Sporting News is teaming up with FCHockey all season long to bring you the most in-depth NHL draft coverage you’ll find anywhere. With big boards, mock drafts, scouting reports, and more, we’ll keep you updated on all of the latest intel powered by FCHockey’s draft analysts and insiders.
The calendar has flipped to December.
After a rough couple of months to open the NHL season, some fanbases might flip their attention to the NHL Draft, too. For every lost season comes hope in the form of top draft picks and the allure of the next great player.
There is plenty of movement on FCHockey’s big board since version 1.0 was released back in early October.
Shane Wright, one of few to hold his same position in the first round, remains the top prospect and consensus No. 1 for the 2022 draft. Wright has been a trending topic in the NHL Draft world since the start of the Ontario Hockey League season, and he maintains a firm grasp on our top spot despite a rather underwhelming start to his season.
The changes begin just below Wright, with the WHL’s Matthew Savoie rising four spots into the No. 2 spot. The forward has stood out in the eyes of the Western Canada scouts and looks to have separated himself from the rest of the pack.
With all the movement within this ranking since the preliminary edition released on October 1, the regional changes are just as interesting.
The American, Russian, Finnish and Swedish regions all have new top players since our initial release. Logan Cooley, Danila Yurov, Joakim Kemell and Marco Kasper have not only usurped the previous top prospects in their regions, but the gap looks to be growing fairly significantly already.
Finally, there are five new names on FCHockey’s top-32 board, with Filip Mesar, Filip Bystedt, Liam Ohgren, Gleb Trikozov and Kevin Korchinski pushing up into the first-round consideration.
We’re still seven months away from the 2022 NHL Draft but there’s a slate of exciting hockey on the schedule between now and then, including the 2022 World Junior Championships later this month. This list will continue to evolve between now and the July 7 draft in Montreal but in the meantime, here’s how we see the top of the 2022 class.
NHL Draft 2022 version 2.0: Big board, player rankings
As mentioned, Wright’s hold on this spot seems to have been called into question over his first two months of the season due to a slower start than expected. However, the top prospect picked it up towards the en of November and seems to be finding his groove. Let’s not forget that he, and most other OHLers, are playing their first hockey at this level in well over a year. Wright continues to demonstrate remarkable intelligence and a top shelf shot, while showing off consistently elite playmaking.
The first riser of the ranking, Matthew Savoie has been on fire in the WHL at nearly a two-point-per-game pace. What many expected of Wright in the OHL, Savoie is delivering out west. He is playing on a very strong Winnipeg ICE club and has been the top player on the team to start the season. He exudes confidence and excels at driving the play, consistently dictating the pace of the play. Savoie’s ability to handle the puck at top speed is excellent. Not only has he leapfrogged over some of the other top prospects in this class, but Savoie is closing gap on Wright and could threaten him atop this list with more stellar play.
Holding on to the spot as the top defender in the class, Simon Nemec is an offensive defenseman that has shown promising strides in his own end early in the season. While he can wow you with his puck-moving ability — both with his feet and in his passing — his defensive awareness and the decision-making in his own end have already shown improvement to start the year. There’s an excellent amount of creativity in his game for a defender and he doesn’t shy away from physicality despite playing against men. His drop one spot is less a slight against him and more about the play of Savoie to start the year.
There’s a new Russian king in FCHockey’s rankings. In the Preliminary ranking, the fight for the top spot was a long discussion with FCHockey’s scouts with Danila Yurov falling second. In these rankings, the only option was Yurov. While we have yet to truly see his capabilities at the KHL level due to extremely limited minutes through his 19 games, his play internationally and in the MHL are more than enough to convince FCHockey’s scouts. His competitiveness and two-way ability make him a very promising prospect.
Following a new top Russian, there’s a new top American in the rankings, and he’s the biggest riser in FCHockey’s top-10. Logan Cooley has been the top player for the United States National Team Development Program this season thanks to his strong skating and his dynamic offensive play. Both his playmaking and shooting are dangerous, making him a constant dual offensive threat. He can more than handle himself in the defensive end as well, as a truly well-rounded prospect with a ton of upside. Don’t be surprised to see him continue to climb rankings as the 2022 NHL Draft draws near.
The hottest draft-eligible prospect in the world through the start of the 2021-22 season looks to Finnish forward Joakim Kemell. Thanks to his fiery start, the winger has leapfrogged over a fellow countryman as the top Finn available in the class. Kemell has started his first season in the Liiga at over a point-per-game pace and is shooting up draft boards. He’s a well-rounded offensive talent that can bury you with a pretty goal or highlight-reel assist. He could continue to rise up this list as the season rolls on.
While Ivan Mirochnichenko may have slid back a few spots in FCHockey’s ranking, it’s less of a slight against him and more of a recognition of the improvements from those that have passed over him. He’s an exceptional offensive talent with one of the best shots in this class, possibly second only to Wright. He’s a strong skater and handles the puck well, but could stand to show some more consistent effort on the backcheck and in his own zone.
