FanPost

2022 NHL Draft: Top 75 Big Board

DBTB –

Welcome back, my DBTB friends!

I thought it might be particularly festive to put out my initial Board now, before we get fully into the holidays. So folks can get their lights and tinsel up with visions of prospects in their collective head. And under the tree, of course, is the World Juniors. To me, that marks the halfway point of the Draft year. We don’t get to see a lot of the players in the Draft class, but we do get to see a few of the higher-end players and some other, lesser-known kids get expanded opportunities at home while the WJC goes on. In Edmonton this year, we should get a little more N. American viewer-friendly times for some of the games, which is fun. And this year should be particularly fun, as some of the normally second-rate teams who squeak into the tournament after being on the Relegation Carousel might actually be a threat to win a couple games. Without Peterka and Reichel, Germany is almost certainly the most likely team to get relegated, while Slovakia, although they are very young for this tournament, and Austria should have Marco Kasper (#10 on my list) and the fast-rising Vincenze Rohrer, so they’ll at least be good up the middle. The Swiss should be competitive as well.

While not all the rosters have been released yet, we can expect to see some of the following names that will also be prominent at the 2022 Draft: Joakim Kemell (#3) and Brad Lambert (#14) on Finland; Logan Cooley (#4) should be on the defending champ USA team; the Czechs will likely (their roster is not finalized yet) have Jiri Kulich (#33), David Jiricek (#5), and Tomas Hamara (#48); Lian Bischel (#35) with the Swiss; the Slovaks will have a bunch: Juraj Slavkowsky (#9), Filip Mesar (#15), Servac Petrovsky (#57), and Simon Nemec (#7). Team Canada leans heavily toward older players, but Shane Wright (#1) will almost certainly be on the squad. All final rosters will be submitted on 12/15, and then the players go into quarantine – anyone who tests positive for COVID will, as last year, be jettisoned and they’ll have to find someone else if it’s early enough in the tourney. Otherwise, they’ll be short a man.

Once we get through the always hair-raising World Juniors, we get into the meat of the Draft season. We’ll get the CHL (in early February) and the USA (probably late March) Top Prospects games, playoff games, and a steady diet of regular season games in the various leagues in Europe, Russia, Canada and the US. That’s where a lot of the countless Boards and rankings will solidify, only to be transformed again by the U-18s and the Combine (if they have one) just prior to the NHL Draft. Which will take place in scenic Montreal on July 7-8th. In between, we’ll get a lot of movement, as this Draft class is very fluid. I feel right now like the first half of the First Round is very good, then there’s a drop off, and the next big group probably goes to around mid-way through the Second Round before another cliff. That’s pretty deep, and the Sabres should get at least four players from those two groups, if not more, this year. That’s a lot of talent.

Just for edification purposes, this is MY Board. I do not pretend to know anything more than any of you, and we have some very smart hockey people on this Board who follow this stuff – Brassmaster, of course, along with folks like Swords and Skins, Senecanation, and Dr. Who among others – far closer than I, and who can call me out for my crazy ideas. As a reminder, this is not my projection of what order these players will be selected, nor is it some kind of consensus ranking. Just my two cents – and worth less than that – purely about the players I like, and if someone gave me a job selecting players on Draft Day, who I would go with. It is not set in stone. There are likely several iterations before we get to the Final Top 175 right before the Draft. I haven’t seen every player there is to see just yet, so if there are a few omissions, I either haven’t seen them or I really don’t like them for some reason.

For those of you who have followed these in the past, you know my general philosophy of how I rank the players, what I look for. Ideally, I want size and speed combinations. A 6’4 guy who can really burn will rise in my rankings. Rare, for sure, but what I look for. Then an elite skill – skating, strength, vision, shot – pushes you toward the top. Skating is vitally important, as are smarts...seeing the ice on both ends, being aware of situations and the players around you. Lastly, effort. I want guys who want to get better, who have a high workrate all over the ice, who will take hits to make plays and will dish out hits to stop plays from happening. Sometimes I fall right into consensus, other times I’m way out in left field. But I’ve had a pretty decent track record through the years here at DBTB…although I’ve missed on some whoppers too! So take all my rankings with a healthy armful of salt.

Leave your thoughts, as I know you will. And now…enjoy!

