2022 NHL Mock Draft
This is our mock version for the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft, which will be held in Montreal on July 7th. The first 20 picks will be split into multiple parts. The first part being which players our model would prefer to select at each pick. The explanation of our model can be found here. The next part will be our draft analyst Matt Higgs’ analysis on what he believes will happen at each selection. The final part will be the summary of the prediction, and it will include projected NHL role, as well as NHL comparable players for the prospects. The final twelve selections will simply include the mock pick, and the NHL comparable for the player.
*Note: The NHL comparable players provided are simply a stylistic comparison of each prospect, not necessarily who we believe each player will eventually become in the NHL.
1. Montreal Canadiens
With the first pick, Montreal is most likely debating between picking either Canadian center Shane Wright, or the big Slovak winger, Juraj Slafkovsky. At the top of the draft, our model really likes Wright, Slovakian defensemen Simon Nemec, and Austrian forward Marco Kasper, as the top tier guys. Although Nemec is a consensus top 5 pick, Kasper is more of a consensus top 10-15 pick among most rankings and mock drafts. Our model really liked him due to his production in the SHL this past season, the top league in Sweden, and followed it up with an impressive playoffs as well. However, Kasper is already almost close to a finished product, and there are questions about his offensive upside, which validate the reasons for most rankings having him outside the top 5. Our model really likes Nemec for the same reasons as Kasper, as he was very impressive in the top Slovakian league this season, with an outstanding playoffs as well, as he averaged almost a point per game as a teenage defenseman in the postseason. However, Nemec is not seen as a realistic option at pick number one for Montreal, which leaves Wright and Slafkovsky. While Wright was the consensus number one for the past few years in this draft class, he had a very underwhelming season this year, leaving the door open for debate at the top. Slafkovsky, on the other hand, shot up the draft boards this year thanks to some very impressive showings in international tournaments, including the Olympics in Beijing where he led the tournament in goals and won tournament MVP, as well as the Men’s World Championships in Finland. As a result, the gap is razor thin between the two players for who should be picked first. Our model was not very high on Slafkovsky, mainly due to his underwhelming production in Liiga this past season.
My personal preference at number one would be USNTDP center Logan Cooley. When compared to Wright, Cooley is the far more dynamic player with many more tools, which leads me to believe he has a much better chance to be a top line, 70-80 point center. I view Wright as more of a very good, second line, 50-60 point center. When comparing Cooley to Slafkovsky, it is razor thin, but I slightly lean towards Cooley due to positional value. However, it doesn’t seem like Cooley is in the conversation for Montreal at number one, leaving it between Wright and Slafkovsky. With the draft being in Montreal, and Shane Wright being the big name and the canadian kid, It feels like there would be a lot more pressure on upper management to get it right if they opted for Slafkovsky over Wright. Montreal goes with the two-way center to give them a one-two punch down the middle with Wright and Nick Suzuki.
The Pick: Shane Wright, Center, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Projection: Two-way, second-line center
NHL Comparables: Mika Zibanejad, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Schiefele
With Wright off the board, our model really likes Simon Nemec and Marco Kasper as the best options for New Jersey. They, along with Shane Wright, were the three players in the model’s top tier. However, according to most rankings and mock drafts, it would be a massive reach to take Kasper in the top 5. Nemec is interesting, as he has been projected to go and ranked around 4th overall, which makes him a slight possibility for New Jersey here at pick two. However, they took a defensemen with a top 5 pick last year in Luke Hughes. Nemec is also seen as more of an offensive defenseman, which is exactly what Luke Hughes is, so Nemec wouldn’t exactly be filling an organizational need here. Unless they surprised us on draft day, it doesn’t seem as if Nemec would be the pick here for New Jersey.
