Pacific Division 2022 NHL Draft Recapby Christopher Gallagher July 18, 2022 0 comments
There has been no shortage of storylines surrounding the Pacific Division during the NHL offseason. Looking to build off a franchise record 111 points, the Calgary Flames received tough news when it was revealed that their franchise cornerstone, Johnny Gaudreau, was leaving the team in free agency to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Creating a massive pendulum swing, Daryll Sutter’s group is looking to edge out their bitter in-province rival, the Edmonton Oilers.
Fresh off a trip to the Western Conference Finals, the Oilers were able to lock up a key piece to their lineup by resigning Evander Kane to a four-year contract with an AAV of $5.125 million per season. Furthermore, the Los Angeles Kings also made headlines when they acquired Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild and signed him to a new seven-year, $55.125 million contract. He was scheduled to hit the open market this summer. The 25-year-old set career-highs with 33 goals and 85 points in 2021-22.
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The Ducks are looking to continue to stockpile young pieces along their blue line. The team is undergoing a transformation on the back end after trading both Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm last season. A dynamic player, Pavel Mintyukov is one of the best skaters in the class. He is coming off an outstanding season with the Saginaw Spirit, in which he finished third in points by a defenseman with 62.
A big-bodied center, Nathan Gaucher is a reliable two-way player in the middle of the ice while also possessing a scoring touch around the net. Rounding out their draft class, both Noah Warren and Tristan Luneau excel in their own ends. Each player displays solid gap control and stick work while playing physically.
Calgary chose to take a big swing at winning their first Stanley Cup since 1989. Loading up at the trade deadline, the franchise acquired winger Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens for Tyler Pitlick, forward prospect Emil Heineman, a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Scheduled to make just three picks over the two days, the Flames entered the 2022 draft with a need at the center position. Offering substantial size at 6-foot-1, Topi Ronni also has excellent speed. The 18-year-old dominated the Finnish U-20 league, with 29 points in 30 games.
A pure power forward out of the Tri City Americans in the USHL, Parker Bell is not afraid to lower his shoulder and drive the net to create chances offensively. Lastly, Cade Littler has all the makings of a capable bottom-six center at the pro level. With a strong hockey IQ and attention to detail, he recorded 20 goals and 45 points with the Wenatchee Wild in the BCHL last season.
By virtue of their loss to the Avalanche in the postseason, the Oilers were originally slated to pick 29th in the opening round of the draft. However, to clear salary cap space, the team sent forward Zack Kassian, the 29th selection, a 2024 third-round choice, and a 2025 second-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for number 32. Deciding on Reid Schaefer with the final selection in round one, the Seattle Thunderbirds product shot up draft boards all season long.
Benefitting from his heavy shot, the Spruce Grove, Alberta native has good hands and a lightning-quick release that allows him to fool opposing net minders. Slated to make their next selection in round five, Edmonton decided on goaltender Samuel Jonsson. Viewed as a long-term project in goal, he posted a .883 save percentage and a 3.25 goals against average in 31 starts last season.
Los Angeles Kings
Without their first-round pick, the Kings traded it to the Devils as part of the deal for Fiala. Slated to choose 51st overall, as a result, the team chose Jack Hughes, the son of Montreal general manager Kent Hughes. A team-first player, he has the vision and playmaking ability to create for his linemates. Scheduled to play for UMass Amherst in the fall after committing to play for head coach Greg Carvel, Kenny Connors is a relentless forechecker and competitor.
Spending the last two seasons with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL, he recorded 77 points in 115 games. Adding to their two young building blocks on the blue line in Sean Durzi and Michael Anderson, both Angus Booth and Otton Salin play with great offensive instincts on the back end, allowing them to jump up into the rush to help create chances.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks were once one of the most consistent franchises across the league. They made the playoffs 14 times over 15 years. However, the team is looking to return to its prior form after missing the postseason for a third straight season. Needing to continue to add youth to their aging roster, Filip Bystedt offers tremendous size at the center spot at 6-foot-4. Showing good puck control and creativity offensively, he had a solid tournament for team Sweeden at the World Junior Hockey Championships by recording three points in six games.
At his best with the puck on his stick, Cam Lund is a great skater who plays quickly and can create chances off the rush for him and his teammates. Finally, Mattias Havelid and Michael Fisher both had exceptional vision and tools offensively, while Mason Beaupit is a butterfly goaltender who is capable of playing angles to cutdown shooters.