TIER I:

1. Shane Wright, 6’0 C, OHL

2. Matthew Savoie, 5’10 C/W, WHL

3. Logan Cooley, 5’11 C, US NTDP

4. Joakim Kemell, 5’11 RW, FIN

TIER II:

5. David Jiricek, 6’4 RHD, CZE

6. Danila Yurov, 6’1 LW, RUS

7. Simon Nemec, 6’1 RHD, SVK

TIER III:

8. Juraj Slafkvowsky, 6’4 LW, FIN

9. Connor Geekie, 6’4 C, WHL

10. Marco Kasper, 6’1 C, SWE

11. Noah Ostlund, 5’10 C, SWE

12. Ryan Chesley, 6’0 RHD, US NTDP *

13. Rutger McGroarty, 6’0 C/LW, US NTDP *

14. Brad Lambert, 6’0 RW, FIN *

15. Tristan Luneau, 6’2 RHD, QMJHL

16. Seamus Casey, 5’10 RHD, US NTDP

TIER IV:

17. Alexander Perevalov, 6’0 RW, RUS

18. Filip Mesar, 5’11 W, SVK

19. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, 5’10 C/W, SWE

20. Ivan Miroshnichenko, 6’0 W, RUS

21. Elias Salomonsson, 6’2 RHD, SWE

TIER V:

22. Jani Nyman, 6’3 LW, FIN

23. Denton Mateychuk, 5’11 LHD, WHL

24. Jack Hughes, 6’0 C/W, NCAA

25. Nathan Gaucher, 6’3 C, QMJHL

26. Ike Howard, 5’10 RW, US NTDP

27. Frank Nazar, 5’9 RW, US NTDP

TIER VI:

28. Artyom Duda, 5’11 LHD, RUS

29. Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, 6’0 C, FIN

30. Filip Bystedt, 6’4 C, SWE

31. Ruslan Gazizov, 5’11 W, OHL

32. Mats Lindgren, 6’0 LHD, WHL

33. Jiri Kulich, 6’0 C/W, CZE

34. Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, OHL

35. Lian Bischel, 6’5 LHD, SWISS

36. Liam Ohgren, 6’0 C/W, SWE

TIER VII:

37. Devin Kaplan, 6’3 RW, US NTDP

38. Jimmy Snuggerud, 6’2 C/W, US NTDP

39. Alexander Suzdalev, 6’2 RW, SWE

40. Miko Mattikaa, 6’3 RW, FIN

41. Matthew Seminoff, 5’11 RW, WHL

42. Danny Zhilkin, 6’2 C, OHL

43. Otto Salin, 6’0 RHD, FIN

TIER VIII:

44. Hannes Hellberg, 6’1 W, SWE

45. Ty Nelson, 5’9 RHD, OHL

46. Owen Pickering, 6’4 LHD, WHL

47. Tomas Hamara, 6’0 LHD, FIN

48. Luca Del Bel Belluz, 6’1 C, OHL

49. Gleb Trikozov, 6’1 C/W, RUS

50. Ryan Greene, 6’0 C, USHL

51. Kasper Kulonummi, 6’0 RHD, FIN

52. Topias Leinonen, 6’5 G, FIN

TIER VIII:

53. Jordan Dumais, 5’9 RW, QMJHL

54. Ilya Kvochko, 5’9 C, RUS

55. Adam Ingram, 6’2 C, USHL

56. Jagger Firkus, 5’10 W, WHL

57. Servac Petrovsky, 6’0 C, OHL

58. Kevin Korchinski, 6’2 LHD, WHL

59. Cutter Gauthier, 6’2 RW, US NTDP

60. Noah Warren, 6’5 RHD, QMJHL

61. Ludwig Persson, 5’11 C/W, SWE

62. Regier Lorenz, 6’3 C, AJHL

TIER IX:

63. Jace Weir, 6’2 RHD, WHL

64. Simon Forsmark, 6’2 LHD, SWE

65. Tyler Brennan, 6’4 G, WHL

66. Lane Hutson, 5’8 LHD, US NTDP

67. Slava Sapunov, 6’0 RHD, RUS

68. Victor Neuchev, 6’2 W, RUS

69. Maveric Lameroux, 6’7 RHD, QMJHL

TIER X:

