McKeen’s Hockey 2022 NHL Draft Top 100 Update
A new year means a new draft ranking at McKeen’s Hockey, as we expand our list at mid-season to a Top 100. Back in mid-November, we released our preliminary ranking, a top 32, so this not only serves as an update, but also an expansion.
Like many, we were disappointed with the abrupt ending of the World Junior Championships, not only because it robbed us of some terrific hockey, but because it also prevented a high-quality look at some of the best talents in this draft year. While a poor showing at the World Juniors is often dismissed, a strong showing can really help elevate a player’s standing. Ultimately, the decision to stop the tournament was the correct one, given the circumstances, however, hopefully the World Under 18’s can occur in Germany as planned in April.
At this point Kingston Frontenacs center and former CHL exceptional status player Shane Wright remains at the top of our rankings, however the gap is admittedly closing between him and some of the other players inside of our top five. Defenseman Simon Nemec is having a historically good season in the Slovak men’s league and will play for Slovakia at the Olympics. Center Logan Cooley is proving to be a dynamic two-way threat and is fresh off a terrific performance at the Biosteel All American Game. Center Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice continues to lead the WHL in scoring on the top ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League. A year ago, it was unfathomable to imagine anyone else but Wright being selected first overall. That concept is not as far-fetched today. Without question, Wright will need to pick up his play in the second half to withstand his competitors.
Here is how our first round looks at mid-season.
To see the rest of our Top 100, click here.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
Movers and Shakers
By Brock Otten
Logan Cooley - Center - U.S. NTDP
Cooley has gone from being a likely top ten selection to someone who is close to challenging Shane Wright for first overall. Why? Cooley brings a lot of the same qualities to the ice that made former U.S. Under 18 star Matthew Beniers the second overall selection last year. He can push the pace of play with his dynamic skating ability, in combination with his efficiency as a puck carrier. He is a strong and physical presence in all three zones, giving him the projection as an impactful two-way player at the NHL level. And he shows strong awareness and anticipation in the offensive end, making his linemates better. Cooley has played particularly well in the NTDP’s matchups against NCAA competition this year, averaging over a point per game in those games against stronger and older players. Fresh off a terrific performance at the Biosteel All American Game, Cooley will look to stay hot to finish the year, including leading the U.S. at the U18’s in Germany.
Pavel Mintyukov - Defenseman - Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
To an extent, Mintyukov does appear to have the scouting community divided due to his aggressive offensive approach. No question, he plays a high-risk game by looking to play deep in the offensive end. However, this approach leads to consistent scoring chances because of Mintyukov’s high end skill and playmaking ability. His combination of size, skill, and athleticism is very enticing, and it gives him among the highest upside of any defender available. We, at McKeen’s, believe that Mintyukov’s defensive approach will become more refined with more experience and that his mobility and size does give him the profile of eventually becoming a dominant two-way force.
Denton Mateychuk - Defenseman - Moose Jaw (WHL)
Speaking of aggressive offensive defenders, look no further than Denton Mateychuk, a highly mobile attacker and puck mover from Moose Jaw of the WHL. It is easy to see his approach translating to the NHL; he profiles perfectly as the modern-day defensive standout with a game molded around his mobility and ability to play with pace. He is trending upwards because his defensive game and decision making have improved greatly recently. This has caused us to redefine his upside as a potential top pairing defender.
Alexander Perevalov - Winger - Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Perevalov has proven himself to be one of the most skilled goal scorers available this year, with one of the highest point-per-game marks in the MHL (a Russian junior league). His ability to create time and space for himself in the offensive end and ability to problem solve through traffic gives him significant upside. At this point, Perevalov seems to be closing the gap on fellow Russian goal scoring winger Ivan Miroshnichenko as the second-best Russian player available this year behind Danila Yurov.
Cutter Gauthier - Winger - U.S. NTDP
This year’s inclination of the United States U18 team is incredibly deep and talented. We have ten players from the team ranked inside our top two rounds. As you can imagine, it is tough to stand out consistently on such a talented team. However, Gauthier is doing just that because of his tenacious approach, high end skating ability, and his vision/awareness in the offensive end. Gauthier consistently competes for loose pucks and is certainly skilled enough to find effectiveness at any pace of play. He can grind you down. He can lead the attack. The 6’3, Boston College commit, is knocking on the door of being ranked inside the lottery.
Vladimir Grudinin - Defenseman - Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
Grudinin is a prospect who may have really been hurt by the cancellation of the World Junior Championships. He was slowly gaining more ice time and responsibility before the tournament was called off and it is likely that he would have finished the event as one of Russia’s most important defenders, despite his young age. The undersized defender controls the pace of play well with his four-way mobility and is especially effective at holding the line and creating on the powerplay. He has seen some action at the KHL level recently and is even looking comfortable playing against men. His 40th overall ranking by NHL Central Scouting (among European players) is criminally low and undervalues his potential as a high-end puck mover.
