November 22, 2021

Doing it Wright: The Way-Too-Early 2022 NHL Draft Mock

The 2022 NHL Draft may be eight months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about what promising young prospect your favourite team could end up drafting.

Especially if your team is going to be picking in the top-half of the draft.

It’ll be of no surprise to see Shane Wright, FCHockey’s No. 1-ranked prospect, is the first to hear his name called as the first of three selections that the Arizona Coyotes will have in the first round — including two in the top-10.

Following up Wright, the draft gets very interesting. There are any number of ways the rest of the draft could go. 

And with the Ottawa Senators up to the podium, you never really know what they’re going to do. They’re a constant wild card in the draft, making for some interesting immediate takes year after year. After going for grit in the first round last year, this time it’s time to go for finesse and skill. 

On top of the Coyotes’ three selections, the Buffalo Sabres also have a trio of picks, recently adding the third in the Jack Eichel trade with the Vegas Golden Knights. After having three firsts in 2021, the Columbus Blue Jackets are back with two more first rounders to build up their prospect pool, too.

Of course, this draft order is going to change as the season rolls on, but some of these teams might be within the range that they stick with throughout the campaign. Plus, teams are bound to move some of their selections ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline and once the offseason hits. 

But as mentioned, it’s never too early to start thinking about where the newest crop of prospects could be headed.

It’s time for everyone’s favourite thought experiment around the NHL Draft. 

Welcome to FCHockey’s first mock draft of the season.

Note: Ranking based on NHL standings after Friday, November 18 games.

1. Arizona Coyotes: Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) 

No surprises here, the Coyotes select the top prospect available in Shane Wright. After a slower-than-expected start to his season (based on lofty expectations — let’s not forget he did just miss a full season due to the OHL cancellation), Wright has been coming into his own as of late. Selecting Wright, the Coyotes draft their future No. 1 center and solve one of the most difficult positions to fill in the league. 

2. Seattle Kraken: Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia) 

After opting for a forward in the 2021 draft in Matthew Beniers, the NHL’s newest team looks to the backend this time, landing a potential top-two defender in Simon Nemec. The right-shot defender is already in his third season in Slovakia’s top men’s league, showing off exceptional two-way play, highlighted by his excellent transition game and incredible intelligence. Two drafts in, and the Kraken could have their future No. 1 center and No. 1 defenseman locked down.

3. Ottawa Senators: Matthew Savoie, RW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) 

The Senators raised some eyebrows in the 2021 NHL Draft, passing up on skill for grit in selecting Tyler Boucher with the 10th overall selection. This time around, the skill at the No. 2 position is too good to miss and Ottawa nabs winger Matthew Savoie. Savoie is a player that is extremely adaptable, fitting a role as a goalscorer, playmaker, or power forward depending on the line he’s playing on. Savoie could be a future fixture of the Senators lineup and be a massive boost to the team’s skill level as they look to start moving up the rankings. 

4. Montreal Canadiens: Ivan Miroshnichenko, RW, Omskie Krylia (VHL) 

After a run to the Stanley Cup Final, it seems a little odd to be talking about a top-four selection for the Canadiens, but here we are. Fans will be ecstatic though, as here they land Russian forward Ivan Miroshnichenko. The right winger already has an NHL-ready shot and knows how to utilize it from anywhere on the ice. His ability to get into these scoring areas is second to none in this class. 

5. Vancouver Canucks: Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga) 

Vancouver comes in at No. 6 in an enviable position. With careful consideration, they land on the player that could supplant Lambert as the top-Finn available in Joakim Kemell. The winger has been arguably the best draft-eligible to date this season, using his blazing speed and crafty hands to blow past defenders. With how he’s been playing this season, this could even be too low for the promising forward.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets (via CHI): Brad Lambert, C, JYP (Liiga) 

The Blue Jackets bet big on skill in the 2021 draft. Why stop now? In fact, Columbus might end up with the early steal of the draft in Finnish forward Brad Lambert. Lambert hasn’t seemed like himself in the early going of the 2021-22 season, but this is a prospect that can absolutely take over a game with his offensive ability. His playmaking is among the best in this class, and if he can reach the expectations previously set for him the Blue Jackets will have a top-tier talent on their hands.

7. New York Islanders: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga) 

New York landed a first-round talent in the 2021 draft, despite not drafting until the back half of the second round. They drafted Aatu Raty, once thought of as a potential No. 1 talent a year ago. This year, they look back to the Liiga, drafting big forward Juraj Slafkovsky. Playing at nearly a two-point-per-game pace in the U20 SM-sarja, Slafkovksy continues to impress, bringing his surprisingly soft hands, maturity, and puck skill to the top-tier league. 

8. Pittsburgh Penguins: Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP (USHL) 

While this year’s United States National Team Development Program may lack a No. 1 contender, it makes up for it with top-end talent and could see a large number of players called from the 10-30 range. This looks to be led by pivot Logan Cooley, playing in his second year with the U18 team. He’s excellent both on and off the puck and would be a stellar selection for Pittsburgh’s first first-round pick since 2019. If they can manage to keep it until the draft, of course.