70. Julian Lutz, 6’2 RW, GER

71. Filip Nordberg, 6’4 LHD, SWE

72. Alex Sotek, 6’0 RW, SVK

73. Spencer Sova, 6’1 LHD, OHL

74. Fraser Minten, 6’1 RW, WHL

75. Jake Livanavage, 5’10 LHD, USHL

A POTENTIAL SABRES’ HAUL:

1#X: Conor Geekie, C, WHL: Monster centerman (6’4 205#) on a stacked Winnipeg Ice club. Geekie is a true power-center, but also has a very solid 2-way game. The rarity of having both of those attributes really showcases his high-level smarts, which despite his many physical gifts, might be his best attribute. Geekie competes hard on both ends, doesn’t shy away from engaging physically, and can play a variety of roles – shut-down guy, PP QB, top-line center, and slot scorer. And play each of them well. Offensively, he brings a potent possession game to the table. Innately knows how to use his body, reach, and willingness to play through contact to control the puck and extend the play in the O-zone. Can absolutely dominate the puck. Despite being a puck-shielding machine, Geekie always has his head up – except when he’s looking to shoot, a bit of a tell – scanning for teammates and sees those passing lanes with guys hanging on his back. His reach is almost Eichel-like, able to bait defenders into overextending for the puck, then using his leg or a dangle to protect it while getting inside the defender and creating an odd-man situation below the dots. Easily keeps puck pressure at bay, especially on the power play. This is particularly dangerous when coming off the wall or out of the corner, using his hands and vision to terrorize opposing D-Men and goaltenders as he gains leverage. Vision is fantastic; he can operate on the half-wall and run your power play, he can get the puck on the goal line and sauce it through the crease, or he can get the puck in the Neutral Zone and send a teammate for a partial breakaway or a clean zone entry. All effortlessly. But he is not a precise passer – he knows the best place to go with the puck, and sees the lane, but his passes can be off the mark. Superb hands are tremendously strong as well as soft. He can power through defenders and still get the puck up and under the bar while holding guys off. It is so tough to take the puck off him. This makes him double trouble, because his strength and willingness to go to the crease draws multiple defenders – which opens up more passing opportunities for him to exploit. And without the puck, he’s more than happy to go to the top of the crease as a (very effective) screen and look to tip pucks with excellent hand-eye coordination. Will wear defenders out. Defensively, many of his same attributes make him an effective shut-down forward. Again, size and reach allow him to take away time and space from opponents and make it miserable trying to get shots off against him. But his smarts make him even more difficult to escape. He reads plays very well and can deflect passes or sweep away pucks that smaller forwards can’t reach and lesser players can’t anticipate. Has this ability to simply ‘get in the way’ with his length, closing off lanes and openings seemingly unintentionally. It’s anything but. Additionally, he seems to relish mixing it up physically, and will put a body on a guy or lower a shoulder to disrupt a play. Can put guys through the boards. Solid away from the puck as well, Geekie has the potential to be a legitimate lockdown center who is ‘hard to play against’. But the big kid is not without flaws. His skating leaves something to be desired. His stride could use some help, and he doesn’t have the lightest feet. Once he gets going, he’s tough to stop and can generate some good linear speed, but his lateral mobility relies more on his power and strength that any kind of elusiveness. And as he moves up into the pros, it becomes harder to ragdoll opponents with the same kind of regularity Geekie does in juniors. He’s going to need to clean up his skating mechanics to become an average NHL skater. And while his release on his shot is really quick, it lacks consistent velocity or heaviness. A player with the kind of size and power of Geekie’s should be able to become a shooter players are afraid to step in front of. Right now, that’s not the case. And his wrister can take a bit of time to get off. Lastly, I wonder if he’s a true playmaker due to his passing inaccuracies, especially on the move. Geekie is playing on the same team – not the same line – with fellow Top 10 pick Matthew Savoie, and quite possibly a Top 10 pick in next year’s Draft in Zach Benson but is still managing to put up 24P in 20 games this year despite having only one puck to go around on the CHL’s best team. I would expect BFLO to send him back to Winnipeg next season to be ‘The Man’ for a year, much like they’re doing with Owen Power, and then have Geekie make a run at an NHL gig the following year (2023). If you’re looking for a comp, here’s one for you: a bigger Wendell Clark. While the Sabres have some depth down the middle after the Eichel trade, selecting Geekie if he’s still on the Board is a no-brainer, even if you’re betting on potential almost as much as performance.