Death, taxes, and New Jersey moving up in the draft lottery. The Devils, who were originally slotted to pick fifth, win another lottery and jump up to second overall. While I believe Cooley is the best player available, I believe Slafkovsky fits a bigger need for New Jersey. The Devils are probably looking to add a bit more size, and they already have a solid duo down the middle with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier (as well as Dawson Mercer). On top of that, Cooley is an undersized, dynamic, playmaking center, which is what they already have with Hughes (and Hischier, to an extent). Slafkovsky gives them the big, powerful, goal-scoring winger that they need, and would fit in beautifully playing next to Jack Hughes for the next decade plus.
The Pick: Juraj Slafkovsky, Left Wing, TPS (Liiga)
Projection: Top six, goal scoring winger
NHL Comparables: Mikko Rantanen, Rick Nash
3. Arizona Coyotes
Nemec and Kasper still remain as the top players available according to the model. While it is realistically still far too early for Kasper, I definitely expect Nemec to be in play here for Arizona.
It feels as if there’s somewhat of a consensus top three in this draft with Wright, Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley. I believe Arizona would select whichever one of the three fell to them at this pick. In this case, it’s Logan Cooley. I also believe that if Slafkovsky was also an option here, they would still select Cooley, as he fits a greater organizational need for them. They have some good talent at wing with Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, and Dylan Guenther on the way, but they do not have any top-end, dynamic, playmaking centers to play with those guys, and Cooley certainly fits the bill. He is an electric playmaker and fits exactly what the Coyotes are lacking down the middle. Although he’s a bit undersized at 5’10, he more than makes up for it with his speed, vision, hands, competitiveness, and overall explosive playmaking ability. He has arguably the highest ceiling of any player in this class, with legit potential to be a superstar down the road with time and proper development. I believe the best overall talent available in this draft falls in Arizona’s lap at pick number three. He will be heading over to play at the University of Minnesota next season, but should be ready to step into the NHL next spring after his college season ends.
The Pick: Logan Cooley, Center, USNTDP
Projection: Top line, playmaking center
NHL Comparables: Brayden Point, Mitch Marner
Two of the three top tier players in our model are still available for Seattle at the fourth pick. Although Nemec and Kasper are in the same tier at the top, our model still has Nemec as a higher probability to be a full-time NHL player, making Nemec the preferred pick here. If you start looking at players in our next tier, the only players who would be realistic options here for Seattle in that tier are Logan Cooley and Swedish goal scoring winger Jonathan Lekkerimaki. Cooley is obviously not available, and it’d probably be a reach here for Lekkerimaki.
After taking center Matty Beniers with their second overall pick last year, Seattle grabs a cornerstone defensemen in Simon Nemec. This pick seems like it will realistically come down to Nemec and Czech defenseman David Jiricek, so it’s all about who Seattle prefers, as they are both much different types of players. Nemec is 6’0, and is viewed as more of a modern type of defenseman. He’s a smooth skater, smart, and can move the puck very efficiently. Jiricek is 6’3, and is more of a physical “shutdown” type of defensemen, with limited offensive ability. I believe Nemec fits better with how Seattle wants to build their team, and I believe he is the better overall prospect as well. Nemec may not become a true number one defenseman, but he’s got a great shot at being a top pair D in Seattle for a long time.
The Pick: Simon Nemec, Defenseman, Nitra (SVK)
Projection: Number 2/3, two-way defenseman
NHL Comparables: Devon Toews, MacKenzie Weegar
5. Philadelphia Flyers
With Nemec gone, the only player remaining in the top tier of our model is Kasper. Unless the Flyers are 100% sold on his offensive upside, it would be a reach to take Kasper here. The top remaining player in our model’s next tier is Lekkerimaki. Our model was pretty high on Lekkerimaki due to him lighting up the top Swedish junior league, as well as having pretty good production in the SHL this season, and because of the fact that he is only a couple months away from not being draft eligible until next year’s draft. There are some players in the draft class who are almost a full year older than Lekkerimaki. Another year of development could do wonders for a player like him. However, it still feels a tad early here for Lekkerimaki.