9. Dallas Stars: Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL) 

The Stars seem to have Danila Yurov fall into their lap here. The Russian forward seems to be in the shadow of fellow countryman Miroshnichenko despite playing a number of KHL games already. His extremely limited minutes at that level hasn’t given him the opportunity to truly show off his talent against that level of competition. However, Yurov shows impressive competitiveness, intelligence, and standout playmaking ability. He could be a key piece of Dallas’ puzzle moving forward.

10. Arizona Coyotes (via COL): Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) 

The Coyotes are back up to the podium after calling the No. 1 selection and now they turn their attention to the WHL and select Conor Geekie. A power forward with both size and skill, Geekie has been great this season along with teammate Savoie. With how he’s performed, this spot might even be too low for the big center.

11. Buffalo Sabres: Rutger McGroarty, C, USNTDP (USHL) 

The Sabres take the podium for their first of three selections, and after leading off the 2021 edition with defender Owen Power, this time around they go forward with the best name in the draft in Rutger McGroarty. The American center is arguably the best goalscorer in the class, but combines that with unexpected playmaking skill thanks to his impressive vision. The Sabres had a solid draft in 2021 and it looks to continue with this first selection.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets: David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czech) 

Columbus now gets their opportunity to make their second selection of the draft, opting for a defender in David Jiricek. The Czech rearguard is a two-way presence that skates very well for his size, showing a promising ability to break up plays, control the rush, or turn the puck up the other way. After drafting offensive defender Corson Ceulemans last year, Jiricek would be an excellent complement to him moving forward.

13. Boston Bruins: Elias Salomonsson, D, Skelleftea AIK J20 (J20 Nationell) 

The Bruins surprised last draft when they selected speedy forward Fabian Lysell in the first round. Perhaps Boston will lean into the Swedish pool a little more and look towards rangy defender Elias Salomonsson. While he seems to be a bit polarizing at this point in the year, the defender plays beyond his years in his off-puck game — knowing how to get into passing lanes, pressure attackers, and force turnovers, all while bringing some offense to his game as well. This would be a big add for the Boston’s prospect pool.

14. San Jose Sharks: Noah Ostlund, C, Djurgardens J20 (J20 Nationell) 

The Sharks made out big at the 2021 draft, landing potentially the top forward in the class in William Eklund from Djurgardens. Picking from the club seems to have worked out, so why not look back to them? Noah Ostlund is an extremely difficult player to face, as he consistently brings a high pace of play and an aggressive attitude to every shift. He also brings speed and creativity to his game, making him very well rounded.

15. New Jersey Devils: Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgardens J20 (J20 Nationell) 

New Jersey has built up an impressive farm system over the last few drafts, so there’s no reason to stop now. Jonathan Lekkerimaki might just be one of the most exciting prospects in the class and he’s been proving it early on this season. An impressive goalscorer, Lekkerimaki brings impressive creativity to his game, allowing him to carve his way to the net for a scoring chance. He could be a future fan favourite.

16. Detroit Red Wings: Marco Kasper, C, Rogle BK (SHL) 

Detroit is out of the top-half of the first round (so far) but are still able to add an incredible talent in Marco Kasper. The Austrian forward has impressed in the SHL thanks to his offensive awareness. Whenever he’s on the ice, he’s a threat to make something happen in the offensive zone. He can score show-stopping goals or make an impossible pass through the crease. This seems like a very Steve Yzerman selection.

17. Los Angeles Kings: Frank Nazar, RW, USNTDP (USHL) 

It seems like we’ve been discussing the Kings building up their prospect pool for years now, and somehow, they just continue to improve it. Adding skilled — potentially underrated — Frank Nazar from the National Team Development Program, the Kings land a forward that can seemingly do it all, from creating and finishing offense to hustling back and supporting his defenders. The rich get richer.

18. Buffalo Sabres (via VGK): Filip Mesar, RW, HK Poprad (Slovakia) 

Buffalo gets their second pick of the first round to end out the top-20, taking the third Slovak skater off the board in Filip Mesar. The forward is a high-IQ player with excellent competitiveness and a flair for offense. He’s a strong playmaker with soft hands and effective skating. The Sabres really boosted their prospect pool in the 2021 draft and have added to that in a big way so far here — and they still have one more first rounder to go, too.

19. St. Louis Blues: Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) 

With the Blues’ first round choice, they land the top QMJHL player in Tristan Luneau — although the race looks very close. Luneau is a right-shot defender that brings fluid skating along with size and impressive awareness at both ends of the rink. His point totals haven’t been jumping off the scoresheet this season which is why he’s sliding a bit from where FCHockey had him ranked in the Preliminary ranking, but this is still a very skilled prospect.

