2022 NHL Draft Winners and Losers

·12 min read

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The 2022 NHL Entry Draft is behind us. It was interesting with plenty of teams deviating from what many mock drafts projected. Of course, part of that was because the draft was deep rather than top heavy, so there was less consensus to begin with. The fact that Shane Wright slipped all the way to the fourth pick is evidence of that.

It’s going to take a long time before we know whose analysis of these prospects was right or wrong. Every year there are young players who have been overestimated and every draft class contains pleasant surprises. Martin St. Louis spoke during the draft, providing a not-so-subtle remainder that even a player who was never drafted can develop into a star.

So when I’m talking about winners and losers, as I attempt to do below, just know that I – and many others for that matter – could end up being right about some things and very wrong about others. This kind of snap analysis is a fun way to pass the summer months and open the door for debate, but it needs to be taken in the proper context.

It’s also worth mentioning that I didn’t just factor in the draft itself. I also considered all trades and signings that happened during and directly before the draft before writing this.

WINNERS

Seattle Kraken

While there was no consensus number one pick going into this draft, many considered Shane Wright to be the best talent of the 2022 class. Time will tell us if that’s true, but the Kraken have to be thrilled that he was still available with the fourth overall pick. Wright couldn’t play at all in 2020-21 because the OHL season was suspended due to COVID and it’s entirely possible that’s part of what caused him to slide a bit. That said his skating, hockey IQ, and two-way game are amazing and he should be a serious contender for a roster spot straight out of training camp.

Getting Jagger Firkus with the 35th overall pick was pretty good too. He is an undersized forward, but he has plenty of offensive upside. They also took Jani Nyman at 49th overall, who is a winger with size and a great shot. The Kraken don’t have a lot of high-skilled forwards, but after drafting Firkus and Wright, that is changing.

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Arizona Coyotes

Arizona had 10 picks, including three in the first round, so this was a critical draft for them. All things considered, they did well. While taking Logan Cooley over Shane Wright was somewhat surprising, there’s no question that Cooley has the skating, hockey sense, and skill set to be a superb center someday. He will be heading to the University of Minnesota next season, so the Coyotes will have to wait to see what he can do at the NHL level. On the plus side, his time in the NCAA should help with his development.

Arizona’s other first round picks were Conor Geekie at 11 and Maveric Lamoureux at 29. In order to get Geekie, they traded the 27th, 34th, and 45th picks to San Jose to move up to 11, which is fair given Geekie’s upside. He’s a towering center who excels at both ends up the ice. His speed is a concern, but with some work he should develop into a top-six forward. As for Lamoureux, he’s a 6-foot-7 defenseman and his skating is decent for his size. He’s not likely to be much of a factor offensively at the NHL level, but he has a lot of potential as a shutdown defenseman.

Arizona also picked up Zack Kassian, the 29th overall pick (which they used on Lamoureux) along with a third rounder in 2024 and a second-round pick in 2025 from Edmonton in exchange for the 32nd overall pick. Edmonton’s cap restraints necessitated this trade from their perspective and Arizona took advantage. That’s a decent collection of picks in exchange for basically accepting $3.2 million in cap space for this season and the next, which suits Arizona just fine given its current situation.

Montreal Canadiens

Picking Juraj Slafkovsky over Shane Wright with the first overall pick will be a decision heavily scrutinized over the next few years, but you can certainly see what Montreal was thinking. Slafkovsky is an NHL-ready forward who excelled in the Winter Olympics, scoring seven goals in seven games. He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, so he has size along with high-end stickhandling and a great shot. Canadiens fans might be skeptical now, but he should be able to win them over.

Montreal then acquired Filip Mesar, who played with Slafkovsky as part of Slovakia’s U18 team. He lacks Slafkovsky’s size, but what Mesar has going for him is his elite skating. Combined with his strong puckhandling and he has the potential to develop into a middle-six forward. It helps that he’s versatile enough to play as both a center and on the wing.

Lane Hutson is another interesting pick. Montreal took him 62nd overall and he likely dropped that low because the blueliner stands at 5-foot-8, 158 pounds. His size and his unimpressive speed make it easy to question his chances of making it to the NHL, but his puckhandling is great and his hockey IQ is top notch. Those aspects of his game might allow him to defy the odds and make it as an offensive defenseman.

Acquiring Kirby Dach from Chicago was also a nice move. I get that the Blackhawks are rebuilding, but Dach is only 21 years old and has the potential to develop into an impact forward with the Canadiens.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres had three first-round picks to help them push their rebuild forward and they used them on Matthew Savoie, Noah Ostlund, and Jiri Kulich at 9, 16, and 28 overall respectively. Those three have a fair amount in common. None of them are particularly big, but they do have tons of offensive upside and it’s possible that all three of them someday end up serving in top-six roles. Buffalo’s defense was already coming along with Owen Power joining Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju, so leaning heavily into skilled forwards at the top of this draft makes a ton of sense for Buffalo.

Buffalo also grabbed Topias Leinonen with the 41st overall pick, who has the potential to become a starting goaltender at the NHL level, but like most netminders, he’ll need plenty of work before he can get to that level and is far from a safe bet.

Detroit Red Wings

For me, the Red Wings big win wasn’t a player they drafted, but rather it was giving the Blues the 73rd overall pick so that they could negotiate with Ville Husso early. The Red Wings took advantage of the opportunity to ink Husso to a reasonable three-year, $14.25 million contract. Husso is coming off a strong season where he posted a 25-7-6 record, 2.56 GAA, and .919 save percentage in 40 contests. He was one of the better goaltenders expected to hit the UFA market and now Detroit doesn’t have to potentially compete with the likes of Toronto and Edmonton for him.