As mentioned before of there being a light consensus on a top 3 in this year’s draft, it also seems like there is a consensus top six, with those six players being the four already chosen in this mock, as well as Jiricek and USNTDP product Cutter Gauthier. I believe this pick comes down to those two. I’m sure Philadelphia will love Jiricek’s hard-hitting, physical style of play, but they do already have a defenseman in the mold of Jiricek in Rasmus Ristolainen. They are both big, physical, have heavy shots, and limited offense, so Jiricek wouldn’t be giving the Flyers something they don’t have. I also believe the Flyers simply need more talent and skill up front, and Gauthier fits the bill. Gauthier is a 6’2, highly competitive forward, who is an outstanding skater, and already has an NHL caliber shot. He is arguably the best goalscorer in the draft. On top of that, many teams believe he will play center at the NHL level, which only bumps up his value.
The Pick: Cutter Gauthier, Center/Left Wing, USNTDP
Projection: Top 6, goal-scoring power forward
NHL Comparables: J.T Miller, Pierre-Luc Dubois
The two players that are realistic options here for Columbus that our model has in its top two tiers are still Kasper and Lekkerimaki. However, it still feels a tad bit high for each player, although this is probably the last pick where neither are very good possibilities to get taken. If you look at the model’s next tier, one player that starts to become a candidate to get taken in this range is Winnipeg Ice forward Matt Savoie. Our model liked him due to his high level production in the WHL, but didn’t have him in one of the top tiers due to his height at 5’9.
As mentioned before, this draft class seems like it has a consensus top six at the moment, so I believe Columbus will simply select whichever of those six players falls to them. In this case, it’s the hulking Czech defenseman Jiricek. After selecting two forwards in the top 12 of last year’s draft with Kent Johnson (5th overall) and Cole Sillinger (12th), Columbus gets their defensmen in Jiricek at pick number 6. Jiricek is a right-shot, bruising defender with size and a heavy shot, although there are some offensive limitations. He’s one of the safest picks in this year’s class. He shouldn’t need very long before stepping into the Blue Jackets lineup.
The Pick: David Jiricek, Defenseman, Plzen (CZE)
Projection: Number 2/3, two-way defenseman
NHL Comparables: Alex Pietrangelo, Moritz Seider
Now is the range where guys like Kasper, Lekkerimaki, and Savoie start to go off the board. All three are great options here for Ottawa. Another one of the model’s tier 2 players who are a possibility here for the Senators is USNTDP center Frank Nazar. Our model liked him due to putting up elite numbers with Team USA U17 and U18 in both the USHL and the USDP the past couple seasons, as he averaged well over a point a game in each league each season. However, there are varying opinions on him throughout the scouting world, with some believing he should challenge to go in the top 10, and some believing he should be a last first round pick.
This is where the draft really starts to open up. It seems like this pick is where the next tier of players start. That next tier includes Kasper, Lekkerimaki, Savoie, and Finnish forward Joakim Kemell, as well as Nazar, Savoie’s Winnipeg teammate Conor Geekie, and Canadian defenseman Kevin Korchinski, although it’s unlikely that those three would go this early at pick 7. At this point it’s pure guesswork to try to predict who starts to go at each pick, but I’m fairly confident that Ottawa is picking between those first four players mentioned, with Lekkerimaki probably the least likely of the four to go. Kasper has a good amount of sandpaper in his game, which is what Ottawa already has in many of its players and prospects, including Brady Tkachuk, Ridley Greig, and last year’s 10th overall pick, Tyler Boucher. As a result, I think they go with either Kemell or Savoie, and my guess is they take Savoie. Savoie is an explosive skater with great hands, an NHL caliber shot, and isn’t afraid to get to the dirty areas. It’s unclear among scouts on if he’ll play center or a wing in the NHL, but the betting odds would probably be at wing, due to his size at 5’9. Although, his junior coach does believe he’ll be a center at the next level. Also, don’t be surprised if Ottawa trades out of this pick, as they may be wanting to accelerate the rebuild process.
