As we enter the second half of the hockey season, we are very focused on the 2022 NHL Draft at McKeen’s Hockey. You can see our mid-season ranking at mckeenshockey.com. The top 32 here and for subscribers you can see the full top 100 here. This will herald the start of our full scouting reports from our team of scouts/analysts. Here is an unlocked version breaking down Shane Wright, our current #1 ranked prospect by Brock Otten if you are not familiar with what we do.
We have also kicked of a series where we provide an overview of each of the top 50 prospects accompanied by a video. You can read the first installment here. Brock also provided last weeks column in this space of risers and fallers in the draft.
Our draft focus continues in this weeks Prospect Report with profiles of two of the more interesting draft eligible prospects. Brad Lambert raised some eyebrows in the few early games played before the World Juniors was postponed (possibly August by most recent reports) teasing a possible break out. We will have an extensive look at this game in the coming week on our site for subscribers from Sam McGilligan using video and analytics to dig deep into the prospect that may have the scouts the most confounded at the moment. Sam provides an introduction to Lambert with an overview of his game below as a preview of the larger article.
Matej Deraj is our scout/analyst based in Slovakia, which is shaping up to have their most memorable draft year with a trio of outstanding prospects on offer. Matej has already introduced our number two ranked Simon Nemec in a previous NBC Sports Edge column found here. Also ranked in the top ten is Juraj Slafkovsky at number seven, whom Matej also introduced here. Filip Mesar now is making a push for inclusion, ranked #12 on our midseason ranking completing the hat trick of high-end Slovakian skaters.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
2022 NHL DRAFT: Lambert polarizing scouts at mid-season – What is his upside?
By Sam McGilligan
2021-22 JYP, Liiga 24GP-2G-4A-6PTS
2021-22 Finland U20, WJC-20 2GP-1G-4A-5PTS
There is no shortage of fun hockey viewings when you’re watching Brad Lambert. One of two Finnish stars near the top of this draft, 6’0”, 179lbs right-handed center of Finnish/Canadian descent epitomizes the word fun with nearly every touch of the puck. Lambert dazzles crowds with a game built entirely around world class levels of skill, explosive speed and agility. It’s the combination of those three traits that has some scouts enamored with Lambert, believing him to be a top five candidate in a 2022 Draft Class that’s proving harder and harder to rank near the top.
It’s those same three traits that have safely landed Lambert a spot in the discussion surrounding the draft’s best transitional players. Very few draft eligibles are able to fly through the middle third of the ice the way Lambert can, combining sharp directional changes with razor tight puck handling mechanics to squeeze through molecular sized gaps in the defense. His tools are not the only thing that makes his transitional game such a threat, as he combines them with good habits and fundamentals to become the ultimate transitional asset for his team -- attacking through the more dangerous sections in the neutral zone in between the hash marks for inside lanes, recognizing when the defense has cut him off and knowing who to move the puck to next, a penchant for entering the zone with control instead of dumping it in. These are what the best transitional players in the NHL do, and Brad Lambert is following suit.
Lambert is not the draft’s most prolific dangerous chance creator, but he is fully capable of driving dangerous chances when the opportunities present themselves. The tools that are present should result in more dangerous chances being created, so there is undeniably some development that needs to be done in order to make this a reality. Regardless, Lambert’s mobility and handling combination provides nearly limitless options when on the ice, and even if his dangerous creation is not refined, Lambert will still be a reliable option for puck transportation throughout various zones, as well as maintaining possession in the offensive zone.
His intelligence is the biggest question mark surrounding his play, often being cited as one of the draft’s best examples of scouts being unable to reach a consensus. Some scouts deem Lambert highly intelligent, seeing calculation behind his decision making, while others doubt his in-game processing due to a higher frequency of forced plays, missed opportunities and objectively bad decisions. The real answer is likely somewhere in the middle, as one cannot overlook a player consistently making inefficient reads or ignore the intelligent decisions that drive good results for the player’s team.
