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The scouting team at McKeen’s Hockey has now had some time to get a look at the 2022 NHL Draft class early in the season, and we are releasing our preliminary rankings later this week. This preliminary ranking will give you an idea of the prospects we feel are in consideration to hear their name called early in July. While every draft season brings its own stories, of fast risers, and unfortunately fallers and the 2021-22 season will likely be no different, these will represent talented names to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Brock Otten was recently named Director of Prospect Scouting and Analysis after the retirement of Ryan Wagman from hockey writing. While we owe Ryan a debt of gratitude, we are very excited about the future under Brock’s leadership. A prominent voice in NHL prospect coverage for over a decade, including his own widely read blog, he brings an experienced eye to our rankings and analysis. Brock provides a glimpse of the top five ranked players in our upcoming 2022 NHL Draft board in this week’s column.
Vince Gibbons, covering the WHL, reports in on the dominant Winnipeg ICE, establishing themselves early as one of the most interesting stories emerging in the hockey prospect world. Vince has been watching and following these players for a while and provides a look at the wealth of future NHLers on the squad.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
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Prospects in The News: McKeen’s Preliminary 2022 NHL Draft Ranking Releases this Week
By Brock Otten
We at McKeen's Hockey have been working hard behind the scenes to bring you our preliminary Top 32 for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. This should drop sometime this week. However, we're not against giving you a sneak peak!
To no one's surprise the ranking is headed by the exceptional Shane Wright from the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. While the well rounded and much hyped pivot started the year a bit slowly, he has really caught fire in recent weeks. He is now riding a five-game point streak after the most recent weekend of action, with 10 points during that span. This has pushed him up to 15th in league scoring. The 2022 draft certainly has some terrific players available but it would still be an absolute shock if anyone but Wright was the first overall selection in July.
Matthew Savoie comes in at second and while his path thus far has been a bit of a strange one, the talented and competitive center has been hyped from a young age, similar to Wright. The former first overall WHL selection by Kootenay (before the team moved to Winnipeg), Savoie spent last year on loan to the USHL with the Western Hockey League season delayed and shortened. His performance with Dubuque was impressive and he made the USHL's all rookie team. This year, he has returned to Winnipeg, and he has picked up from where he left off last year, currently third in WHL scoring on one of the top teams in the entire CHL (the Ice are a remarkable 14-1 after this weekend – you can read more below from Vince Gibbons).
Coming into the year, many expected Brad Lambert to be the top Finnish player available, but it's been our third ranked player, Joakim Kemell that has exploded and rocketed up rankings with his strong start in Liiga. The speedy winger oozes offensive talent and is currently leading Liiga (the Finnish men's league) in goal scoring. In fact, Kemell has led the entire league in scoring for the better part of the season thus far too. Historically, Kemell's performance is tracking to be among the best of any draft eligible player in the league. No U18 player has ever had over a point per game in the Finnish men's league over the course of a season, and Kemell currently is on pace to do that. Florida Panthers star Aleksander Barkov had 48 points in 53 games in 2013 and Kemell could threaten that mark.
The two players who round out our initial top five are both Slovak players, however they have taken very different paths. At fourth is hulking power winger Juraj Slafkovsky, who already played for Slovakia at the World Championships as a 17-year-old. He left home three years ago to join the TPS program in Finland (notable alumni include Saku Koivu, Kimmo Timonen, and more recently Mikko Rantanen) and has spent the vast majority of this year in Liiga like Kemell. At fifth is defender Simon Nemec who also played for Slovakia at the World Championships as a teenager. Unlike his fellow Slovak Slafkovsky, Nemec has elected to stay in Slovakia, playing the last few seasons in the men's league. The smooth skating right shot defender is a potential top pairing defensive anchor.
Look for the full McKeen's preliminary Top 32 sometime this week!
2022 NHL Prospects: A Wealth of Future NHL Talent on display for the Winnipeg ICE
By Vince Gibbons
2021-22 Winnipeg, WHL, 15GP-6G-15A-21PTS
2021-22 Winnipeg, WHL, 15GP-5G-13A-18PTS
2021-22 Winnipeg, WHL, 10GP-8G-9A-17PTS
The Winnipeg ICE are the team to watch this year in the WHL and perhaps in all of the CHL. Currently they rank as the #2 team in the CHL sporting an impressive record of 14-1-0. Part of what makes them such an interesting team is the amount of the future NHL talent that is on display. They have Minnesota Wild first rounder Carson Lambos on the blue line, Flyer’s prospect Connor McClennon dominating up front, and Ducks goaltending prospect Alexander Gage holding down the crease on a nightly basis. All these guys have taken strides this year and both McClennon and Lambos average over a point per game, while Gage is showing he is more than just a big frame in the crease. The biggest contributions to team success in Winnipeg this season though come from a collection of three elite young forwards, two of which are projected to go in the top 10 of the upcoming NHL entry draft Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie, and a third who won’t be eligible until the 2023 NHL entry draft in Zach Benson.
Matthew Savoie is a small forward that plays the game with a puck on a string. He has high-end puck handling, playmaking and vision that make him a dangerous offensive package. He is a player that elevates everyone on the ice because his movement and ability to create space provide abundant opportunities for all. He is highly agile and hard to defend because of his ability to feign and deke while moving the puck around. Like his brother he has an electric release on his shot that makes him lethal if defenses cheat to protect the pass. He plays the game with pace even though his foot speed isn’t elite. He can tend to stick around the perimeter but is dangerous from everywhere on the ice. In his own zone and tracking back in the neutral zone he provides a lot of back pressure to support his defense, his game off the puck is surprisingly advanced. He will need to continue to put on strength and doesn’t strike me as an 18-year-old NHLer but if given time to mature should be a dynamic forward, likely on the wing once he arrives at the pro level.
Conor Geekie is a forward that can control the game with his unique combination of size and skill. He is a modern power forward that uses his body so effectively to protect the puck, giving his hands time to do their work. He has great passing skills, and he can handle the puck in traffic where he makes quick decisions on where to move it, which offsets his less than dynamic foot speed. He is a strong board player where he can retrieve pucks, rotate off the wall, and move towards the net with purpose. He still has his head up in traffic and distributes the puck around very well which creates a lot of offensive zone time when his line is on the ice. There is some edge to his play, and he wears down defenders over the course of a game. Defending his line is taxing and is a part of what has led to so many blowout games early in the season.
Zach Benson is one to keep your eye on in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft. His combination of skills and smarts make him an intriguing player to watch. Benson is a cerebral player who sees lanes and plays developing very well, while having an impressive offensive tool kit in his own right. His draft class projects as a banner year for the WHL with the young phenom Connor Bedard looking to be the most dynamic first overall pick since Connor McDavid and as many as a six other potential first round picks joining him from the Western League.