The Pick: Matt Savoie, Center/Right Wing, Winnipeg (WHL)
Projection: Top 6, point producing forward
NHL Comparables: Mat Barzal, Kevin Fiala
8. Detroit Red Wings
At this point, the model is probably screaming for someone to take Kasper, and I think it finally gets its wish here.
Just like Ottawa in the pick before, it would be a major shock if Detroit’s pick wasn’t one of those players previously listed in the next tier after the top six. However, Steve Yzerman has shown he isn’t afraid to go off the board, so never say never. Of those players, I believe the most likely candidates for Detroit here are Kasper and Frank Nazar. Nazar is very similar to Detroit’s own Dylan Larkin, both very speedy and skilled centers from the USNTDP, and both playing their college hockey at Michigan. A big difference is that Larkin is 6’1, while Nazar is only 5’10, making it a bigger obstacle for him to become a top six center in the NHL. The vastly different opinions on Nazar in the scouting world also indicate that it’s probably unlikely he goes as high as 8th overall. Marco Kasper really feels like the pick for Detroit here. He fills a need here as a potential second-line center to slot in behind Larkin, although he is very versatile and can play any forward position. There are also obvious connections with Detroit and taking high draft picks out of the SHL. Although there are questions about Kasper’s offensive upside, he’s one of the best all-around prospects in this draft, combined with very high character and a great work ethic. There’s a slight chance he may even be able to step into the NHL as soon as this coming season. Detroit takes the Austrian pivot at pick 8.
The Pick: Marco Kasper, Center, Rӧgle (SHL)
Projection: Two-way, second line center
NHL Comparables: Sam Bennet, Joel Eriksson-Ek
9. Buffalo Sabres
With all three players in the top tier of the model all off the board, the remaining picks will be from players placed in the remaining tiers. Tier 2 players Lekkerimaki and Nazar still remain here for Buffalo at 9, so the model would definitely favor one of those two here. Some remaining tier 2 players from the model include USNTDP players Isaac Howard and Lane Hutson, who ranked highly due to their high levels of point production for the past couple seasons, but they are probably not realistic options for the Sabres this early.
Just like Detroit and Ottawa, it would be a major surprise if the Sabres selection wasn’t from that group of six to seven players after the consensus top six. Since Savoie and Kasper are both gone in this mock, that leaves Lekkerimaki, Kemell, Nazar, Geekie, and Korchinski. In regards to Korchinski, I firmly believe that the Sabres won’t be taking a defenseman here, mainly due to the fact that the best available defensemen at this range are left-hand shots. The Sabres young cornerstone defenders right now are former first overall picks Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, as well as Mattias Samuelsson. All of them are left-handed, making it tough to use a top ten selection on another left-shot defenseman. Even after Korchinski, the next two best available defensemen are Denton Mateychuk and Pavel Mintyukov, and both are left-handed (and both would be a reach here at 9). As a result, I can confidently cross off Korchinski here. 6’3 center Conor Geekie is a potential option here, but Buffalo also has the 16th pick in this draft, and there’s a decent chance he could slide there, so I’d be very surprised if Buffalo used its first pick on Geekie. That leaves Lekkerimaki, Kemell, and Nazar. You could easily make an argument for all 3 of these players, so it’s tough to pinpoint which direction they’ll go. I’ll cross off Nazar just because he has the greatest chance of these 3, by far, to slide to 16, and it’s usually BPA at the top of the draft. In addition, Lekkerimaki and Kemell firmly project as top 6 forwards in the NHL, while there are questions on if Nazar will become a 2nd line center, or nothing more than a 3rd line center. That leaves Lekkerimaki and Kemell. They are both very similar players, as they are both undersized, skilled, right-handed, European, goal-scoring wingers with lethal shots. It’s tough to find many differences between the two, other than Lekkerimakki is an inch taller at 5’10 ½, while Kemell has a bigger edge to his game. It realistically comes down to who they personally prefer, as it is extremely close between the two in most rankings out there. It is tough to ignore a bit of a Swedish connection for the Sabres, as they’ve had their fair share of taking players from Sweden in recent years, including last year when they took Isak Rosen with a top 15 pick. They also have multiple Swedes on the current roster, including one of their franchise players in Dahlin, as well as Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund. When watching Lekkerimaki, he looks almost identical to Jack Quinn, who the Sabres used a top 10 pick on a couple years ago. However, Kemell was leading the entire Finnish professional league in scoring early on this season before suffering a shoulder injury, but never maintained that scoring rate once he came back later on. The first half of the year, Kemell was seen as a top 5 pick, and potentially even top 3. If he stayed healthy all year, who knows where he might be going in this draft. It’s razor thin between the two in every ranking and mock draft out there, but I’ll say they go with Lekkerimaki because of the Sabres’ Swedish connection.