1#X: Filip Mesar, C/RW, SVK: While the Sabres would, and should, add a future Top 6 center to their prospect pool this year, they could use another skilled Top 6 wing to add to that same mix. Enter Mesar. The 5’11, 165# electric Slovak wing would be a dynamic addition to a group of young wings in the organization. A player who has a ton of speed, quickness, and agility, Mesar is a top-tier skater in this Draft class and has an entire arsenal of moves, fakes, and shifts in speed to turn defenders into pretzels as he comes roaring down the wing. Mesar’s most dangerous weapon is his speed. He’s an A+ skater, with a dizzying array of moves that he can perform at top speed without slowing down. And it seems like he never wears down – he’s shot out of a cannon on the first shift of the game, the last shift, and every one in-between. Never quits on a play. Great burst up ice, and his top speed in all directions makes him a terror on the forecheck and even more so with the puck on his stick. Feet are very light, and his lateral movement allows him to dart into open lanes with or without the puck, evade defenders and enables him to attack the puck from anywhere. Shifty, slick, and explosive. And once he finds open ice, his skill takes over. Patient, determined, and a fabulous stickhandler, Mesar bursts into an opening, hangs on to the puck until he sees a lane, and then moves the puck (or himself) into that opening. It’s the way he creates Grade A scoring chances for himself or teammates, in transition or out of sets, a true quick strike artist. The kind of player that makes you lean forward in your chair when he gets the puck in open ice. When the puck is on his blade, it seems like he never slows down and just exerts a ton of pressure on his opponents. Mesar can shoot it, as well. He’s a pass-first player but can create his own shot thanks to his blazing fast feet. Has a quick release, although he doesn’t use it nearly enough. Can dance around a defender, or drive them off, before firing a blink-and-you-missed-it wrister short shelf. As he gets stronger, hopefully he will be able to generate more power with his shot – right now, he’s not going to beat many goaltenders from the circles out. If he can rely a little more on his shot, it will help loosening up more passing lanes – which is really what he wants to do anyways. With all of his skills, you can see why he’s a transition nightmare. Mixes up his favored moves and routes to the net, sometimes inside-out, others the opposite. Don’t be fooled by all the flash and bang of his offensive game, though. Mesar is an accomplished defensive forward who has surprisingly good defensive instincts…which may come from him having been a center for most of his younger years. Savvy away from the puck. Covers for his teammates when they leave their man, able to step into open space and disrupt passes or jump a puck carrier when they have their back to him, and rarely looses coverage on guys down below the dots. He does tend to fly the zone on occasion, but I can’t blame him too much with skill set he has. Where Mesar needs to improve is his physicality and strength. He’s very slight, and when playing against men in the Slovaks’ top Men’s League, he will avoid puck battles or stay to the perimeter with the hopes of snatching a loose puck. As players get wise to his bottomless bag of tricks, they will just put a body on him…he needs to be able to power through that. That said, when does take a hit, he bounces back up immediately and gets his feet going again. Mesar is playing in the top Men’s League in his home country of Slovakia, where he’s put up 8P in 15 games. He made the Slovak’s World Junior team as a 16-year-old, an impressive feat, and dominated at the Hlinka with 8P in 6 games as the Slovaks netted their first Silver medal ever in the tournament.