The questions surrounding his intelligence has resulted in Lambert being one of the more divisive prospects in recent memory. Some scouts believe in his OZ play becoming more consistent and that the scoring totals will increase with time, others think that his ability to create scoring chances will only decrease from here on out as Lambert plays in more sophisticated hockey leagues. Some believe he has what it takes to remain a center, others are less confident in that assessment and believe Lambert is destined to be a winger where he can be protected defensively and focus on moving the puck up ice and establishing the zone.
I lean towards the optimistic side with Lambert. I recognize the flaws in his game but believe there is a method to his madness. The flaws should start to work themselves out with more experience in a professional hockey setting, and the benefits provided by his world class talent level will become more prolific. His draft range currently spreads across the entire first round, with some still believing he’s worthy of a top five pick, and others believing he is only worth a gamble in the 20’s when the safer, more reliable upside picks are all gone. Either way, Lambert is one of the most fascinating case studies to come out of the last few drafts, and I’m ecstatic to see what the future holds in store for this offensive dynamo.
2022 NHL DRAFT: Mešár Making His Way Out of Nemec´s and Slafkovský´s Shadow
By Matej Deraj
2021-22 HK Poprad, Tipos Extraliga 25GP-7G-5A-12PTS
2021-22 Slovakia U20, WJC-20 2GP-0G-0A-0PTS
Out of approximately six thousand inhabitants of Spišská Belá, a smallish town in northeastern Slovakia, there is one who has a high chance of being selected in the 1st round of the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. Filip Mešár (pronunciation: PHI-LIP MEH-SHAAR) has spent his entire career in nearby Poprad and he wears its jersey this season as well. The young forward turned eighteen only a month ago but has a couple of accolades under his belt already.
It has been typically Šimon Nemec and Juraj Slafkovský who are in the spotlight when it comes to top Slovak prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft. Both of them have been projected as top 10 picks for almost two years from now, both made their debut on Slovakia´s Men National Team last year, and both have played at Men´s World Championship as the two youngest Slovaks in history. Mešár has been flying under the radar, but that is starting to change.
The HK Poprad forward made his Men´s National Team debut at the Deutschland Cup in November, notching an assist in his first game on the 1st Slovak line. Mešár has not received another invitation to the National Team yet, and unlike Nemec and Slafkovský, he is not flying to Beijing for the 2022 Olympics.
Mešár was part of the Slovak U18 team that won the silver medal at the last Hlinka Gretzky Cup, played in Piešťany, Slovakia. He even wore an “A” as an alternate captain, being one of the most experienced guys. Mešár played on the elite line with Slafkovský and Peter Repčík and had eight points (2+6) in five matches. However, his international career at the U20 level has not seen much success yet. He´s played four games at two World Junior Championships but has yet to score his first point.
Despite having been selected in the 2021 CHL Import Draft by the Kitchener Rangers as the ninth overall pick, Mešár decided to continue his career in Slovakia. He is playing his second pro season with HK Poprad in the country´s top tier league, Tipos Extraliga. He´s currently has tallied twelve points (seven goals and five assists) in 25 matches, giving him a point-per-game average a little lower than 0.5. He is two points shy of tying his last year´s 14 points (4G, 10A) in 36 games.
Mešár has played center for the most of his career, but is seeing more time on the wing since he began playing with men. He has mostly played on Poprad´s third line and he receives regular powerplay time. He is a bit undersized (5-10”, 172 lbs) and his skating speed and puckhandling skills suit the wing well, but he himself notes he is most comfortable playing in the middle.
Mešár is a speedy forward with notable hockey sense and hockey IQ, who has great vision and passing, but also possesses a strong shot. There are not many obvious weaknesses to his game. Due to his size, he´s never played a physical style, but he´s starting to finish his checks and use the body more often than he did in the past. He is also not particularly a defensive specialist, rather more of an offensive threat.
The Spišská Belá native has made his way to the first-round conversation. Currently ranked at #12 on our board at McKeen´s Hockey, he has all the necessary tools to become a top-six forward. He is a well-rounded, smart prospect with offensive skills. If I was to compare him to a current NHL player, I´d probably go with Johnny Gaudreau.
He may not get the same amount of attention Nemec and Slafkovský do, but Filip Mešár does have a good chance of having a successful NHL career. His draft stock is on the rise and may become one of the steals of the upcoming draft, if he falls to the late first, or even the second round.