The Pick: Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Right Wing, Djurgardens (SWE)
Projection: Top 6, goal scoring winger
NHL comparable: Jordan Eberle
10. Anaheim Ducks
With Lekkerimaki gone, the model’s only remaining tier-2 player who is a realistic choice here for Anaheim is Nazar. However, I believe the Ducks will be leaning towards taking a defensemen here. The only two d-men in the second tier from the model are USNTDP product Lane Hutson, and North Bay Batallion’s Ty Nelson. They are both undersized, offensive defenseman who the model liked because of their ability to put up points wherever they want, so it would recommend one of them as the pick here. However, neither of them are considered to go anywhere near the top 10 in this class. If you look at the defensemen in the model’s next tier, it includes Korchinski, as well as USNTDP’s Seamus Casey, and Moose Jaw Warrior Denton Mateychuk. Casey isn’t a realistic option here at 10. Mateychuk may have an outside chance, but it’s highly unlikely. Korchinski, on the other hand, is one of the frontrunners.
I strongly believe that Anaheim will be taking a d-man here at 10. After the recent trade of Hampus Lindholm, they are pretty thin at the position. They also used their 3rd overall pick last year on a forward in Mason McTavish. The two defensemen who are strong possibilities here for the Ducks are Korchinski and Saginaw Spirit’s Pavel Mintyukov. They are both big, mobile defensemen with offensive upside. Korchinski shot up the rankings this season, thanks in large part to an impressive showing in the Seattle Thunderbirds’ deep run in the WHL playoffs recently. I believe the greatest separator here is Mintyukov’s passport, as Russians are expected to slide a bit this year as a result of some pretty obvious real-world circumstances. Due to the considerable risk and questions surrounding taking a Russian player, I don’t expect any team to use a top 10 pick on one. On top of that, I also believe Korchinski is the better overall prospect with a higher ceiling.
The Pick: Kevin Korchinski, Defensemen, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Projection: Top 4, offensive defensemen
NHL Comparable: Shea Theodore
11. San Jose Sharks
Similar to Anaheim, the only realistic option for San Jose in tier 2 of the model is Nazar. If you look at the next tier, a few names with outside chances to be selected here include Mateychuk, Finnish forward Brad Lambert, and Swedish forward Liam Ohgren. It’s certainly possible Lambert goes in this range of picks, but it still feels a tad bit early for him. The same goes for Mateychuk and Ohgren, as they’re more likely to go in the 15-20 range. The model’s pick here would be Nazar, and he is certainly a possibility.
I believe the Sharks are leaning towards taking a defensemen with this pick, as they don’t have much coming through the pipeline on defence behind Ryan Merkley. They also have their fair share of forwards they’ve drafted, including last year’s top 10 pick William Eklund, and 2020 first rounder Ozzy Weisblatt. The top defensemen available here would be Pavel Mintyukov. However, I believe the value here with Kemell sliding this far would be too good to pass up on. They’ve clearly shown that they value smallish possession forwards through recent drafts, so Kemell would make sense here, giving them another offensive weapon to add to their prospect pool.
