In Tony Ferrari’s team of the month to kick off February, he takes a look at some of the best players eligible for the 2022 NHL draft that stands at least 6-foot-4 to comprise a team of large players.
“He’s 6-foot-4 every time he steps on the ice.”
Coaches and scouts seem to love nothing more than a player who has size. It’s routinely mentioned as one of the most important factors in draft circles. We see teams trade a second or third-round pick for grit and size at nearly every trade deadline. Teams love size.
Every time the draft rolls around, a few players get drafted with the primary reason being their size. With this team, we will be taking a look at players who have the size and the talent to make drafting them worth it. We’ve covered a team of the little guys in a previous iteration of this ‘Team of the Month’ series, so flipping the script and covering a group of big boys seems like a natural next step.
F Matyáš Šapovaliv, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
The 6-foot-4 Czech forward has done a nice job in his first OHL season with the Saginaw Spirit. His mobility was a question when he made his way to North America and he has done an admirable job improving it. While it’s still a weak point in Šapovaliv’s game, the overall agility and power in his stride has improved. Šapovaliv has some nifty mitts and shows them off on the rush and in one-on-one situations against OHL competition. He utilzies his reach well in keeping the puck just out of his opponent's range while pushing his way into the offensive zone.
Šapovaliv has shown steady progress throughout the year and is poised for a big second half with Saginaw. With a good shot and some impressive vision offensively at times, he has the chance to be a true two-way, dual-threat forward who can make an impact on a team's middle-six at the next level.
F Conor Geekie, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Geekie has been a major topic of conversation during this year’s draft cycle. The 6-foot-4 center has done an excellent job of producing for Winnipeg, currently clicking along at just over a point-per-game. He displays excellent playmaking ability and vision, finding teammates in opportune positions to score offensively. Geekie isn’t at his best carrying the puck through the neutral zone but he’s certainly not incapable of it.
Geekie needs to add a bit of muscle to his frame, but he's good His reach and puck protection ability when he has the puck is quite good and will be an asset moving forward for him. Geekie will have to get a bit quicker on his feet but as a skilled, methodical playmaker who reads and reacts to what he’s given, there is some interesting potential as a top-six center at the NHL level. With most public draft boards ranking the Manitoba native around the top-10, don’t be surprised to see him sneak up the board a few spots because of his size and skill combination.
F Filip Bystedt, Linköping HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
A towering center who plays with a touch of creativity to go along with excellent reach, Bystedt is a fun player to evaluate. He doesn’t throw his body around just to do it as many players his size will do. Rather, he will use his length to protect the puck and leverage his positioning in a puck battle. Bystedt seems to understand that his size is an asset but it’s not the defining factor in his game. This is often the key to success among taller players.
Bystedt has looked fairly comfortable at the SHL level against men as he has split the season between the junior and senior ranks in Sweden. His two-way game has shown fairly well against men as well, using his aforementioned reach to get his body and stick in passing and shooting lanes. He needs to work on his efficiency as a passer, as he tends to be just a bit off target at times when trying to make plays offensively but the instincts are there. Between his size, creativity, and puck skills, Bystedt is an intriguing prospect to follow.
D Sam Rinzel, Chaska High (USHS-MN)
Arguably this year’s high school prospect, Rinzel has the size and mobility that NHL scouts look for when projecting from the U.S. high school level. Standing at 6-foot-4 and displaying four-way mobility with the ability to affect the game in all three zones, Rinzel has become a topic of conversation as the calendar turned to 202
Rinzel is patient with the puck on his stick, drawing in opponents and then making a move right as the lane opens up. Rinzel is a skilled passer who can make a smart breakout pass or find a teammate on the backdoor from the blueline. He is agile enough on his feet to escape pressure and create space for himself. High schoolers are always a difficult projection but Rinzel is gaining praise from analysts and scouts with each game he plays. If he finds his way into more USHL action, he could solidify himself as the top U.S. high school player in the class.
D Noah Warren, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
A hulking 6-foot-5 blueliner that embraces the defensive side of the game, Warren has been rising up boards as the season has worn on. The QMJHL defender plays a sound defensive game with the ability to move the puck upon retrieval but isn’t likely to be known for his offensive production. Warren closes out quickly in defensive transitions, closing the gap and using his reach to angle the attacker to the outside or using his 215lbs frame to punish an opposing player who chooses not to dump the puck deep.
Warren uses his length when defending in zone as well, clogging up passing lanes and guiding play to the outside. His physicality is often used appropriately with the rare instance of chasing a hit. Warren's puck skills are improving, and while he may never truly become an offensive difference-maker, there is some potential for him to develop into a solid defense-first, transitional defender.
G Tyler Brennan, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Coming into the year, Brennan was routinely regarded as the top North American goaltender for the 2022 NHL draft and that hasn't change. Since the Cougars traded away his goaltending partner, Brennan has been playing some of his best hockey of the year, despite having underwhelming numbers on a struggling team.
The 6-foot-4 netminder has the frame all NHL teams are looking for in the crease and his active playstyle shows off his athleticism. Brennan’s ability to make an athletic play to make a save has been key, often being one of the main reasons why the Cougars pull out in front during a game. He can be a bit over-aggressive laterally, oversliding at times, but there is still a lot to like.
F Matyáš Šapovaliv - F Conor Geekie - F Filip Bystedt
D Sam Rinzel - D Noah Warren
G Tyler Brennan