Owen Beck - Center - Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
The Mississauga Steelheads have been one of the biggest surprises of the current OHL season and first year center Owen Beck has been one of the main reasons why. He is like a Swiss army knife. He can play (and excel) in all situations and has an extremely well-rounded skill set. This includes being one of the draft’s most dynamic skaters. Beck’s ability to create separation with his feet makes him extremely dangerous in transition, however he shows an ability to make sound decisions and skilled plays at full speed, a trait that not all draft eligible speedsters exhibit. Beck’s offensive contributions have made us re-evaluate his offensive ceiling and NHL projection and for that he has risen to be inside of our first round.
Jiri Kulich - Center - HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czechia)
Another European player who was really hurt by the stoppage at the WJC’s, Kulich is a dynamic two-way center who has excelled in the Czech men’s league this year. He was centering the second line for Czechia at the WJC’s and was looking more comfortable with each passing game. Kulich is on pace to have one of the best statistical seasons ever by a U18 player in the Czech men’s league. His seven goals already are tied for fourth most all time, on par with the recent production of young Carolina Hurricanes forward Martin Necas. Kulich is not the dynamic mover that some of the other high end two-way centers are in this draft, however there is no denying his effectiveness due to the other tools in his toolbox.
Jimmy Snuggerud - Winger/Center - U.S. NTDP
Perhaps the player who has improved the most this year on the U.S. National U18 team, Snuggerud has moved inside of our first round because he seems to improve with each passing viewing. His skating already looks crisper and more explosive than early in the season (although admittedly will still need further refinements) and his confidence as a play driver is growing. His shot and scoring instincts are very good, as is his off-puck awareness in all three zones. The University of Minnesota commit is the cousin (and not brother) of former Chicago Blackhawks prospect, defenseman Luc Snuggerud. Look for Snuggerud to continue to climb as long as his game continues to take steps forward in the second half.
Sam Rinzel - Defenseman - Chaska High (USHS - MN)
Getting a read on high school players can be difficult, especially early on in the draft season. However, Rinzel was a standout for the United States at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup this past summer and he has continued to play well in the Minnesota High School loop. This also includes a cup of coffee in the USHL with Waterloo, where he really stood out. Rinzel combines size, mobility, and skill on the back end to give him a high ceiling as a two-way defender. He is, simply put, a fun player to watch. His showing at the Biosteel game was not terrific, but consistency cannot be expected from a high school player. He is a long-term project but one with significant upside. Hopefully he returns to Waterloo to close out the year after his high school season is finished, as that would really help to gauge his true abilities.
Jagger Firkus - Winger- Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
One of the hottest players in the WHL, Firkus has really broken out in recent months. He is averaging close to two points per game over his last dozen or so games. His offensive profile is very well rounded. He skates well. He competes well. He has high-end finishing ability, but he can also control the point on the Moose Jaw powerplay because of his vision and awareness. Our regional scouts and our video scouting team are not always on the same page when it comes to evaluating players, but their support for Firkus is unanimous. He is pushing hard for our first round to close out the year.
Adam Ingram - Winger/Center - Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Ingram has literally come out of nowhere to be an impact player in the USHL this season and scouts are really starting to take notice. The 6’2 forward played sparingly in the MJHL last year and was an 11th round selection by Youngstown in 2021. Not even guaranteed to make the Phantoms, Ingram has grown to become the team’s offensive leader, leading the Phantoms in all offensive categories. This includes having one of the highest point-per-game marks in the entire USHL. Ingram is a classic late bloomer physically, growing several inches in the last few years after being passed over in his WHL draft year. The St. Cloud State commit is a high-end goal scorer who is dangerous from anywhere in the offensive end. However, he also shows well by pushing the pace, looking to create in transition.
Calle Odelius - Defenseman - Djurgardens J20 (Swe J20)
Targeting mobile defenders is a common theme and Odelius certainly fits that mold. An effortless four-way mover, Odelius has been gaining confidence in his ability to use his quickness to be more of a consistent factor offensively. A breakout machine, he rarely gets bottled down in the defensive zone and is a true asset on the attack, even if the offensive production has been inconsistent. He sits just outside of our first round right now because there are still concerns as to his high-end upside and vision, however it is easy to see his game translating well to the pro level in North America. He is pushing Simon Forsmark to be the top-rated Swedish defender available this year.