Once considered the lone challenger to Wright for the top spot, Brad Lambert has not taken the step forward this season that scouts were hoping for. While the high-end skill level is still very much apparent, Lambert hasn’t been able to put it all together, resulting in less-than-expected production. His off-puck play has left some to be desired. There’s still a lot of season left, so Lambert could creep back up this list, but he’ll need to really step his game up to do it.
Big Slovak forward Juraj Slafkovsky has been bouncing between the U20 SM-sarja and the Liiga, starting to see more and more time in the top league. On top of his NHL-ready size, the forward has the strength to go with it yet quick feet and soft hands that you might not expect from a 6-foot-4, 225-pound skater. He excels in the offensive end, reading the lanes well and finding his teammates with crisp passing. His shot selection and accuracy could improve, but he remains a top-10 prospect.
Rutger McGroarty might no longer be the top American on FCHockey’s draft board, but the top prospect remains a top-10 contender. An extremely intelligent player with great competitiveness, McGroarty has been known for his ability to score goals and rack up points and he’s continued to do that with the National Team Development Program. He’s been showing off his playmaking more and more, putting his excellent vision on display game in and game out.
Conor Geekie’s play seems to have slightly trailed off in recent weeks, leaving him as the lone prospect to fall out of the top-10 in this update. However, Savoie’s teammate remains a very promising prospect thanks to his high-end hockey sense and his ability to take advantage and capitalize on opponent’s mistakes. His effort level has wavered through November and his skating needs some improvement but he will need to show more consistency or risk sliding further.
One of the bigger risers within the first round of FCHockey’s latest ranking, Frank Nazar has quickly become a scouting favorite player in this class. His relentless motor makes it hard to peel your eye from him when he’s on the ice. He battles hard, showing strong efforts in both ends of the rink. This is aided by his strong skating, allowing him to win a great number of races to the puck. He’s also very impressive with the puck on his stick, protecting it from attackers and making hard, accurate passes. He could be a player to keep an eye on to slip into the top-10 as the season goes on.
The biggest riser within the top-32, Denton Mateychuk looks like he could evolve into a top-10 prospect in this class. He’s one of the best skaters in the class and never takes his foot off the gas. The Moose Jaw Warriors defender shows very strong offensive awareness, always seemingly looking to jump up into the rush. But is a very strong presence in his own zone as well, forcing turnovers and leading the transition game. Like Nazar, he could be a player that forces himself up the draft charts by the season’s end.
After one defender cracked FCHockey’s top-12, Seamus Casey is the second-straight defender in a group of four in the middle of the first. The American rearguard is a gifted, offensively-minded defender who shows excellent confidence whenever he hits the ice. On top of boasting some high-end skill with the puck, he’s also a physical presence on the ice, making sure his opponents take notice of where he is on the ice. This could very well be a future top-pairing defender.
David Jiricek continues to impress in the top Czech league, showing off his excellent two-way ability. He knows how to use his size to his advantage, with his long reach and physicality being a big part of his defensive game. With the puck, he’s a strong passer with good vision, while also displaying a natural ability to lead the zone exits and entries. He could stand to improve his skating, but looks to be a solid first-round pick so far in his draft year.
Along with Casey, Ryan Chesley has been a strong presence on the National Team Development Program’s back end this season. The defender has a powerful stride, complemented by his booming physical presence. He shows an excellent, consistent ability to separate attackers from the puck. He defends the rush very well and looks very strong in his decision-making, even under pressure. His upside might not be as high as teammate Casey’s, but they’re very close right now and Chesley’s game should translate very well to the NHL level.
Isaac Howard, the sixth National Team Development Program player on this list, did have a fairly significant slide in this edition of the ranking — from top-10 consideration down closer to the 20s. He’s a highly-competitive forward that plays a very aggressive game in his pursuit of the puck. He has one of the better shots in the class, thanks to a lightning-quick release. He’s not the fastest skater and his defensive game stands to show improvement, but his offensive game will be more than enough for an NHL team to bite.
The new top player from the Swedish region – and he’s not even Swedish. Marco Kasper has spent the majority of his season in the SHL, although his minutes have been hit or miss at that level. Still, he’s been impressing thanks to his speed and high level of creativity. His playmaking is excellent and his ability to create offense stands out. With more minutes under his belt this season, he could be even higher on these rankings. He could be a candidate to continue to rise as the season rolls on.
Swedish defender Elias Salomonsson came into the season with high expectations, and he has been slightly underwhelming in comparison. He doesn’t consistently drive play from his own end and there are shifts where he seems to fail to make an impact. However, he does show strong skating ability and knows how to use his long reach very well. He loves to jump into the rush and make a strong first pass out of the zone. Despite the slide, he remains a strong prospect but the ceiling doesn’t look to be as high as it did entering 2021-22.
Tristan Luneau managed to hold on to the top spot from the QMJHL, but the gap significantly shrunk. The defender is a very intelligent, puck-moving defender that displays strong four-way mobility, but at the same time can appear fairly out of place in his own zone when defending. While consistently jumping into battles for the puck, he does seem to struggle to win those battles. He has good upside, but his play off the puck will need to show improvement moving forward.
