There’s less than a month until the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and the battle to be selected first overall is heating up.
Unless they trade their opening-round pick, the Montreal Canadiens will be the first organisation to approach the podium on 7 July, with an entire prospect class to choose from.
Kent Hughes, the club’s new general manager, can’t afford to fumble the bag. After a dismal 2021-22 season, the Habs are in rebuild mode and desperately need to add quality to their roster with the future in mind.
Plenty of intrigue surrounds the first overall pick of this year’s draft as a result. With that, let’s discuss three must-watch prospects on 7-8 July – plus honourable mentions to be selected in the top ten.
The Battle for #1 Overall: 2022 NHL Entry Draft
Shane Wright, a centreman for the Kingston Frontenacs, and Juraj Slafkovsky, a left winger for TPS Turku, are the protagonists in the chase to be selected first overall.
Although both enjoyed impressive pre-draft campaigns with their clubs, Slafkovsky’s stock rose dramatically following his standout performances at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Wright, by contrast, has long been considered a candidate to be the top pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Making Shane Wright’s Case
Wright is athletic, boasts a lethal wrist shot, and is an impressive three-zone player. He registered 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 63 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) appearances this term, building on his 66-point performance from the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.
— Josh Tessler 🇺🇦 (@JoshTessler_) November 27, 2021
Born in Burlington, Ontario, the Canadian has been considered the consensus first overall pick for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft since his 15-year-old season and would be a solid fit in Montreal.
He isn’t the flashiest player on the board and tends to move the puck off his stick as quickly as possible, but there’s no doubt he’ll develop into a strong two-way player at the NHL level and will excel offensively if paired with a skilled playmaker.
At the draft combine, Wright said: “I’m competitive. I always want to be first. I always want to be the best.”
After an impressive season in the OHL, he’s in a commanding position.
Making Juraj Slafkovsky’s Case
If the Canadiens are looking for a physically imposing winger with a quick release and solid skating fundamentals, they should select Slafkovsky first overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 20, 2022
After leading his nation to their first bronze-medal finish in ice hockey at the Beijing Olympics, he’s already an icon in Slovakia and has developed leaps and bounds over the past two seasons.
The 18-year-old was crowned MVP of the Winter Games after scoring seven goals in seven games, backing up his 10-point haul in the Finish Liiga with TPS.
When asked about his interview with Montreal at the draft combine, the 6-foot-4 winger said: “I didn’t have the dinner, but I think the talk we had was maybe, like to me, tasted better.”
Confidence is an important attribute in the NHL: Slafkovsky has it. But will the Canadiens select him first overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft?
2022 NHL Entry Draft: BIH’s Mock Top 10
However, Wright and Slafkovsky aren’t the only players vying for top billing: Logan Cooley, a centreman for the USA National Team Development Programme (USNTPD), is also in the hunt and favourite to be selected third overall. He’s a skilful player, as demonstrated at the U18 Worlds:
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) April 28, 2022
Simon Nemec and David Jiricek are the only defencemen expected to break into the top 10, although Kevin Kornchinski is a promising bubble candidate for organisations in the hunt for a left-hander.
Also of note: the 2022 NHL Entry Draft features a deeper talent pool than usual. If your team is picking in the top half of round one, they should end up with a quality player in the not-so-distant future. With that in mind, this is how we’re projecting the top 10 with less than a month until draft day.
Mock Top 10: 2022 NHL Entry Draft
- Shane Wright (C), Kingston Frontenacs to Montreal Canadiens
- Juraj Slafkovsky (LW), TPS Turku to New Jersey Devils
- Logan Cooley (C), USNTDP to Arizona Coyotes
- Simon Nemec (D), HK Nitra to Seattle Kraken
- Matthew Savoie (C), Winnipeg Ice to Philadelphia Flyers
- David Jiricek (D), HC Plzen to Columbus Blue Jackets
- Cutter Gauthier (C), USNTDP to Ottawa Senators
- Joakim Kemell (RW), JYP Jyväskylä to Detroit Red Wings
- Jonathan Lekkerimaki (RW), Djurgarden to Buffalo Sabres
- Marco Kasper (C), Rogle BK to Anaheim Ducks
Liam Steele: Great Britain’s Ranked Prospect
There’s a chance Liam Steele, a standout performer for Stanstead College and Great Britain’s U18 squad, could be selected in the bottom half of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
He’s ranked 171st amongst skaters based in North America by Central Scouting, dropping from his midterm position of #83.
Back in October, Matt Thompson – Steele’s coach at Stanstead – called the 18-year-old “a towering presence on the ice with a true ability to bring people to their feet with his hockey sense and offensive flair.”
Steele, a right-handed defenceman, registered 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 30 league appearances for Stanstead and was a key part of Team GB’s bronze-medal performance at the U18 World Championships.
Also of note: The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler included Steele in his honourable mentions list, writing:
The appeal of his raw package of tools is real, though. Steele’s a big, long defenceman with skill and confidence who posted 30 points in 30 games in the Canadian prep circuit, captained Stanstead this year, wants to take over games and make big plays when he’s on the ice, and often does.
Steele’s fate isn’t sealed either way, but he’s certainly a player to watch ahead of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Will Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, or Logan Cooley be selected first overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft? Join the conversation by tweeting @BritIceHockey.