Well this is gonna be fun. With Montreal hosting the first in-person draft since 2019, the hometown Canadiens have won the lottery and the right to pick first overall. And while we're at the point of the season where rumors start circulating about a shakeup at the top of the prospect order (it happens almost every year), Shane Wright of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs remains my top pick for the 2022 class. So now that we know the order of the non-playoff teams, let's do a quick and dirty mock draft to kick off the home stretch.
1. Montreal Canadiens, Shane Wright, C: For a team low on pivots, Wright becomes available to the Habs at a perfect time. His two-way game is way beyond his years and thanks to his solid frame and incredible compete level, he'll be able to contribute right away. With Montreal's system light on centers (none of their top five prospects in 2022's Future Watch issue play down the middle), Wright can be a perfect option for the top six of the future alongside Nick Suzuki.
2. New Jersey Devils, Juraj Slafkovsky, LW: The Devils won the other lottery draw, pushing them up four spots. Now, in my overall rankings I have Logan Cooley No. 2, but the Devils don't really need a center with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes in the fold for the next decade. Slafkovsky, the big, powerful Slovakian winger, would look great on one of their flanks, however. Slafkovsky has a nice edge to his game and we've seen him go on scoring runs on big stages. Between him and Alex Holtz, the Devils would have some real weapons coming up on the wings.
3. Arizona Coyotes, Logan Cooley, C: The Coyotes dropped a spot due to New Jersey's win, but they can still get a player they really need in Cooley, the University of Minnesota commit who ran the NTDP offense this season. Arizona doesn't have any center depth right now, so Cooley would really help their cause: He's an offensive threat with great speed and will only get harder to slow down once he gets stronger (and the NCAA is the perfect place to do that).
4. Seattle Kraken, Simon Nemec, D: This one's tough because the top defenseman could be either Nemec or David Jiricek and it really comes down to team preference. That being said, Nemec would be fantastic for the Kraken, who obviously have a super-thin pipeline thanks to being in their first year of existence. Nemec is a right-shot, mobile blueliner who can run a power play and give you offense, but he's also solid on the defensive side of things. He's only going to get better and he's already pretty hot. If Seattle needed him sooner than later, I don't think it would be an issue.
5. Philadelphia Flyers, David Jiricek, D: The Flyers have a pretty balanced pipeline, with Cam York and Ronnie Attard leading the charge on defense, but with some nice guys up front as well (Bobby Brink, Noah Cates, Joel Farabee still young...), I'll give them Jiricek, an excellent D-man with size and a big-time shot to go with a rugged disposition. Missed a lot of time due to a knee injury this season, but like Nemec, I don't think he'll need much more seasoning.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Chicago), Joakim Kemell, RW: This is a Best Player Available scenario for me, as the Blue Jackets do have some good forwards in the pipeline already. Kemell got off to an historic start in the Liiga and was only slowed down by an shoulder injury. He's an excellent goal-scorer, but also well-rounded enough to be effective on the penalty-kill. Along with a great shot, Kemell competes hard, plays physical and is very coachable.
7. Ottawa Senators, Cutter Gauthier, LW: This is a tough one because there are some nice pivots available, but the Sens already have Josh Norris, Shane Pinto and even winger/center Tim Stutzle. With that in mind, let's go with Gauthier, the big NTDP product bound for Boston College next season. Gauthier is a power forward with a wicked shot and he can kill penalties. He also played some center this season if the Sens want flexibility.
8. Detroit Red Wings, Matt Savoie, C: I have not been a good predictor of Steve Yzerman's mindset at the draft, so take this with a grain of salt. But Savoie is a highly-skilled pivot who battles hard, despite not being the biggest kid on the ice. Now, those players tend to get punished early at the draft, but if anyone would buck the orthodoxy, it's Stevie Y. Savoie would give the Wings a solid 1-2 scoring tandem down the middle with veteran Dylan Larkin. Smart, fast and possessing a great shot, Savoie checks a lot of boxes coming out of WHL Winnipeg.
9. Buffalo Sabres, Conor Geekie, C: I'm bullish on Geekie because NHL teams love size and this kid from WHL Winnipeg is a big rig with a lot of upside. True, the Sabres have Dylan Cozens, Tage Thompson and Peyton Krebs, but you gotta stockpile the assets and Geekie probably needs a couple more years of junior anyway. Plus, there's a bit of gap between the top two defensemen in the draft and the next tier, so this might not be the best spot to go for a blueliner. High-end puck skills and the kid can skate, too.
10. Anaheim Ducks, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW: The Ducks have a lot of nice assets at different positions, so I'm going with a high-riser this season in Djurgarden's Lekkerimaki, who just led Sweden to gold at the world under-18s while leading the tourney in points. Needless to say, this kid can score and it's fun to think of what he'd be able to do on a line with Trevor Zegras in a few years from now.
11. San Jose Sharks, Ryan Chesley, D: Three of San Jose's top four prospects in Future Watch are forwards (William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau and Ozzy Wiesblatt) and the only defenseman is wild card offensive blueliner Ryan Merkley, so let's slot in Chesley here. The University of Minnesota commit was fantastic for the NTDP this season and reminds scouts of Ryan McDonagh thanks to his complete game and ability to do whatever his team needs at the time. Super-strong, too; he broke records in the NTDP gym.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets, Denton Mateychuk, D: With two picks in the top-12, you gotta go one forward, one defenseman, right? Mateychuk would be a great pick-up for the Jackets, as the WHL Moose Jaw product brings great skating and hockey sense to the back end. While he's not imposing, he does make life hard on opposing puck-carriers and does have a little bite to his game. He'll bring offense to the table, as well.
13. New York Islanders, Kevin Korchinski, D: The Isles only have two blueliners in their Future Watch top 10 (Bode Wilde and Samuel Bolduc), so this feels like a good slot to go for a defenseman. Korchinski has good size and he's strong on his skates. He can QB a power play and he's good on both zone entries and exits. With 61 assists in 67 games this year with WHL Seattle, you know he can create, too.
14. Winnipeg Jets, Frank Nazar, C: I'm calling this a Best Player Available pick too, because the Jets have a lot of talent on their roster already and a pretty balanced pipeline. Nazar isn't big, but he has a relentless motor and constantly finds ways of producing offense. Smart and fast, he can kill penalties, play physical and dart through traffic. The NTDP product is a University of Michigan commit.
15. Vancouver Canucks, Marco Kasper, C: The Canucks could use some more depth at center for the future (they're fine right now) and Kasper, the Austrian national who played in Sweden for Rogle this season, fits the bill. Big-time competitor plays a great two-way game and has smarts and skills to boot. He'll be suiting up for Austria at the World Championship in Finland so scouts will get one last look at him after a pretty impressive season in Sweden.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from Vegas), Owen Pickering, D: Buffalo has a rising star in Owen Power, but more defense is needed and Pickering would be a great selection. He's still pretty raw, but has tremendous upside. Playing for Swift Current in the WHL, Pickering brings size and offensive instincts. He makes the right plays all over the ice and projects to be an exciting two-way defenseman.