Noah Ostlund may have dropped two spots but he remains very much in the conversation for the top Swedish prospect in this class. The center has had a taste of the SHL this season but has mainly spent time in the J20 Nationell. He’s a very intelligent player, making his impact felt every shift. He battles hard on the forecheck and the backcheck, doing everything he can to make sure his team has the puck when he’s on the ice. Ostlund’s lack of size and strength does show at times and will likely be a big reason why he may slide on draft day.
The OHL is a strong pipeline to the NHL but in this draft, at this point in the season, Wright and Ty Nelson look to be the only two prospects that look to have a semi-firm grasp on the first round. Nelson is playing at nearly a point-per-game pace thanks to his strong puck-moving ability and vision. However, he does show some struggles in his defensive zone awareness and his decision-making. This is understandable to an extent after missing the entire 2020-21 season, but he will need to show improvements. This, combined with his smaller frame, could see him be a candidate to fall in the draft.
The second and last QMJHL player on this list, Nathan Gaucher could very well overtake Luneau in future updates to FCHockey’s rankings. The big, powerful center shows exceptional two-way ability and is dominant in puck battles thanks to his size. Despite his size, he’s quite nimble on his skates, showing strong edgework and quick speed. His hands could stand to improve as his puckhandling can be inconsistent and his pass reception isn’t the strongest, but Gaucher has a number of tools that NHL teams will value highly.
The rise of Jonathan Lekkerimaki has begun and could very well continue if he continues how he’s played to start the season. The forward is playing over a point-per-game pace in the J20 Nationell and has had his first looks at the SHL level. He’s yet another forward in this class with an excellent shot, who seems to be able to get it off his stick from anywhere in the offensive zone at any time and put it in the back of the net. He’s a very strong skater and plays hard in the offensive zone, but he could stand to bring that effort back to his own end. With his offensive talents though, he could continue to shoot up draft boards.
Yet another National Team Development Program player, Cutter Gauthier is a very skilled winger with high-end vision. He plays with excellent pace despite holding a calm, poised demeanor. He seems to constantly scan the ice, knowing where everyone is at all times and pull off an impressive pass to find his man. He also plays a physical game, adding to his intrigue. Gauthier can get caught puck watching in his own zone, but his competitiveness and vision will likely earn him a look earlier rather than later in the draft.
The third-biggest riser in FCHockey’s top-32, Filip Mesar is the first new name on this list as a first time first rounder. The forward continues to impress in the top Slovak men’s league, showing off strong skating ability and agility as well as excellent playmaking. He controls the puck well and consistently dictates play. Mesar has promising creativity and can get around or through opponents with relative ease. He should continue to rise throughout the 2021-22 season.
The second new name on this list, Filip Bystedt is a big, two-way center that uses his power and strength to his advantage every shift, dictating play and controlling opponents with his size. He also displays great puckhandling skill, something you might not expect with a player of his size. He protects the puck very well and is incredibly hard to strip the puck from. Bystedt has shown great improvements so far this season and could continue to rise if it continues.
Simon Forsmark has been bouncing between the J20 Nationell and SHL this season, but the defender has proven too good for the junior league — collecting over point-per-game so far. He plays like a veteran, with maturity and confidence very evident in his game. His decision-making is excellent and his ability to get the puck out of danger stands out in his play. He shows strong awareness in both ends of the ice and isn’t afraid to get physical when needed. An NHL team could bite early to make sure they land the promising defender.
This list’s biggest riser, Liam Ohgren has stood out in a big way to FCHockey’s Swedish scouts. He’s spent more time in the SHL than the J20 Nationell in no small part due to his impressive offensive ability. He’s excellent with the puck on his stick thanks to his stand-out creativity. He is very calm and patient while knowing how to use his puck to protect the puck. He makes difficult plays look easy and seems to stand out in every game. Ohgren has taken strong steps forward so far this season and could continue to rise if he keeps it up.
Just the third Russian on this list, Gleb Trikozov is another new name in FCHockey’s top-32. The winger is a quick skater with strong acceleration and excels in creating separation. He’s a very intelligent player who reads defenses quickly, able to find the holes and the lanes with ease. His shot also stands out, with a quick release and strong shot selection. He has a knack for finding the soft ice and getting to the net. Behind top-10 talents Yurov and Miroshnichenko, Trikozov looks to be the top Russian available.
Holding on to his spot at the end of the first round, Swiss defender Lian Bichsel stands at a towering 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds. And he knows how to use it with his physicality, and his long reach to disrupt plays. The two-way defender surprises with the amount of skill he possesses, from his long, powerful strides to his overall offensive awareness, he shows top-four potential. He needs to calm his game down a bit at times, but this is definitely a player that NHL teams will take note of.
Closing out FCHockey’s top-32 ranking, Kevin Korchinski slides into the final spot with his high-upside. He plays with exceptional pace and movement, with his overall skating as a clear standout component of his game. He’s definitely a risk-taker and that can get him into trouble, but he has enough skill where if he can improve on when he takes those risks, this could be a special player. Korchinski will need to improve his decision-making, but his skating, playmaking, and puckhandling abilities are enough to put him in the first-round conversation.