Maveric Lameroux - Defenseman - Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
This draft has no shortage of athletic, large defenders, but one of our favourites is this 6’7, right shot Dummondville defender. Lameroux shows great mobility given his length and when combined with his physical approach, it gives him elite defensive upside at the NHL level. However, he is slowly gaining confidence in his offensive abilities and is becoming more aggressive in leading the attack and taking chances with the puck. The result has been an increase in offensive production of late. If he can continue to showcase improving offensive talents to go with his physical tools, Lameroux will push for the first round by season’s end.
Matyas Sapovaliv - Center - Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Early on in the OHL season, Sapovaliv was playing well but the offensive production was not consistent. With each passing month he is becoming more confident and assertive with the puck and the results have been terrific. A long and lanky centerman, Sapovaliv protects the puck well in the offensive end to prolong possession and the improvements made his skating give him a solid projection as a playmaking pivot. Immature physically, Sapovaliv is succeeding despite lacking the strength to make the kind of two-way and off the puck impact that he is capable of. As his frame fills out, his potential as a two-way center is significant. For that reason, he is also a player who is knocking on the door of our first round.
Jani Nyman - Winger - KOOVEE (Mestis)/Ilves (Liiga)
The big three players in Finland (Kemell, Slafkovsky, and Lambert) are stealing all the attention and rightfully so as they sit inside of our first round. As such, the rest of what Finland has to offer is being undervalued. One such player is power winger Jani Nyman. The 6 '3, 200lbs winger plays a power game offensively, consistently looking to attack the offensive zone using his combination of size and skill to drive the slot. He is another late bloomer physically, but his skating has already improved to the point where he may be most effective in transition. A talented goal scorer, Nyman will be attractive to teams looking for a budding skilled winger with size. He was solid at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup. And has continued that in Finland this year. The U18’s will be a big event for Nyman to prove that he belongs in the conversation as a first-round pick.
Elias Salomonsson - Defenseman - Skelleftea J20 (Swe J20)
Still rated as a top 20 selection by some scouting agencies, and the 14th ranked player in our preliminary rankings, Salomonsson has fallen considerably due to his poor performance this year. There is no doubt that his combination of size, mobility, and skill does make him an asset in the offensive end. However, he has struggled mightily in the defensive end this season, showing a lack of awareness and intensity that has led him to be a liability at times. To our scouting team he has gone from being a potential lottery selection to someone we would feel a lot comfortable with in the second/third round as a long-term project. There are so many other larger, athletic defenders who have shown more this year in terms or progression.
Ryan Chesley - Defenseman - USDP
An intimidating physical specimen, Chesley has an intriguing set of tools. He is not large physically (6’0, 195lbs), but he is as strong as an ox and is a smooth and fluid mover. This combination makes him a very difficult player to match up against in the defensive end. However, his lack of production, in combination with his inconsistent decision making with the puck leaves us wondering whether he has significant upside at the NHL level. The inconsistency from shift to shift in terms of his puck management can be frustrating. For that reason, he has fallen out of our first round.
Rieger Lorenz - Winger/Center - Okotoks (AJHL)
Much like high school players in the United States, grading tier 2 players in Canada can also be difficult. The Denver commit has been one of the best players in the AJHL this year for Okotoks. His skill set is very well rounded, and he skates well for a 6’2 forward. However, the more our Western scouts have watched him, the more unsure they are of his upside and future role at the NHL level. His fall in our rankings has more to do with many other players in his range truly showing growth and progression, than it does with Lorenz’s play. Here’s to hoping that Lorenz can suit up for Canada at the U18’s this April, as it would certainly provide some clarity on his projection.
Ludwig Persson - Winger - Frolunda J20 (Swe J20)
Once thought to be the best Swedish forward available this year, Persson has fallen off due to his lack of production. The high-end skating ability is alluring, and it gives him a pretty solid floor as a pro hockey player in North America, however what is the ceiling? As a late born 2003 player and one of the oldest first-time eligible players available, the expectation was that he would be able to play at the SHL level this year and flash offensive potential. That has not been the case, leading our scouting team to wonder if he is skilled enough or processes the game well enough to be more than a bottom six player at the next level.
Hunter Haight - Center - Barrie Colts (OHL)
Haight has been one of the poster boys of how the canceled OHL season last year affected the development of players. On the back of a strong performance at Canada’s U18 camp this summer (held in place of Hlinka/Gretzky Cup participation), the expectation was that Haight would be one of the top OHL players available this year. However, he has struggled with consistency in his rookie OHL year. Some of that can be attributed to injury. Some can be attributed to a lack of strength and confidence. Either way, he has not been as consistently effective or as noticeable as you would like. A talented skater and extremely skilled and creative player, Haight still possesses high end potential. However, he is starting to look like more of a mid-round swing, rather than a potential first round pick.