October 1, 2021

Wright tops FCHockey’s preliminary ranking for 2022 draft

It’s that time of year where we turn the page on the previous NHL Draft and turn our attention to the upcoming edition. In this case, the 2022 NHL Draft. 

And what a draft it will be.

There will be no surprises at the top of the class, as we’ve watched the exceptional Shane Wright in awe for years already. From being granted exceptional status into the Ontario Hockey League to winning CHL Rookie of the Year in 2019-20 to leading Canada to the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship gold medal, there’s no disputing he’s at the top of this class. 

You can bet that NHL teams will be chomping at the bit to be able to get their jersey on him, too. There’s a reason the NHL updated the NHL Draft Lottery rules.

After Wright, things will get interesting. 

In FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft, there are prospects from 12 different leagues and 10 different countries. It has the potential to make up one of the most diverse first rounds we’ve seen. 

From the No. 2 spot on, positions are very much up for grabs. While players like Brad Lambert and Matthew Savoie seemed to once lock down the other top-three spots, a wave of Slovak and Russian prospects has entered that conversation and have been turning heads over the past year. You can’t count out the Americans in this class either, who could charge up rankings.

It’s a long season and this ranking will change a great deal before the 2022 NHL Draft kicks off. FCHockey will be getting eyes on some players for the first time in 19 months and the upcoming draft could have some big surprises in store. It’s gearing up to be a very exciting season.

With the 2022 NHL Draft only nine months away, here’s how FCHockey’s preliminary ranking has the top-32. 

1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) 

As mentioned, there are no surprises here. Shane Wright looks to have this spot on lockdown and barring a shocking performance from him and one of the next handful of names, he might just run the course of the season on the top of every list. From his remarkable intelligence to his elite shot, from his maturity to his impressive leadership skills, Wright is a talent that could change an NHL team’s fortunes. After losing the 2020-21 OHL season due to the COVID-19 cancellation, we could be in store for a massive season from the top prospect. If there’s one prospect you follow all year, it needs to be Wright.

2. Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia)

Playing in Slovakia’s top men’s league, Simon Nemec has been capturing attention at international levels including the 2021 World Junior Championship, 2021 Men’s World Championship, the Olympic Qualifiers, and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. We’ve seen him against his peers, and we like what we’ve seen. He’s a gifted two-way presence that shows intelligence at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t have this spot on lockdown by any means, but he’s captured the attention of scouts at FCHockey.

3. Brad Lambert, C, JYP (Liiga)

A name that you might have been expecting at No. 2 on this list, Brad Lambert’s inconsistency last season has seen him drop a tier from the No. 1 conversation into what will be a battle for that second spot. But in no way is that a slight against the talent he possesses. The skilled forward spent last season in Finland’s top men’s league, the Liiga. His ability to take over a game offensively, his edgework, and his playmaking stand out as top skills in this class. The hope is that he can carve out more time for himself at the Liiga level and improve his consistency. 

4. Ivan Miroshnichenko, RW Omskie Krylia (VHL)

There’s going to be a battle for the top Russian of this class, but for right now Ivan Miroshnichenko takes the spot. The winger has built hype and excitement around himself for years now, captaining gold medal-winning Russian teams and standing out against older competition. His shot looks ready for the NHL level and his ability to fire it from anywhere makes him a threat whenever he touches the puck. His ability to read defenses and get himself into these scoring chances is among the best in this class.

5. Danila Yurov, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)

He may have been in the shadow of Miroshnichenko in the lead-up to this season, but Danila Yurov has exploded onto the draft scene. The winger is already at the KHL level, thanks to his two-way prowess, his high competitiveness, and his intelligence. Mix that with his high offensive skill and ability to drive the play – even when playing against men – make him a top prospect for the 2022 draft. He could make a push for the top Russian spot and even higher in this class, especially if he sticks in the KHL.