The Pick: Joakim Kemell, Right Wing, JYP (Liiga)
Projection: Top 6, goal scoring winger
NHL Comparable: Viktor Arvidsson
12.Columbus Blue Jackets
With San Jose taking Kemell, the same players remain as the model’s best options for Columbus. The most likely option of those players is still Nazar, although I could see them taking a swing on Lambert, who is one of the biggest X-factors in this draft.
Since Columbus used their first pick in this mock on a defensemen, I believe they lean toward taking a forward if this scenario were to play out. They could take a bit of a risk and select Russian forward Danila Yurov, who is easily a top 10 talent in this draft, but will probably slide a bit due to obvious reasons. However, I believe they hold off and go with the 6’3 center Conor Geekie. Geekie’s skating is cause for concern, but he has a high hockey IQ and great playmaking ability. When you combine that with his 6’3 frame, he’s definitely got the tools to be a difference maker at the next level
The Pick: Conor Geekie, Center, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Projection: Middle-six center
NHL Comparables: Ryan Getzlaf, Brock Nelson
13. New York Islanders
With the Sharks selecting Geekie, the same players remain as the model’s picks here for the Islanders, with the two most likely still being Nazar or Lambert. Lambert is an interesting one, as his uncle is newly hired Islanders head coach Lane Lambert, so there’s a possible connection there.
The Islanders prospect pool is pretty much a wasteland, so they can go any direction here. They’re also a candidate to trade out of this pick. I say they go with Czech forward Jiri Kulich here. Many would say this is a bit of a reach here for Kulich, but he has been shooting up the draft boards all season, especially after an outstanding showing at the U18’s, where he led the tournament in goals and won tournament MVP. It also feels like he fits the Islanders and Lou Lamoriello’s preferred style of play with his competitive, two-way game.
The Pick: Jiri Kulich, LW/C, Karlovy (CZE)
Projection: Middle six, two-way forward
NHL Comparables: Jake Guentzel, Yanni Gourde
14. Winnipeg Jets
The same players remain as for who the model who take here for Winnipeg. There are also a couple players in the model’s 4th tier who start to become considerations in this range of the draft, Swedish forward Noah Ostlund, and USNTDP forward Jimmy Snuggerud. Both are very possible picks here for Winnipeg. Nazar, though, would be the model’s top selection, and I believe he finally goes here
Although Nazar still being available here is seen as a slide according to the model, this is about the range he is expected to go. With questions surrounding the futures of Pierre-Luc Dubois and Blake Wheeler in Winnipeg, the Jets take the speedy American center in Nazar.
The Pick: Frank Nazar, Center, USNTDP
Projection: Middle six, offensive center
NHL Comparables: Brayden Point, Alex Kerfoot
15. Vancouver Canucks
With Nazar off the board, that leaves only four players remaining in the model’s second tier. The only one who is a realistic option here for Vancouver is 5’9 USNTDP forward Isaac Howard. He may be in consideration here for the Canucks, but it feels a tad bit early for him. Tiers 3 and 4 players Mateychuk, Ohgren, Lambert, Ostlund, and Snuggerud are all very realistic options here as well. There is also an outside chance that Tier 3 players and USNTDP products Rutger McGroarty and Ryan Chesley would be considered here, but that would feel like a bit of a reach with a top 15 pick.
Vancouver is probably hoping for a center here, but they’d probably be reaching if they took one with this pick based on how this mock has played out so far. However, I would not be surprised if they did end up taking Swedish center Noah Ostlund with this pick. The two best players available here for Vancouver in terms of pure talent are probably two Russians, Danila Yurov and Pavel Mintyukov. Although the circumstances are a bit more extreme this year, Vancouver has shown a willingness to take Russian players high in the draft when they selected Vasili Podkolzin with a top 10 pick in 2019. They also just recently signed Russian free agent Andrei Kuzmenko. I think they pull the trigger on Yurov, who isn’t necessarily a need here for Vancouver, but could wind up being a steal this late in the draft.
