When it comes to the valuation of a handful of forward prospects in the 2022 NHL draft the big question is: do you believe the player will stick at center or will they move to the wing? Centers and 200 foot defensemen are highly valuable at the top of the draft, and rightly so, given the importance most structures give to those positions in the defensive end and in transition opportunities.
With that in mind and given the opportunity to assume a little more risk than usual given the other first round assets, the Buffalo Sabres are proud to select Conor Geekie from the Winnipeg Ice with the ninth-overall pick in the NHL Mock Draft.
The 6’4 center is a bit of a polarizing prospect. At Smaht Scouting, Geekie was ranked 30th overall and Smaht is much lower than the consensus on him. You can read Matthew Somma’s report on Geekie here. However, this is mostly because of the question I posed at the top of this article: is Geekie going to be a center? While my personal opinion might be different, I will make the case for why Geekie makes sense for the Sabres here.
For one, his small area skill and his ability to thread passes all over the ice are high-end especially for his size. More than once this year I often wished I could take Geekie’s skill and passing ability and combine it with Dylan Cozens’ skating, physicality, and shot to create an absolute monster of an NHL player.
Geekie played a lot with 2023 phenom Zach Benson and one of my favorite overage players in this draft in Mikey Milne. In defensive transition he played usually as the high F3 forward who would read plays from the top of the blue line and use his great stick and anticipation to stop exits from the opposing team’s defensive zone. In offensive transition he facilitated a lot his transitions through one-touch passes or by generating momentum in the defensive zone to carry-in/out. His skating limited his effectiveness in both areas, but he was deft in adapting his game to be effective.
His skill is constantly on display. From his ability to pre-scan options and make great dangerous passes cross ice.
Conor Geekie is so, so smart. pic.twitter.com/4ltuWYTRmx— Matthew Somma (@Mattsomma12) January 3, 2022
To his ability to facilitate play below the goal line
Geekie threads a pass through multiple skaters for a primary assist pic.twitter.com/5c8sypSe6E— Matthew Somma (@Mattsomma12) January 3, 2022
He does possess a great ability to move pucks around the offensive zone with his passing decisions.
Geekie’s biggest question mark is his skating. While he can get up to an NHL level pace at his top gear: he’s not agile on his skates and he is very slow getting off the blocks. This can make it look like he’s not hard on pucks and his ability to shift and be deceptive on the rush is not there at the WHL level. However, there is no denying that if his skating can get better there’s a lot of skill there for him be a potential steal in the 2022 draft.
Check out the little whoopsie-do and backhand dish by Conor Geekie to Matt Savoie.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) February 24, 2022
Not bad pic.twitter.com/kTb0bEmSrT
For me, personally, I think Geekie translates to a great passenger winger in the NHL. He’ll excel in one-touch passes and in the offensive zone moving pucks around the zone and into dangerous parts of the ice. I think his mobility concerns are legitimate and that I don’t know if it can be corrected to a level where you’d move him to center to facilitate pucks up and down the ice. I don’t question his motor or effort level, but I do think the skating limits his ability to be hard on pucks and his general approach to how he defends seems to be more geared to using his stick than his physicality.
That’s not to say though that he doesn’t play physical. In face I’d argue that I like that he has a bit of an edge to his game. Given that we have three picks in the first round: a homerun swing on Geekie could end up bringing big dividends if the Sabres can develop him properly.
I love this sequence by Conor Geekie of the @WHLWpgICE, throws a hit on the backcheck then is quick to turn and get involved on the rush with speed and creativity. He’s been #2 on our list since October. pic.twitter.com/I5YLLTQraq— Jérôme Bérubé (@Jerome_Berube) March 15, 2022
Here is how the first eight picks before Buffalo went -
1. Shane Wright — Montreal Canadiens
2. Logan Cooley — New Jersey Devils
3. Juraj Slafkovsky — Arizona Coyotes
4. Simon Nemec — Seattle Kraken
5. David Jiricek — Philadelphia Flyers
6. Cutter Gauthier — Columbus Blue Jackets
7. Joakim Kemell — Ottawa Senators
8. Matthew Savoie — Detroit Red Wings