6. Matthew Savoie, RW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

While Wright was on the sidelines last season waiting for the OHL season to kick off, Matthew Savoie played wherever he could – spending time in both the AJHL and the USHL last year. Now, with a full WHL season getting set, the promising young prospect is back and ready to take the league by storm. His offensive skill is remarkable in that it can adapt to what’s needed in the moment. You need a goalscorer? He can be the guy. You need a playmaker? Get ready for his vision to be on display. You need a power forward? He’ll drive his way to the net and bulldoze opponents. While the WHL focus might be on 2023-eligible Connor Bedard, Savoie deserves some of the limelight as well.

7. Juraj Slafkovsky, C, TPS (Liiga)

Another top Slovak in this class, Juraj Slafkovsky has taken his talents to Finland – where he’s been playing since 2019-20. After spending last season in the U20 SM-sarja, it looks like he’s made the jump to the Liiga level to stay. He’s a big forward with a great shot. What’s most impressive are his soft hands that you don’t expect with a player of his size. He plays a patient game that is beyond his years, with high-end playmaking ability. While he’s at No. 7 on this list, he – and those above him – are all in the No. 2 conversation.

8. Rutger McGroarty, C, USNTDP (USHL)

A big-bodied centerman that seems unable to avoid putting up points, Ruter McGroarty is FCHockey’s top American in the preliminary ranking – but even the race is tight. He finds open space so well, always presenting himself as a scoring threat. He fights hard to move to the net-front and get open. With the puck, he can be the playmaker as well, showing good vision and hitting teammates with crisp passes and a great scoring chance. He might be the best goal-scorer in the class and if you get the chance to watch him in action, his offensive ability will be hard to miss.

9. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

While it looks like Savoie will be the start of the Ice, Conor Geekie should be right there with him. After starting last season in the MJHL, Geekie went nearly a point-per-game in the WHL last year. Now entering his draft year, expect him to exceed that mark – especially if he’s on the ice with Savoie. The center brings size and skill to his game, a power forward with an ability to produce at a high level. His ability to control the puck is dominant at times and he’s very much a threat to climb these rankings as the season goes on. 

10. Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)

Already stealing the show early on in the 2021-22 season, Joakim Kemell has been an early favourite in this class. The Finnish forward is another top goal-scorer in the class. He has a full arsenal of shots and knows how to use them. He has great speed that defenders seem to still not give him credit for, as he can catch them flat-footed often and blow past. He has great hands and nice passing ability. He’s exploded onto the scene this season, starting in the Liiga and it doesn’t look like he’s looking back.

11. Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

Along with McGroarty, Isaac Howard is a strong contender for the top American in the class and could slide right into the top-10. With a quick release and a ton of power behind his shot, Howard is right there with his fellow American as a threat to find the twine. He can dish it out too though, with high-end playmaking abilities. He’s a clutch performer, able to step his game up when the game is on the line. The USNTDP is a ton of fun this season and Howard is a big part of that.

12. Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP (USHL)

A regular with the U18 team last season, Logan Cooley is a two-way center that drives play. While he generates speed with the puck on his stick, his play away from the puck is arguably more impressive. He angles out well, supporting his defenders whenever he’s on the ice. He reads the play so well, getting into the passing lanes and stealing pucks with ease. He’ll be a fixture of the USNTDP team and could find himself in the top-10 as the season progresses.

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

The top Swedish player in the class, Elias Salomonsson is one of the best defenders in this class. A strong candidate to push up the draft board, the defender’s knowledge of how to play in his own end is very impressive for his age. He uses his long reach to get into the passing lanes, pressure attackers, and steal pucks. He also brings some offensive skill to his game with an ability to produce points. He’s going to be a fun one to keep an eye on this season.

14. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

The top prospect from the QMJHL this season, Tristan Luneau is a right-hand defenseman that seems to have been in the spotlight for years already. Stepping right into the league last season, he was a key part of the blue line for Gatineau and should be a top player in the league this year. He’s extremely well-rounded, bringing skating, size, and excellent awareness at both ends of the ice. He’s extremely well-composed and poised with high intelligence, and should be a scout favourite this season.