The Pick: Danila Yurov, Right Wing, Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Projection: Top 6, scoring winger
NHL Comparables: Ondrej Palat, Marian Hossa
16. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres’ best choice here according to the model would be Isaac Howard. Despite his size at 5’9, he has shown an ability to produce everywhere he’s been the past few seasons. He is definitely a possibility here for Buffalo. Tiers 3 and 4 players Mateychuk, Ohgren, Lambert, Ostlund, and Snuggerud will definitely be considerations here for Buffalo as well. It is still a bit early for the other three available tier 2 players to be taken this early, which includes Hutson, Nelson, and Slovak forward Filip Mesar.
With Buffalo selecting Lekkerimaki with their first pick in this mock, they probably wouldn’t be leaning towards taking another scoring winger in this scenario, especially when they already have Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka on the way (However, I do think Yurov is the pick here if he’s available on draft day). The ideal pick would be a center or a defensemen. Defense would probably be the priority, as they don’t have any top prospects on the way from Rochester or anywhere else after Owen Power. They have a pretty good D prospect in Ryan Johnson, but there’s a very good possibility that he signs somewhere else next summer once the Sabres don’t own his rights anymore. In the Sabres’ last two drafts under Kevyn Adams, they have selected a total of three defensemen out of 12 picks, so they might be looking to take one or two with their three picks in the first round. The best defensemen available here is Mintyukov. After that, there’s Mateychuk and 6’4 Owen Pickering from Swift Current. All three are left-handed shots, which isn’t necessarily ideal for Buffalo, given they already have Dahlin, Power, and Samuelsson. They could go with right-handed Ryan Chesley from the USNTDP, but here would be a bit early for him, and there’s a legitimate chance he’ll be available with the Sabres third pick in the first round at 28th overall. If they look to take a center here, the best available is Noah Ostlund, who I could definitely see as the pick here, and would be my personal pick if the draft played out this way. He was easily one of the best players at the U18’s, and his stock has shot up over the second half of the year. Although he projects more as a winger in the NHL, I also think the Sabres would heavily consider taking a swing on Brad Lambert here. For years, he was viewed as a top 5 pick in this draft, but took a major dip this season. There’s been little progress in his game year over year, and he did not produce much at all this season in Liiga, even after switching teams midseason. He comes with some major red flags, including playing way too much on the perimeter and taking nights off, but he’s probably the best skater in this draft and always seems to stand out when playing against his own age group. He’s got all the tools, making him a big X-factor in this draft. However, I’d be scared off in taking him with this pick. If I had to guess, I think this pick would come down to Ostlund and Mintyukov (in this specific scenario). I say they lean towards Mintyukov, due to defense probably being the greater need in their pipeline, as well as Mintyukov simply being the much better value and higher rated prospect. He’s a very smooth skater, and fits right in with the high pace team the Sabres are trying to build. He’s not great in his own zone, and is a little wild with his pinches, which is something he’ll need to work on, but he’s an exciting defenseman and has the ability to tilt the ice.
The Pick: Pavel Mintyukov, Defensemen, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Projection: Top 4, offensive defensemen
NHL Comparables: Jakob Chychrun, Brandon Montour
With the Sabres taking Mintyukov, the same players remain as the top choices for the model here for the Predators. It’s still a bit early for tier 2 players Hutson, Nelson, and Mesar here, but this is the range where Howard will be coming off the board. He’s definitely a possibility here for Nashville.
The Preds will probably be looking for a defenseman here, as there is a definite need for them in their pipeline. The best available options include Mateychuk, Pickering, Chesley, and 6’5 Swiss Lian Bichsel. I’ll say they go with Owen Pickering, who is a 6’4 defenseman who can really skate and has offensive upside. If he pans out, he could end up being a steal.