20. Philadelphia Flyers: Ryan Chelsey, D, USNTDP (USHL) 

The top defender for the National Team Development Program, Ryan Chelsey is one of the best defenders available in this class. He has extremely impressive four-way skating ability, shows strong defensive positioning, and has a nice level of physicality to his game. On top of this, he’s a right-hand shot. Without a first rounder last year, the Philadelphia Flyers get a big addition here in Chelsey.

21. Nashville Predators: Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) 

The biggest challenger to Luneau’s title as top QMJHL player this season looks to be Nathan Gaucher. Gaucher seems like a power forward but can bring a higher level of skill than you’d expect. On top of his size and strength, he brings an ability to produce impressive numbers and has shown that this season, going nearly a point-per-game. 

22. Tampa Bay Lightning: Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP (USHL) 

The Lightning have a way of landing top players lower than expected and Isaac Howard could be just that in this spot. The winger is a well-rounded offensive weapon with the ability to fire a puck past a netminder or pull off a highlight reel pass. He also shows the ability to step his game up in critical moments. Tampa Bay would be skipping away from the podium with this pick.

23. Minnesota Wild: Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm (OHL) 

Minnesota opts for another nearly point-per-game player in Danny Zhilkin. After landing a goalie and a defender in the first round last draft, they now look to the forward corps and take the Russian-Canadian forward that has one of the best shots in the class. He has excellent puck skills to go with his impressive lateral movements and should fit in well to the team the Wild are building. 

24. Calgary Flames: Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL) 

The Flames are not afraid to bet big on the undersized players, and they show that here in drafting defender Ty Nelson. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection is a very strong skater with a flair for offense. He excels in his transition game and can steal your attention on any shift. He’s playing at nearly a point-per-game pace after missing a season to the OHL cancellation, so it’s safe to say that he’s impressing early on.

25. Winnipeg Jets: Simon Forsmark, D, Orebro HK (SHL) 

After opting for offense with Chaz Lucius in the last go-around, the Jets now look to bolster their defensive game by adding the remarkably intelligent Simon Forsmark. Playing in the SHL, Forsmark shows off impressive play on the defensive side of the puck, combined with great decision making, high competitiveness and a mature demenor. 

26. Edmonton Oilers: Seamus Casey, D, USNTDP (USHL) 

The Oilers finally make their way to the podium and take yet another National Team Development Program player in defenseman Seamus Casey. The skilled skater stands out in his impressive transition ability, displaying high-end edgework and extremely creative footwork. He’s surprisingly elusive and his mobility could end up seeing him drafted quite higher than this selection. 

27. Anaheim Ducks: Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) 

By the end of the 2021-22 season, this spot may seem way too low for Denton Mateychuk. But the Ducks would be happy to select him here, potentially building a deadly one-two punch on the backend with Jamie Drysdale and Mateychuk. A mobile defender, Mateychuk is a smooth skater that loves to jump up into the play. Imagining him and Drysdale on a power play unit is very exciting.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs: Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) 

The Maple Leafs look to their defense with their first-round pick, nabbing Kevin Korchinski. Korchinski is a two-way defender with impressive skating ability, showing off high speeds in his transition game while also showing strong defensive instincts in his own end. He’s a confident player that has the skill at both ends to back it up.

29. New York Rangers: Lane Hutson, D, USNTDP (USHL) 

A similar player to Mateychuk, the Rangers bet on one of the best skaters in the class in defender Lane Hutson. He can dance along the blue line or cut through opponents with ease. He’ll need to show some improvements defensively but the offensive is definitely worth the gamble. For the Rangers who have a plethora of young talent, a bit of a risk could be worth it for New York.

30. Arizona Coyotes (via MTL via CAR): Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands IF (SHL) 

After already adding Wright and Geekie, the Coyotes turn to the defensive end in selecting Swiss defenseman Lian Bichsel. Splitting games between the SHL and J20 Nationell, Bichsel is a big, physical presence that can move the puck very well. This is a player that NHL teams will love for his combination of size, mobility, physicality, and skill. Arizona would be happy to fill out their first-round trio with Bichsel.

31. Washington Capitals: Gleb Trikozov, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL) 

Washington is no stranger to drafting from Russia, and could have a hidden gem on their hands in Gleb Trikozov. The forward is a smooth-skating, two-way forward that plays with great pace while maintaining solid decision making. On top of his standout offensive instincts, his commitment to his own zone has caught the eye of FCHockey scouts early on.

32. Buffalo Sabres (via FLA): Julian Lutz, LW, EHC Munchen (DEL) 

After the Coyotes make their third selection, the Sabres get to make theirs as well. Opting to go all offense with McGroarty, Mesar, and now Julian Lutz. Lutz has been injured to start the 2021-22 season but should hopefully be returning soon to prove that this selection is more than worth it. The big forechecking winger is a very agile skater and has the offensive skill to match. This might even be too low for the young prospect.

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