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2022 NHL Draft Mailbag: Pick-A-Defender, the Russian Dilemma, and Peanut Butter Hot Dogs

Tony Ferrari answers your prospect questions, discussing everything from Russian prospects, Juraj Slafkovsky, the New Jersey Devils, Lane Hutson, Matthew Savoie, late-round steals and much more.
Matthew Savoie

It’s less than a month away from the NHL draft, so let's have some fun and answer some of your prospect questions:

Samuel Grega (@samuel_grega): If all of Korchinski, Mateychuk, and Mintyukov are available, who are you taking and why?

This is an interesting trio of defenders, and they're all in that second tier behind David Jiricek and Simon Nemec. All three of these defenders have some really interesting upside and offensive talent. Mintyukov is one of the most offensive-minded blueliners in this year’s draft class. Mateychuk is possibly the most creative and unique defender in the draft, making some really fun plays in transition and in the offensive zone.

That leaves Korchinski. The Seattle Thunderbirds’ defender is one of the most elusive defenders when retrieving a puck in his own end. His escapability is impressive as he uses his skating ability to find space and make a clean first pass. Korchinski can also use his skating ability to move the puck up ice. Korchinski is also an extremely intelligent and precise passer from his own end. He's also capable of creating his own shot as well at times. Korchinski’s size and skill combination along with his skating ability make him one of the more projectable defenders in the class while also presenting a great deal of upside to grow even more as a defender.

Tie Smith (@TieSmith1069232): Do you have any player(s) that ranked late first/early second that you think could end up being a top 5/10 player in the draft class. I.e. Pastrnak, Aho, Debrincat, or even Sandin?

The first name that pops to mind is Ivan Miroshnichenko. The Russian winger is an excellent skater with a big shot and a physical edge to his game. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma which unfortunately took him out of the second half of the season. Although his treatments have been completed and he has been cleared to resume hockey activities, there is likely a long road to getting back to the form he was in during his draft minus-one season. Could he be the top-five player he was expected to be coming into the year? For sure.

Jagger Firkus is another name to bring up here. He is a video game-type player who makes the ‘wow’ play nearly every game. His puck skills are among the best in the class with some of the best puck control of any prospect in hockey. He scored a ton this year in the WHL and despite his size, he could have the skill to be a top-10 player.

Seamus Casey is the final name I’ll bring up here. The USNTDP star defender is one of the most toolsy blueliners in the class. His offensive game is intriguing but he seemed to be holding back at various times this year. He shows flashes of brilliance as a puck mover in all three zones. His mobility and intelligence allow him to be effective in all three zones but he will need to get stronger to enhance his defensive game.

Josh Frojelin (@JoshFrojelin): There are three 200-pound forecheckers coming into the zone at full speed. What two defensemen do you most trust to handle the puck?

I’ll start with Korchinski for all of the reasons above. The escapability and ability to come prepared with a plan A, B, and C is very important in this scenario. The other defender I’d pair with his is Simon Nemec. Nemec is one of the better transitional defenders in the draft and I feel as if pairing these two would play into each other's strengths as well as cover up the weakness that they have.

Nemec can panic at times under forechecking pressure below the goal line so allowing Korchinski to retrieve the puck and escape the first forechecker would be an asset. Korchinski could then make the decision to find Nemec on the outlet or beat the second attacker one-on-one with his mobility and quick hands. Depending on the room provided, Korchinski could then send the puck over to Nemec after drawing pressure and allow Nemec to effectively move the puck up ice, either via a pass or skating it out himself. This would be a neat duo.

A Number of People: How will the Russian invasion of Ukraine affect the stock of Russian players?

The reality of the situation is that because of Russia’s unlawful and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, the players that are coming out of Russia will likely be pushed down the draft board. Despite the players having nothing to do with it, the Russian factor remained a thing long after it was finished so this season’s draft eligibles from Russia will likely face similar situations to what it was like a decade or two ago. The top guys may only fall a few spots but anyone that projected outside of round one will likely take quite the tumble down the board, justified or not.

Pete Krupsky (@PeteKrupsky): Will Lane Hutson be drafted in the first round; Hab Warrior

(@habwarrior3000): What is Lane Hutson’s realistic NHL potential?

This has been a topic of discussion all year long. Lane Hutson is one of the most exciting, imaginative, and skilled defensemen in this year’s draft. He is offensively intuitive and has the ability to make opponents look absolutely silly. Hutson can make an opponent miss at the blueline and thread a pass through levels of the defense, seemingly with ease. His defensive game improved throughout the year as he became more comfortable playing into his strengths, utilizing his mobility and stick to guide and disrupt play. He has a ways to go still but the USNTDP star has improved and impressed all year long.

So why is this even a question? Well, the young American is 5-foot-8 and doesn’t bring a physical element to the game as a defender which turns off some NHL squads. Personally, I think that Hutson has the talent to overcome that. With that said, I do think he falls to the end of round one or early in round two. If he were 5-foot-11, I think we'd be discussing Hutson as a top-15 talent or better. As for his potential, I think he can be a really good second-pair defender who leans offensively and can run a power play. Think of a Sam Girard-type player. Work the defensive game based on strengths, excel in transition, and be a creative and crafty offensive blueliner at 5-on-5 and with the man advantage.

Joel Henderson (@dathockeydoe): If you had to pick one hockey prospect to try hot dogs with peanut butter, who would it be?

While everyone should try it, if I had to choose just one, I feel like it would be Jagger Firkus. He’s a fun kid and he seems like the kind of guy that would really dig the unique beauty that is hot dogs and peanut butter.

Jackson Edward (@JacksonEdward38): How likely is it Savoie falls out of the top 10?

He’s an undersized center and despite his incredible skill and talent, he still has some small mental lapses and struggles at times to produce at 5-on-5. I’d say it’s 50/50.

Chris M. Craig (@Agent_Double0): What do the NJ Devils do with pick #2 if Slafkovsky is gone?

Probably draft Logan Cooley or David Jiricek. I’d probably lean Cooley despite the depth down the middle. Hughes-Cooley-Hischier or some version of that would be unreal in today’s NHL. Jiricek would give them the young defender that they sorely need.

Harris Barnes (@HarrisBarnes24): Is Mintyukov the biggest wild card in the 1st round? Feels like he could go anywhere from 8 to 32.

Mintyukov is a very big wildcard. Gleb Trikozov is the other name that came to mind. Incredibly talented and could very well have top-12 talent thanks to his incredible skill and offensive mindset. There is so much from the fact that he’s a Russian playing in Russia to teams being afraid of pure skill that could cause him to fall. He’s been anywhere from 8 to 69 on notable public boards.

Casey Dulson (@Casey_LeighD): Which prospect do you think orders Hawaiian Pizza?

Frank Nazar. The guy seems to like chaos and ordering Hawaiian pizza at a party would be exactly that.

Peter (@MVPete96): Would Berniers be the top prospect in this year's draft if eligible?

He was my No. 1 last year and he would likely be the number one this year on my board. 

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