1#X: Ryan Chesley, RHD, US NTDP: The Sabres are thin on right-shot defender prospects after Oskari Laaksonen. This Draft has a lot of talented righties, and one of them would be a smart add for the Sabres, especially with three 1st round selections. Here they add a guy who I believe would be a counterpart for either Dahlin or Power long-term. Chesley is average-sized (6’0 195#) but sturdy and very strong, a rock-solid two-way defender who loves to lower the boom on opposing forwards. He specializes in making quick decisions with or without the puck and getting it out of his own end as quickly and efficiently as possible. Chesley has a ton of attributes that make him a desirable addition to the pipeline. He’s an excellent 4-way skater, with good burst straight out of directional changes, smooth transitions from front to back and vice versa, and tremendous edge work that provides great lateral movement. This high-end mobility coupled with a tenacious attitude makes him a top-tier defender on the puck. He can gap up a forward with or without the puck, attaching himself to an opponent, disrupting the rush and driving them out of high-danger areas. Typically leverages inside position on opposing forwards, protecting the middle of the ice from all comers. Stick is always on puck. Balance is so good, so strong on his stick, he can snuff out plays before they ever get started. Where Sabres fans will really like Chesley is his ability to blow a guy up. He likes to drop players with big shoulder checks, and always seems to finish his checks along the wall. The good thing is, he doesn’t go hunting for big hits. They often are employed strategically, to disrupt skaters or turn pucks over. Chesley is judicious in leaving his man but when he does, that guy will feel it. Decision-making is high-end as well. He knows where to go with the puck before it comes to him, and he doesn’t delay in moving it off his stick and up ice. Superb awareness. High panic threshold. Skating lets him evade forecheckers and confidence lets him lug the puck up ice if necessary or put a clean 1st pass on the tape of a teammate leaving the D-zone. Chesley has some offense to his game, particularly playing the point on the PP. He’s got a heavy, hot clapper from the point that is fairly accurate. Not especially creative with the puck, particularly in the O-zone, he does more damage with smart dump-ins and blasting shots on net. Is very clever in getting pucks to the crease, either with that big hammer of a shot or just flipping a wrister to the net front. But he’s not a great PP QB, and thus is often paired with that kind of player…which leads me to think he would be a useful future partner for one of the Sabres’ more offensive-minded blueliners. Chesley has not had a super-productive year thus far for the Program (which is why he might be available this late in the 1st round). Putting up a meager 4P in 19 games is more of a testament to the role he’s been playing rather than any issue with his defensive game. That offensive upside is more evident in his time with the U17 team last year, where he went for nearly a PPG – 34P in 37 games. Bound for the U of Minnesota next season, where he just might replace Sabre prospect Ryan Johnson for the Gophers.

2#X: Topias Leinonen, G, FIN: This big boy (6’5 215#) might be the best goalie in this Draft class. And since the Sabres did not select a goalie last season – although they did add Devon Levi, which is looking more and more like a prescient move – they elect to follow the McGee draft plan and choose one every other year. A wise move, if I do say so myself. A late birthday – only a couple months from being eligible for the 2023 Draft – Leinonen has a lot of runway to develop behind UPL, Levi and Portillo. Leinonen is a positionally sound goalie in the mold of a Carey Price. Not a lot of dynamic, athletic, sprawling saves but more of a player who reads the play well and gets to the right spot to cut down angles and absorb shots, being technically proficient. Does not allow many bad or soft goals. In fact, his game is reminiscent of Ukka Lukkonen’s in many respects. Maybe that’s part of the Finnish goaltending school? Size helps him seal off the bottom of the net, which he does well and consistently. With his size, technician style, and ability to anticipate the play, if he can see it he can stop it. Or at least get in the way. Even at the U-20 level, it’s very tough to beat him from anywhere above the dots. His rebound control can be spotty, however, and when that part of his game isn’t on, he can get lit up like a Christmas tree. That’s something he’ll have to improve. He’s also a competent puck handler for a goaltender, although he doesn’t use that skill nearly enough. This kid would likely require at least 2 more years in Finland, including a full year as a starter at the Liiga level, before he comes over to North America to play at the pro level here for a couple more years. Fortunately, the Sabres have time with a few guys in the pipeline ahead of him. Has put up really good numbers in the U-20 Sarja league, with a .922 SV%. Hopefully he’ll get to man the nets for Finland at either the U-18 or the Hlinka this year and put on a show.