The Kraken were lauded by many as one of the true winners of the draft around the league. They landed a true franchise center man and the no. 1 ranked prospect by NHL Central Scouting in Shane Wright. Falling to fourth overall to the shock of many, the Kingston Frontenacs product finished eighth in scoring in the OHL last season, with 94 points. Adding another exciting prospect at the top of round two, Seattle took winger Jagger Firkus from the Moose Jaw Warriors. A silky smooth forward, the Irma, Alberta native can create a highlight reel play with his ability to create angles on opposing defenseman while also fooling opposing net minders.
Finishing out their ten selections on day two, Jani Nyman has the tools to be a true power forward at the NHL level with his combination of size and speed. Meanwhile, Niklas Kokko is a potential long-term piece for the organization. A rare stand-up style netminder, he posted a 17-10 record in the Finland U-20 league with a .916 save percentage, a 2.06 goals-against average, and six shutouts.
Looking to bounce back after a disastrous 2020 season, the Canucks instead took another step back in 2021. Getting off to an 8-15-2 start, they moved on from head coach Travis Green and hired Bruce Boudreau. Never able to recover down the stretch, the team finished fifth in the division. Adding six new names to their prospect pool, Vancouver first selected Swedish sniper Jonathan Lekkerimäki at 27th overall. A pure goal scorer, he has a powerful shot and a quick deceptive release that allows him to beat opposing goaltenders. Adding a defenseman in the third round, Vancouver took Elias Petterson.
A well-rounded player on the back end, he is rock solid in his own zone, with a developing offensive game. Choosing to add size in the fourth round, the organization picked Daimon Gardner. With a large frame at 6-foot-4 200lbs, he can lower his shoulder to drive to the net while also battling for ice in the corners. Closing out, Ty Young is a project goaltender with intriguing intangibles, while Jackson Dorrington and Kirill Kudryavtsev will both look to play a two-way game by jumping up into the rush from the back end to create scoring chances.
Vegas Golden Knights
Quiet during day one of the draft, the Golden Knights did not have a first-round pick after they sent it to the Buffalo Sabres in the Jack Eichel trade. Making their first choice late in round two, the team selected winger Matyas Sapovaliv. A member of the Saginaw Spirit last year, he racked up 18 goals and 34 assists in 68 contests. Doubling down upfront in round three, Vegas picked Jordan Gustafson. A Seattle Thunderbirds product, the Ardrossan, Alberta native, has good straight-line speed that allows him to gain space quickly on opposing defenders.
Along with this, he has a good wrist shot that allows him to pick corners of the net with ease. Adding to their goaltending depth, with significant question marks surrounding Robin Lehner, Cameron Whitehead spent the last two seasons with the Lincoln Stars in the USHL. A big net minder at 6-foot-3, he is still athletic enough to slide from side to side while also having the creativity to make a highlight reel save when needed.
Best Pick: Shane Wright
Wright was projected to be the first pick in the 2022 draft for multiple years. However, beginning to fall on draft night after the Montreal Canadiens took Juraj Slafkovsky, the Kraken ended his slide at fourth overall. A home run pick for the franchise heading into their second year in the league, Wright is the perfect player to pair with their first-round pick from last season in Matthew Beniers. Praised by his Frotenacs teammates for his leadership, the Burlington, Ontario native is a do-it-all player on the offensive end with his lightning-quick shot and playmaking abilities. Moreover, he is excellent in his own zone, making him a franchise cornerstone for Seattle for seasons to come.
Worst Pick: Ty Young
Beginning last season with the Calgary Canucks in the AHJL, Young was ultimately recalled to the Prince George Cougars. Serving as the backup for New Jersey Devils prospect Tyler Brennan, the 17-year-old struggled mightily. Appearing in 23 games, he posted a 3.50 goals against average and a .899 save percentage. Largely betting on his potential at 6-foot-3, the Coaldale, Alberta native, has been praised by his coaches for his work ethic. However, with major polishing needed to even be a capable backup at the NHL level, this felt like a reach by the Canucks, with better talent left on the board.
Sleeper Pick: Jagger Firkus
One of the quickest risers in this draft class, Firkus has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. A deadly goal scorer, the 17-year-old finished 14th in the WHL last season, with 36 goals and 44 assists in 66 games. Lacking the true top-end speed like other players, he still has the explosiveness and edge work to get his shot off in tight situations. Furthermore, Firkus also has underrated playmaking abilities, with his ability to thread passes through the seams to set up his teammates. Remaining undersized at just 5’10, he will likely need to add weight to his 154lbs frame. However, this is still a slam dunk pick for Seattle and tremendous value at 35th overall.
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