The Pick: Owen Pickering, Defenseman, Swift Current (WHL)
Projection: Top 4, offensive defenseman
NHL Comparable: Travis Sanheim
18. Dallas Stars
Four of the seven tier 2 players from the model are still on the board here for Dallas, with Howard being the most likely of the four to go in this range. I think Dallas probably leans towards taking a defender with this pick, and the two defenders from the second tier are Nelson and Hutson, however it’d be very unlikely if either of them went this early. The available defensemen in model’s third tier include Chesley and Mateychuk, who are both very strong possibilities here for Dallas
With Dallas taking forwards in the first round of the draft the past few years, it has left their organizational depth on the blue line quite thin. If they do go with a defensemen, the pick would probably be either Chesley, Mateychuk, or Bichsel. I’ll say they go with the USNTDP product in Chesley, who is seen as one of the more safer prospects in this draft. He won’t wow you with his play, and doesn’t have much offensive upside, but he should be a steady presence on a team’s blue line for a long time.
The Pick: Ryan Chesley, Defenseman, USNTDP
Projection: Second pair, defensive defenseman
NHL Comparable: Brandon Carlo
With Dallas taking Chesley, who was on the model’s third tier, the same players remain as the best available options here for Minnesota. This could definitely be where Howard goes off the board.
Minnesota now has this pick as a result of the Kevin Fiala trade with Los Angeles. With the Wild also getting a top D prospect in Brock Faber as part of the deal, I would be surprised if they don’t take a forward here. They could take a swing on Lambert, but I’m somewhat expecting him to slide a bit on draft day. I’ll say they go with Swedish center Noah Ostlund. Minnesota clearly values skating when evaluating prospects, and Ostlund is one of the best skaters in the draft. He has been shooting up draft boards all season, and has the potential to go even higher than this pick.
The Pick: Noah Ostlund, Center, Djurgardens (SWE)
Projection: Middle six, playmaking center
NHL Comparable: Nico Hischier
20. Washington Capitals
With Minnesota taking Ostlund, who was on the model’s fourth tier, the same players remain as the model’s best options here for Washington. The most likely player would still be Howard. Some potential options in the model’s third tier include Mateychuk, Lambert, Ohgren, and USNTDP’s Rutger McGroarty.
We’re around the point in the draft where it becomes nearly impossible to predict each pick. Once you get to the second half of the first round, things really start to open up, and there’s legitimately 10-15 possible players for each pick. At 20th overall, I’ll say the Caps go with 6’3 center Nathan Gaucher, who has been picking up steam as a potential top 20 selection. Gaucher projects as a third line, two-way center, with the possibility of being a second line center depending on how much offense he ends up bringing.
The Pick: Nathan Gaucher, Center, Quebec (QMJHL)
Projection: Middle six, two-way center
NHL Comparables: Nicolas Roy, Adam Lowry
The Pick: Isaac Howard
NHL Comparable: Jeff Skinner
22. Anaheim Ducks
The Pick: Rutger McGroarty
NHL Comparable: James Van Riemsdyk
23. St. Louis Blues
The Pick: Lian Bichsel
NHL Comparable: K’Andre Miller
The Pick: Jimmy Snuggerud
NHL Comparable: Filip Forsberg
25. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Pick: Liam Ohgren
NHL Comparable: Brock Boeser
26. Montreal Canadiens
The Pick: Ivan Miroshnichenko
NHL Comparable: Gabriel Landeskog
27. Arizona Coyotes
The Pick: Jagger Firkus
NHL Comparable: TJ Oshie
28. Buffalo Sabres
The Pick: Sam Rinzel
NHL Comparable: Evan Bouchard
29. Edmonton Oilers
The Pick: Brad Lambert
NHL Comparable: Jesse Puljujarvi
The Pick: Denton Mateychuk
NHL Comparable: Shayne Gostisbehere
The Pick: Reid Schaefer
NHL Comparable: Alex Killorn
32. Arizona Coyotes
The Pick: Owen Beck
NHL Comparable: Jean-Gabriel Pageau