So, the 2020 NHL draft is going to be awesome. Like, the best since the 2003 draft. There is going to be a magnitude of stars drafted and franchises are going to have a reason to celebrate after the season came to an abrupt end.
But 2022 is going to be even better.
Disclaimer: there’s always hype around every draft. The 2019 had Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, two dynamite offensive threats. The 2018 draft had a star-studded defender in Rasmus Dahlin. The year before that, Nico Hischier was supposed to turn around the New Jersey Devils.
But 2022 is truly going to be something special.
I wrote about what I dubbed the “Three-Headed Monster” back in November – Shane Wright, Matthew Savoie and Brad Lambert. Two of them applied for exceptional status in the CHL (and Wright actually received it), while the third became one of the youngest pro players in a top European men’s league, ever. Give the piece a read – all three are going to be superstars and capable of becoming high-end game-changers in a way few players manage to do every few years.
But the trio doesn’t include Rutger McGroarty, a kid many independant scouts believes is a top three prospect for 2022. And when you look at the fact that he had 82 goals and 160 points in midget (no midget player came remotely close to catching McGroarty’s goal count), there’s a good argument for it. If you know me, you know I hate using the term “elite” to describe prospects because it’s so overused, but there’s no better way of describing his ability to put pucks in the net. He’ll be an instant NHLer once he’s taken in 2022, so I wouldn’t count too much on him honoring his University of Notre Dame.
The trio doesn’t include Seamus Casey, an unbelievable puck-mover set to lead the USNTDP to glory from the blueline. Casey fell just short of two points-per-game on average in the NAPHL, but through it all, his 11 goals put him top 10 in the league, regardless of position. He’s a natural two-way defender with incredible speed, stick-handling abilities and defensive awareness. He’s projected to be the first defenseman off the board in 2022 and will be an instant power-play contributor once he reaches the NHL.
The trio doesn’t include Juraj Slafkovsky, who had one of the best seasons in Finnish U-18 league history. Better than Kakko and Mikael Granlund, and not too far behind Eeli Tolvanen and Sebastian Aho. At 6-foot-4, he’s got great size for a kid his age and has continuously proven himself to be a dangerous scoring threat at all levels. If anyone is going to take the charge and help fix Slovakian hockey, it’s going to be Slafkovsky.
The trio doesn’t include Frank Nazar, who had one of the best seasons by any midget-aged player last year with 127 points in 55 games. He controls the puck with pure confidence and scores highlight-reel goals on a near-nightly basis. The University of Michigan commit has speed to kill and wins most of his 1-on-1 battles, and if this is the quality prospect available to you midway through the top 10, you can’t go wrong.
The trio doesn’t include Jack Devine, a standout with the USNTDP this past season and one of the best Americans in the age group. Devine has an impressive skill set that allows him to be one of the best players on the ice most nights thanks to his well-rounded style allowing him to excel at most situations.
The trio doesn’t include Conor Geekie, arguably the most impressive U-16 player in the Manitoba midget league. You may have heard of his older brother, Morgan, the Carolina Hurricanes prospect with four points in his first two NHL games. Conor already looks like a better prospect at the same age, adding a dynamic two-way presence to a strong frame that allowed him to dominate the Manitoba bantam scene before a successful transition to midget this past year. Get ready for his exploits in the WHL next season.
The trio doesn’t include Tristan Luneau, who, not only was the best U-16 defensemen in Quebec AAA hockey, but was one of the best defensemen against older competition, period. His game-to-game consistency is unmatched and you won’t find many players with the confidence to rush the puck through pressure like Luneau.
The trio doesn’t include Russian sensation Ivan Miroshnichenko, the most impressive player in all levels of international junior hockey this past season. Now he’s going the Andrei Svechnikov route in Muskegon, and, frankly, scouts see a lot alike in the two players. Svechnikov went second overall in 2018 – so just think about that comparison for a second and you’ll realize how deep this draft really is.
The trio doesn’t include Ty Nelson, the small, but super skilled defender that went No. 1 to the North Bay Battalion in early April. He has great offensive tools, is almost always winning foot races and while he’s not the biggest body – he stands 5-foot-8 – he moves the puck up the ice as well as, if not better than, anyone his age. In terms of puck-moving and skating abilities, there are some similarities between Nelson and current NHLers Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Ellis.
The trio doesn’t include Maddox Fleming, Simon Nemec, David Goyette, Cruz Lucius, Isaac Howard, Jack Hughes (the other one) or Paul Ludwinski. To most of you, these are just names. You’ll forget about most of them for another year and re-visit them once you have a clearer understanding of where your team sits heading into the 2021-22 season. The 2020 draft hasn’t even happened yet, but scouts are already exuberant over the 2022 edition.
Prospect watchers and fans of terrible hockey teams are in for a treat the next few years – the talent is coming.
Follow me on Twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.