple of years.”
There’s no denying the upside, and even if he is a bit of a ‘boom-or-bust’ type of prospect, Rinzel is definitely a name that will be called in the middle rounds of the NHL Draft.
Brennan Ali, C, Avon Old Farms
Brennan Ali is an intriguing prospect for the upcoming draft. He’s played games for the Lincoln Stars and the United States’ National Team Development Program squad while still attending Avon Old Farms. He’s a big-bodied center who plays the game with skill and with strength. In his two games with the National Team Development Program, he picked up one assist, while going pointless in his two games with Lincoln.
There’s a lot of potential in his game — I just would have liked to see him play a bit more at the USHL level to get a better read on him. The season’s not over yet so there is a chance he will get more games with Lincoln, but you cannot deny the physical traits Ali has. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound pivot looked solid in his limited action with the NTDP, so it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up and how his development is handled over the next few seasons.
Michael Fisher, D, St. Mark’s School
Michael Fisher is another big-bodied, two-way blueliner who is making minced meat of his high school circuit. The 6-foot-3 defenseman is imposing his will offensively whenever he steps out on the ice. He leads the USHS-Prep circuit in points per game (2.10) and has recorded 11 goals and 33 assists in 21 games for St. Mark’s School. Like Rinzel, he’s a bit raw and learning how to put his entire game together, but whenever a defender is averaging over 2.00 points-per-game it is impossible to not take notice.
Fisher’s offensive game and production has taken massive steps since the last year. In the 2019-20 season he had six points in 18 games. Now with 44 points in 21 games, Fisher looks like one of the most dominant blueliners in high school hockey. He’s not as well known as Rinzel, who plays in the very popular Minnesota high school circuit, but Fisher deserves every bit of hype for the season he has put together.
These four names are all examples of how you can find NHL Draft caliber prospects anywhere in the USA if you look hard enough. While all four are different caliber players, I think it’s a safe bet that all four hear their names called in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Between these players, I strongly feel there is at least one impact NHLer in the long run — but the reality is that I wouldn’t be shocked if all four names blossom into everyday NHLers in the next few years.
Rinzel, Bump, Ali, and Fisher are names that draft enthusiasts will want to familiarize themselves with, and if your team ends up drafting one of these four players, there are lots of reasons to be excited about the caliber of prospect you’ll be getting — even if they spent their draft year playing in high school leagues.