The countdown to the 2022 NHL Draft is officially on.
With most junior leagues around North America underway, draft season is officially upon us. Diehards will be treated to plenty of storylines over the course of the next nine months — and there is certainly no shortage of them. Just like there is no shortage of talent in the 2022 NHL Draft class.
FCHockey breaks down the 10 prospects you’ll want to keep tabs on throughout the season (in alphabetical order).
10 draft eligibles to watch in 2021-22
Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)
Geekie, a 6-4 center, split his time between the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) and Winnipeg. During his nine games with the Oil Capitals, he registered four points (one goal, three assists). A return to play protocol was then announced by the WHL in April of 2021, prompting him to return to the Ice. Geekie finished the season with an impressive 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 24 games despite a shortened season. He comes from a hockey lineage too, with his father Craig playing three seasons in the Western Hockey League in the 1990s, and his brother Morgan currently in the Seattle Kraken organization.
“Geekie is an offensive-leaning power center who leveraged his combination of size and skill to make a difference in this game against Regina from start to finish,” FCHockey crossover scout Brandon Holmes said.
Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
Kemell spent most of his draft minus-1 season in JYP’s U20 program, putting up 36 points (22 goals, 14 assists) in 38 games. He even earned a one-game call-up to play in Liiga, scoring in that appearance. Already on the radar of scouts well in advance of the 2021-22 scouting season, Kemell continued to impress at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he was always trying to make something happen with the puck. He possesses one of the best shots in this draft class already and is not afraid to use it. He’s got traits of a versatile goal scorer who can find the back of the net in many ways.
“Using his speed, he is able to catch defenders flat-footed and cut to the middle of the ice for shot attempts in the high danger area,” FCHockey crossover scout Curtis Schwartzkopf noted. “Kemell also has very soft hands and can put a fine touch on his passes, oftentimes using a saucer pass to open a passing lane that has already been taken away.”
Brad Lambert, C, JYP (Liiga)
Lambert has been billed as a top pick in the 2022 draft for a few years, and his dynamic offensive ability continues to keep him in that conversation. Last year, Lambert played a full season in Liiga for JYP and amassed 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 46 games. He also represented Finland at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship last spring and the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. In the latter, he showed off his high-end offensive skills as one of the youngest players for Finland in the winter tournament.
“He has good hands in tight and uses his edgework to create space for others,” said FCHockey scout Mat Sheridan. “In transition, he is able to pick up speed using his crossovers and is not afraid to attack lanes as he heads up the ice.”
Rutger McGroarty, C, US-NTDP (USHL)
McGroarty is a big-bodied center with a dynamic offensive skillset. In 2019-20, McGroarty played 63 games for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 15U team and finished with 160 total points (82 goals, 78 assists). He spent the 2020-21 season playing with both the USA U18 and U17 teams and appeared in the WJC-18 tournament. In his 30 USHL games, McGroarty finished with 12 goals and seven assists.
“He does a good job at finding open ice in the slot to present himself as a passing option and always battles hard for positioning in front of the net,” Sheridan said. “He has good vision and is able to hit teammates in the slot with a crisp, hard pass, even under pressure.”
Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, OMSKIE Krylia (VHL)
A regular at the international level in recent years for Russia, Miroshnichenko projects to be among the top goal scorers and pure shooting threats available in the 2022 NHL Draft class. He has become a star for the 2004 class of Russians at the international level, captaining gold medal-winning teams at both the Youth Olympic Games and Hlinka Gretzky Cup in recent years, while also being a member of Russia’s silver medal squad at the Under-18’s.
In his debut season in the MHL, Miroshnichenko became a reliable contributor for Omskie Yastreby with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 20 games played, earning him a promotion to Avangard’s VHL club to start the 2021-22 campaign.
“His shot is NHL ready, he generates a ton of power behind his shot and has a quick release and pinpoint accuracy that will beat goalies from anywhere,” mentioned FCHockey scout Austin Broad. “If you give him open space in the offensive zone he will make you pay.”
Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
Nemec spent the 2020-21 season playing for HK Nitra where he registered 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 37 games. He went on to represent Slovakia at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, recording four assists in five games as a crucial key in Slovakia’s run. He was a captain at this past year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament, where he led the Slovaks to a Silver medal and put up six points (goal, five assists) in five games. Nemec was named the tournament MVP.
“Nemec is a very gifted two-way defenseman that is effective on both ends of the ice,” FCHockey scout Douglas Larson said. “All aspects of his defensive game are exceptional, especially when looking at his rush-defense. Nemec is not afraid to shoot the puck when he sees an opening, and when he did it was low as he was shooting for a tip or rebound. His decision-making needs some work, as I often saw him making a quick decision that was often not the best decision.
Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)
With uncertainty surrounding last year’s WHL season, Savoie played four games with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) recording six points (three goals, three assists). After that short stint, Savoie found himself south of the border playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He posted 38 points (21 goals, 17 assists) in 34 games with the Fighting Saints and was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team, but has returned to the WHL this season and is expected to be a top forward for the Ice alongside Geekie.
“He’s a chameleon on offense, one shift he’s an elite playmaker who finds his teammates with ease, on the next he’s a power forward using his skating a body to bulldoze through defenders and cut to the net” Broad said.”He’s a multi-dimensional offensive threat that adapts and changes his method of attack every time he touches the puck. ”
Juraj Slafkovsky, C, Turku TPS (Liiga)
Last season, Slafkovsky starred with TPS’s squad in the U20 SM-sarja league and recorded 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 16 games. This past winter, he represented Slovakia at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at age 16. He was also a part of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup squad that won silver, netting nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games. Slafkovsky is sure to be a lock on the World Juniors roster once again, and a strong performance there coupled with a showcase in Liiga, makes him an intriguing option.
“Slafkovsky is a big forward who can shoot and has great puck skills,” described FCHockey scout Mirolsav Simurka. “Because of his size, it may be a little surprising that Slafkovsky has one of the softest pairs of hands in this draft class. He is very strong with the puck on the rush, controlling the puck at full speed, drawing defenders and creating passing lanes for his teammates.
“He projects as a top-six winger with elite playmaking and passing skills but he can also shoot the puck with great velocity given for his age. Slafkovsky is in the top-10 if not top-five conversation right now.”
Shane Wright, C, Kingston (OHL)
Welcome to the Wright era. After kicking off his junior hockey career with a bang, scoring 39 goals in 58 games in his first season in Kingston, Canada’s next big star will have the whole hockey world watching him as he enters his draft year. His total of 1.14 points per game as an exceptional status player in the OHL is bested only by John Tavares — who arguably played on a better team.
“He’s a potentially franchise-changing player,” Sheridan said. “He possesses an elite shot. He is able to get it off his stick rapidly and can shoot off both feet and in stride. He has excellent situational awareness at both ends of the ice: he constantly disrupts passing lanes with his stick and always makes himself open in the offensive zone.”
Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg (KHL)
If you tuned into the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship this past spring, it would have been difficult to not notice the play of Yurov, a competitive and skilled dual-threat winger who has become one of Russia’s top junior-aged skaters.
He led all U18 skaters in scoring pace in the MHL during the 2020-21 season for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, tallying 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 23 games, which in turn earned him time in a limited role in the KHL for Metallurg. At the Under-18’s, Yurov shined on a nightly basis, finishing third on Russia in scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in seven games en route to a silver finish.
“Yurov is a highly competitive, two-way forward with exceptional awareness in both ends, and the ability to drive offense,” FCHockey head crossover scout Josh Bell said. “His intelligence on the ice is extremely strong. From his positioning in both ends to his reads of passes, and this ability to take advantage of mistakes stands out in a big way.”