As far as their actual draft went, it was fine. Marco Kasper, who they took with the eighth overall pick, already has experience playing with men, scoring seven goals and 11 points in 46 games in the Swedish Hockey League in 2021-22. He’s got a fair amount of upside and plenty of grit to boot. He certainly could end up becoming a top-six forward.

LOSERS

Chicago Blackhawks

I’ll give them credit for using their cap space to trade up to the 25th overall pick by taking on Petr Mrazek’s contract. Still, I can’t get over them trading Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach. Even if they are rebuilding, DeBrincat and Dach are 24 and 21 respectively. More than that, getting a seventh, 39th, and 2024 third-round pick in exchange for DeBrincat doesn’t feel like nearly enough for a young forward who has already surpassed the 40-goal milestone twice (probably would be three times if the 2020-21 campaign wasn’t shortened due to the pandemic).

Meanwhile, Seth Jones’ eight-year, $76 million contract with a full no-movement clause will begin this year. An awkward reminder of a time not too long ago when the Blackhawks thought their rebuild was over and their next window to compete was opening. Oh well.

Philadelphia Flyers

Carolina took a risk on Tony DeAngelo when they inked him to a one-year, $1 million contract and it largely paid off. It’s telling though that even after he scored 10 goals and 51 points in 64 contests last season, the Hurricanes still opted to move on from him. Instead, Philadelphia decided to acquire him along with the 220th overall pick in exchange for the 101st pick, a 2023 third-round pick, and a 2024 second rounder. They then signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract.

DeAngelo is a controversial defenseman, in part due to his past off-ice issues, but also because he struggles at his own end of the ice. He can help the Flyers on the power play, but for what the Flyers paid to acquire him on top of his cap hit, it seems like a stretch for Philadelphia.

More than that though, it’s another indication that the Flyers seem to have no sense of direction. They don’t appear good enough to be serious competitors, but they’re also allergic to building towards the future. As a result, the team is just stuck in neutral. Over the last 10 seasons they’ve made the playoffs four times, making trades like this that don’t do enough to make them a strong team in the short-term and only serve to hurt them in the long run by trading away potential assets.

As for the draft itself, taking Cutter Gauthier with the fifth overall pick is good. He’s a product, but one who has the potential to develop into a top-six forward. They didn’t have another pick until 69 though and outside of Gauthier, it’s entirely possible that no one they took will play any significant time in the NHL.

New York Islanders

Let’s start with the Alexander Romanov trade. They dealt the 13th overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Alexander Romanov and the 98th overall selection. I have mixed feelings about it. Romanov is a physical defenseman who blocks shots, but he doesn’t do much offensively and his relative Corsi and Fenwick were awful last season. So, I’m not sure he was worth the 13th pick. That being said, Canadiens fans loved Romanov and he’s just 22-years-old, so perhaps I’m being too harsh on the Islanders here.

Either way, beyond that trade, there isn’t much to talk about with the Islanders. Their first pick wasn’t until the 65th overall and none of the players they took are great bets to make it to the NHL. That’s particularly troubling given that none of their draft picks from 2019 onward have made their NHL debut yet.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Trading Petr Mrazek and the 25th overall pick to Chicago in exchange for the 38th overall pick wasn’t terrible in isolation. Sure, they moved out of the first round, but the difference between 25th and 38th isn’t massive and it’s certainly worth the savings of $3.8 million worth of cap space for each of the next two seasons. That said, this trade wasn’t made in isolation. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas was doing damage control after inking Mrazek just a year ago. This was also the second time in three years that Toronto traded away their first-round pick in exchange for cap space.

Some teams trade first rounders for young, NHL ready talent. Some trade them for help to push them towards a championship. Toronto trades them to work around its past signings.

Toronto also failed to address its goaltending situation and that’s becoming a problem quickly. Marc-Andre Fleury and Ville Husso are both off the board now. At one point it was looking like re-signing Jack Campbell was too rich for the team given their cap situation. At this point though they’re running out of alternatives. Toronto is in win-now mode. They need at least one solid bet in goal and right now they have none.

On to the draft itself, the Leafs used the 38th selection on Fraser Minten. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, he’s already pretty much NHL ready in terms of size and he’s solid defensively. That said his skating isn’t great and he doesn’t really excel anywhere. He might be able to eventually make the Leafs as a bottom-six forward, but unsurprisingly for a second rounder, he’s not a serious candidate to make the team in 2022-23.

After that Toronto didn’t pick again until Nicholas Moldenhauer at 95. His skating is great, but beyond that he’s a long-term project who may or may not ever make it to the NHL. At the least he’s an interesting choice. Beyond that, there’s not much to talk about here.

All-in-all, it’s a little harsh to put Toronto in the loser column.

Florida Panthers

Winning forgives all. Strictly speaking the Colorado Avalanche had the worst draft. Their only two picks were 193rd and 225th overall. But the Avalanche won the Cup, so clearly going all-in worked out. That wasn’t the case for the Florida Panthers.

Florida didn’t pick until 93rd overall and it wouldn’t be shocking if none of the players they selected end up having significant NHL careers. Looking ahead the Panthers are also without first round picks in 2023 and 2024 due to the Ben Chiarot and Claude Giroux trades respectively – two players who might re-sign but are currently pending UFAs.

Like the Avalanche, Florida bet heavily on the 2021-22 campaign. Unlike the Avalanche, it didn’t work out for Florida.