15. Ryan Chesley, D, USNTDP (USHL) 

The top American defenseman in the class, Ryan Chesley will draw interest as a right-hand shot and his remarkable four-way skating ability. He plays aggressive defensively, keeping attackers to the outside with excellent body positioning and strong stickwork. He protects the middle of the ice so well and if needed, is able to throw his body around and separate players from the puck with physicality. One of the top defenders in the class, and he will be highly coveted in the 2022 NHL Draft.

16. David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czech)

After Czech-defender Stanislav Svozil was a first-round contender all year last season, this year will see David Jiricek take that spot. Entering his second season in the Czech Republic’s top men’s league, the defender could be a top-10 challenger as the season goes on. A two-way presence with above-average skating, Jiricek is very much one of the best defenders in this class. He defends well, protecting the middle lane and using his range to break up plays. Make sure to keep an eye on him this season.

17. Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

This is where it could get interesting. Bryce McConnell-Barker lost his entire 2020-21 campaign in the OHL. While this season is crucial for all of the draft eligibles, those that missed their draft minus-1 year are coming in having lost a season of development. Scouts haven’t seen these players in-game situations in over a year, so these players will need to prove themselves that much more. McConnell-Barker has great speed to go along with a hard shot, and seeing how these have improved over the last 19 months will be very interesting to see.

18. Seamus Casey, D, USNTDP (USHL)

Carried by his impressive skating, Seamus Casey is another skilled player from the USNTDP that has been capturing attention. He needs to put on some weight, but the quick defenseman’s offensive skill and transition ability stand out in spades. He has high-end edgework and is extremely creative in his footwork. This makes him elusive and he can surprise the opposition with his navigation of the ice. While undersized, his mobility will be a wanted asset.

19. Noah Ostlund, C, Djurgardens IF J20 (J20 Nationell) 

Noah Ostlund is a well-rounded, creative center who looks to be the top Swedish forward in the class. He has great speed and knows how to use it, playing at a high pace and aggressively driving play whenever he’s on the ice. He reads the play very well, and might just be one of the hardest players to play against in the class. After a strong start to his 2021-22 season, expect him to make the jump to the SHL sooner rather than later

20 Pano Fimis, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

Like McConnell-Barker, Pano Fimis lost his draft minus-1 season with the OHL cancellation. After putting up 104 points (41 goals, 63 assists) with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in 2019-20, there was a ton of excitement around Fimis taking the step into the OHL. Now that it’s happening, that excitement is still there. While he has a smaller frame, the center isn’t afraid of physicality and staying balanced. He’s a strong stickhandler, perhaps one of the best in the class, and loves to play hard around the net.

21. Frank Nazar, RW, USNTDP (USHL) 

The USNTDP won’t have any issues finding the back of the net this season, as Frank Nazar is yet another goal-scoring forward on the American team. He’s so impressive at fighting his way to the front of the net and getting into the high-danger areas. Once there, he has a quick, accurate shot that can blow past the netminder. His offensive game will carry him, but he’s also impressive in his own zone, knowing when to collapse in his own zone and support his defense. The National Team Development Program’s U18 Team will be a ton of fun this season and Nazar will be a big part of that.

22. Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL) 

The first overall pick in the 2020 OHL Draft, Ty Nelson is another player that lost the 2020-21 season. Slightly undersized, Nelson makes it up with strong skating ability and flair for offense. He excels in his transition game and often steals attention when he’s on the ice. Nelson is one of the players that scouts will be most excited to see how he has progressed since he last hit the ice.

23. Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

The second QMJHL player on this list is entering his third season in the league and has shown impressive improvements year-over-year. A versatile power forward with great size and strength, Nathan Gaucher is a physical presence that brings a remarkable amount of skill as well. Going over a point-per-game last season, expect him to continue his ascension this season as he looks to maintain and improve his draft stock through the season. 