3#X: Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C/W, FIN: I actually have this kid just outside the 1st round, but I haven’t seen him ranked very high as of yet, so I thought I might be an outlier. So maybe he winds up at the top of the 3rd round. An explosive scorer, this sturdy 6’0 185# forward is my second Finn selected in a row. A powerful skater, generates a lot of burst so he really can rocket up the ice. Kaskimaki handles the puck with a ton of confidence and sits as the 4th leading scorer in the Finnish U20 league. Where he makes his bones is in the goal-scoring department, and that starts with his skating. Bursts out of the blocks from a standstill, he is not only a powerful strider, but very nimble as well. Forces defenders to back off him thanks to that quickness, Kaskimaki has the skill to dangle them, then use defenders as screens to set up a quick shot. Gets up to top speed in just a couple strides that he can glide from the red-line in, using his edges to navigate through traffic while keeping his head up and migrate toward the middle of the ice. That’s where his other elite skill takes over – that whippet of a wrister. His shot is not heavy, nor will it inspire fear in any defender or goaltender. But what it is, is lightning quick and precise. The kid picks his targets and hits them with regularity. Short shelf? Check. Five-hole? Yep. Over the shoulder? Sure. Sliver of space between the arm and the body? Easy. And he often hits them on the move coming down the slot, or following up as a lethal trailer on a partial break or an odd-man rush. Picks up pucks to one side of the net or another, uses those killer hands to get the puck up under the bar before the goalie can even find the puck. Slaloms his way through defenders in the low slot to find rebounds and bury them. Just a natural goal scorer. He also defends well, especially in the Neutral Zone, where his speed on the back-check and change of direction make him a dangerous puck hunter. Those quick hands allow him to swipe pucks from behind, lift sticks, and turn the puck up in the other direction quickly. He’s never going to be a fearsome player on the walls or in the corners, but he battles hard and has that Ryan O’Reilly-esque way of avoiding contact while fighting for pucks or turning the opposition over along the walls. His passing could use some work; Kaskimaki is a shooter by trade, but while he can make some highlight-reel passes here or there, his passing accuracy is definitely preceded by his shooting. Becoming more precise in his passing, particularly on zone entries and move the puck up ice in the Neutral Zone, would wind up giving him more scoring opportunities, a worthy goal. Kaskimaki has been sensational since last season, putting up 3G in 5 games at the Hlinka for Finland last spring, then dominating in the U-20 Finnish league with 29P in 21 games this year. He even scored in his only – so far – game in Liiga, the highest League in Finland. Kaskimaki could be that kind of sleeper scoring forward that good teams seem to find outside of the 1st round.

4#X: George Fegares, RHD, OJHL: Powerful, two-way defender with a lot of upside. At 6’2, 185# with a birthday on the later side and a commitment to the Big Red of Cornell in 2023, Fegaras will get plenty of time to develop. And there’s some good material to work with. First off, he possesses a lot of physical attributes: size, a very good skater, and plenty of power. He plays a physical game – not blowing guys up or putting them through the boards, but strength, leverage, and control of his check. Very positionally aware, he’s heavy on his stick and plays with good balance. Excellent at taking the opponent’s stick away around the net as a result. Smart off the puck, remains between the puck and the net and doesn’t chase. That strength comes in handy when moving guys out of the crease area, tying them up, or holding his position to protect his netminder. Knows where to go at all times. But Fegaras isn’t just a stay-at-home guy. In fact, his game plays like an offensive D-Man. Really solid skater for his size, his lateral movement is excellent, showing some pretty light feet for a guy his size. Gets up and down the ice with some good linear speed but could use some more explosion particularly in his transitions. Already good, the potential is there to become a very good/great skater. He doesn’t neglect his defensive assignments, but likes to get up in the play and in particular, chip in on the PP. And he does this in two ways – first, he’s got a bomb of a shot. Rips the puck with a heavy, hard puck. Great accuracy, can pick corners or zip it far side below the blocker. Also, able to take something off the shot and get it on net. Needs to shorten the wind-up on his clapper, which can be elongated especially when he’s got time and space high in the zone, but he’s got a blast from the point. Second, his lateral footwork makes him a dangerous point-man with the extra guy. He’s good moving in either direction, with stick skills and hands good enough to make opponents miss if he has to deke them to create more room. First pass is crisp and on the tape, but he tends to overskate and overhandle the puck which can lead to turnovers. Passing, as they say, gets the puck up ice a lot faster than skating it. At Cornell, Fegaras will learn to be even better defensively, as having a great team defense is something Cornell prides itself on. A stronger lower-body and more explosion out of his legs, and being able to pick his spots more judiciously, could make him a steal in the middle rounds of the Draft. Has had a great start with North York, putting up 20P in 26 games as one of the three players in the OJHL rated by Central Scouting. He’s still probably 4-5 years away, but there’s a lot to like in the later rounds for a team that needs some defensive depth on the right side.


This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.