I have hesitated to do early draft rankings during these pandemic years because everything has been so up in the air and development curves have been so drastically impacted. I got a little bit of comfort recently when talking to an NHL exec who pointed out how 'off' the OHL seems this season - completely understandable given that last year's campaign was cancelled.
Having said that, y'all love draft rankings and who am I to deprive you of an initial look at the 2022 field? Maybe I'm wild here, but the following is a first shot at what the first round might look like when we all blessedly gather for in-person festivities in Montreal this summer (fingers crossed).
We still have a ton of hockey to play, but you will notice that so far, it's not a strong year for goaltenders. We also have some early favorites who have started off slowly (Brad Lambert being the most prominent), but I don't want to ding anyone too much at this point. I'm a conservative draft picker for the most part and I don't want to overreact. With all that said, here's my first 32 selections right now.
1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston (OHL): The undisputed gem of the draft, Wright is a powerful pivot with character who can dominate at both ends of the ice.
2. Logan Cooley, C, NTDP (USHL): High-end Notre Dame commit combines speed and smarts to create turnovers and burn opponents with his offensive prowess.
3. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Fin.): This kid has 'future beast' written all over him and playing against men has kept him sharp. Talented Slovakian plays with snarl.
4. Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omsk (Rus.): International sensation has speed and high-end offensive skill, plus a projectable frame. Playing against men back home in Russia's farm league.
5. David Jiricek, D, Plzen (Cze.): Put on an absolute show early on in the Czech League season, proving he could bring offense, mobility and poise from the back end.
6. Joakim Kemell, RW, TPS (Fin.): Red-hot start to season saw him lead the Liiga in scoring. Kid has a wicked release and will be a weapon at world juniors.
7. Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg (WHL): His combination of size and skill are hard to find in a pivot and I believe NHL scouts are going to fight over him. Geekie is playing for a wagon of a team in Winnipeg.
8. Simon Nemec, D, Nitra (Svk.): Steady, all-around blueliner putting up numbers in Slovakian League after dominating at summer's under-18 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament.
9. Matt Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL): Putting up excellent numbers on that stacked Ice team. True competitor with loads of skill was great with USHL Dubuque last season.
10. Brad Lambert, RW, TPS (Fin.): Slow start in the Liiga, but Lambert was excellent at last year's world juniors and his skill, skating and compete level will triumph eventually.
11. Danila Yurov, RW, Magnitogorsk (Rus.)
12. Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
13. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgarden (Swe.)
14. Marco Kasper, C, Rogle (SHL)
15. Jack D. Hughes, C, Northeastern (NCAA)
16. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau (QMJHL)
17. Elias Salomonsson, D, Skelleftea (Swe.)
18. Cutter Gauthier, LW, NTDP (USHL)
19. Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
20. Frank Nazar, RW, NTDP (USHL)
21. Matthew Poitras, C, Guelph (OHL)
22. Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, NTDP (USHL)
23. Ryan Chesley, D, NTDP (USHL)
24. Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko (Rus.)
25. Liam Ohgren, LW, Djurgarden (Swe.)
26. Filip Mesar, RW, Poprad (Svk.)
27. Isaac Howard, LW, NTDP (USHL)
28. Rutger McGroarty, LW, NTDP (USHL)
29. Pano Fimis, C, Niagara (OHL)
30. Lian Bichsel, D, Leksand (Swe.)
31. Artyom Duda, D, CSKA (Rus.)
32. Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph (OHL)