24. Marco Kasper, C, Rogle BK (SHL)

The top Austrian in the class, Marco Kasper has been developing his skill in Sweden with Rogle BK over the past two seasons. After getting 10 games at the SHL level last season, it looks like the forward could become a fixture on the top-Rogle squad this season. A versatile forward with excellent skating skills, Kasper is always an offensive threat. His playmaking can surprise defenders with a quick, sneaky pass in tight spaces. As he gets used to the SHL level, he could be a riser on draft boards throughout the season.

25. Cutter Gauthier, LW, USNTDP (USHL) 

Another USNTDP player? You bet. Cutter Gauthier’s name hasn’t been around as much as the others, but it will be. Born in Sweden and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, the forward is a power forward that – you guessed it – knows how to put the puck in the net. He has good size and an impressive shot, which when combined with his hockey sense make him a formidable force whenever he’s on the ice. 

26. Ludwig Persson, C, Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell) 

A player that has been on the radar for a number of years now, Ludwig Persson spent time last season in both the J20 Nationell and the SHL, which he looks to replicate this year. A very strong skater, perhaps one of the best in the class, Persson uses excellent acceleration and utilizes crossovers to blow past opponents often. He’s agile, elusive, and handles the puck well, a dangerous combination. Don’t be shocked if he shoots up draft boards as the season goes on.

27. Simon Forsmark, D, Orebro HK (SHL) 

A two-way defender, Simon Forsmark is already showing off his talents at the professional level in Sweden. A large reason that he’s reached the SHL at such a young age is due to his decision-making. He plays well above his age, looking like a mature veteran in his own end at times. He plays hard and never gives up on a play, especially in his own end. He keeps an active stick and scans the ice very well. His skating and offensive game leave something to be desired, but his maturity and defensive game are very intriguing. 

28. Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands IF (SHL) 

A mobile, puck-moving defender with great size, Lian Bichsel represents yet another country in our first round. The Swiss blueliner will make sure scouts notice him, bringing an impressive physical edge to his game. You might not expect it, but he also shows off some strong puck skills to his game. Bichsel screams a player that NHL teams will love, a defender with skill and a strong, physical presence. He looks to be sticking in the SHL this season, which should only help him rise up draft boards.  

29. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, C, Djurgardens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)

You like goals? Look no further. Jonathan Lekkerimaki has the power, skill, and vision to torment goaltenders. He can drive the net with regularity, yet seems to take a different path every time. He has a dangerous shot and knows how to get creative to score, even setting himself up with a rebound when needed. Year-over-year, he’s a threat to lead his league in goals. That should be more than enough to garner attention from NHL scouts. 

30. Julian Lutz, LW, EHC Munchen (DEL)

As we saw in the 2020 NHL Draft, Germany is a nation to watch on the hockey scene. That remains the case as Julian Lutz looks to be another German selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. After playing most of his career in Austria, he looks to have made the jump to the top men’s league in Germany, the DEL. He’s a big, hard forechecking winger that can bring offensive skill as well. He’s an agile skater, with impressive edges. 

31. Lane Hutson, D, USNTDP (USHL)

The final USNTDP player projected within the first round, Lane Hutson might just be one of the more exciting. His skating is among the best in the class, and his ability to navigate the offensive zone and create plays stands out in a big way. That same skill may slightly lack in his own zone, but his offensive play is enough to keep him in the top round. He has some work to do on his game, but if he can improve his play in the defensive zone, he could shoot up these rankings.

32. Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

Denton Mateychuk has a similar profile to Hutson. A mobile, offensive defenseman that seems to always look to jump into the rush and create scoring opportunities. He can quarterback the power play, and his skating is exceptional. However, like Hutson, his defensive play is a work in progress. He’ll need to improve his gap control and stick positioning, but his offensive play will help mask those faults at the junior level. To take his game to the next level, that defensive game will need to take a step forward this season though.

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