Trades, mystery at the top: What to watch for at 2022 NHL Draft

2022 NHL Draft
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The NHL draft begins on Thursday night in Montreal and that is typically when the league’s offseason really kicks off.

All 32 general managers and front offices being in the same spot, as well as the very nature of the draft itself, means there will be at least some moves to be made. The significance of those moves may vary.

Here is a quick primer on what to watch for over the next two days.

Who will Montreal take? And how will the dominoes fall after that?

This is the rare draft year where there is no can’t miss, consensus top pick which means there is some actual intrigue at the top of the draft starting with the Montreal Canadiens and the No. 1 overall pick.

The odds on favorite seems to be Shane Wright, but Juraj Slafkovský and Logan Cooley could also be options.

Wright has been considered the top prospect in this draft class for a couple of years now, but Slafkovský’s stock has risen considerably in recent weeks. He is probably considered the most NHL ready prospect in this draft given his size, speed, and international play. But what is his ceiling?

If Montreal does go with Wright in the top spot, Slafkovský seems to be a safe bet in the second spot where the New Jersey Devils are slated to pick. It will be the third time in the past five years they have picked in the top-two of the draft after previously selecting Nico Hischier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019) first overall.

Check out our complete 2022 Mock Draft here.

The Alex DeBrincat watch

UPDATE: Alex DeBrincat has been traded to the Ottawa Senators. Read all about it here

The big name to watch on the trade market is Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat, coming off of another 40-goal season and just two years away from unrestricted free agency. With the Blackhawks deep into a rebuild DeBrincat has been mentioned in trade speculation for the past year, and there seems to be plenty of smoke that a deal could be imminent.

Will it happen at some point on Thursday?

The Blackhawks would almost certainly want a top pick in the draft, and there has been speculation that the New Jersey Devils (No. 2 overall pick) could be an option. The Flyers were briefly mentioned this week, but they do not seem willing to part with the No. 5 overall pick.

It is very — VERY — rare for teams to trade picks in the top-five of the draft, especially for players. You have to go all the way back to the Alexei Yashin trade when the New York Islanders traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Ottawa Senators for the star forward. The Senators used that pick to select Jason Spezza.

The Devils and DeBrincat would be an intriguing possibility, though. New Jersey needs to take a significant step forward with Hughes and Hischier, they have plenty of salary cap space to extend him, and with the top of the draft lacking in slam dunk superstars, this would be an opportunity to land an established star and one of the league’s top goal scorers still in the prime of his career. You do not get those opportunities very often.

Either way, Blackhawks fans should prepare themselves for a return that is not quite what they are hoping for in a potential trade.

Will Vancouver move J.T. Miller?

The other big forward that could be on the move is Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller. He is entering the final year of his contract, is coming off of a monster 99-point season, and after being mentioned heavily in trade talks leading up to the deadline he could finally be on the move this offseason.

The Canucks have some salary cap issues in the future, have missed the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons. If they can not get Miller signed to an extension, a trade is probably the best bet.

Teams like Boston, Washington (if Nicklas Backstrom does not return), Philadelphia, and maybe even Pittsburgh if it can not re-sign Evgeni Malkin might all be in the market for impact centers.

Columbus with a big opportunity

Thanks to last year’s Seth Jones trade the Columbus Blue Jackets have an additional first-round draft pick this year (No. 6 overall) giving them two picks in the top-12 (their own pick is the 12th overall selection).

They have rumored to be in the market for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun and could use one of those picks to land him in a trade.

If not, they should be in a prime opportunity to land one of the top-defenders, either David Jiříček or Šimon Nemec.

The Jones trade is still paying off for Columbus and could be a turning point in the organization’s rebuild. The Blue Jackets already have Cole Sillinger and Adam Boqvist thanks to the deal, as well as Jake Bean who they acquired for the second-round pick they acquired from Chicago as part of that trade.

Imagine if it also helps them land another top defense prospect, or perhaps even somebody like Chychrun (who is still signed long-term on a very team-friendly contract) in a trade.

Will Buffalo make all of its picks on Thursday?

Thanks to the Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel trades, the Buffalo Sabres have three first-round picks on Thursday night (No. 9, No. 16, and No. 28). Will they use all of them? Or could they try to package one in a trade for more immediate help? The Sabres showed a lot of improvement in the second half last season but they still have a lot of holes to fill on their roster, especially in goal.

Those later two picks, especially the No. 28 pick, are total wild cards in terms of finding a long-term player. Seeing what it can get in a trade would probably be the smart play. Especially if it can fill a need in goal or on defense.

Will Edmonton make a mistake with Jesse Puljujarvi?

The mistake being, of course, trading him for minimal return.

Puljujarvi might not be the best player available in a trade this offseason (Debrincat, Miller, and Chychrun would take that claim) but he might be the best value a team can get given the low cost in terms of assets, as well as the fact his contract in RFA should not be a cap-breaker.

Instead of signing Valeri Nichushkin to a massive deal in free agency teams should be looking to find the next Nichushkin: a talented top pick that took some time to develop and was undervalued by their original team. Puljuarvi could be that player.

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    Panthers offer Sarah Nurse deal to lead girls hockey program

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are trying to sign a high-scoring forward who has an Olympic gold medal and two world championships, with hopes of getting the deal done in the coming days.

    If it happens, she won’t be playing for the Panthers.

    Sarah Nurse, the Canadian forward who had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin during the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition, has the chance to run the Panthers’ new program designed to get more girls playing hockey.

    Florida president Matthew Caldwell offered the job to Nurse publicly – very publicly, at a lectern, with a microphone, before a crowd of onlookers. And he was serious.

    “I’m going to embarrass you, but we’re going to offer you a job today,” Caldwell told Nurse, who was seated in the crowd. “We want you to be the face of our girls program at the War Memorial. So, are you in? On the spot? We don’t deal with agents, OK. I’m a tough negotiator.”

    The idea to hire Nurse was first floated to Caldwell by Melissa Fitzgerald. She’s the general manager for the War Memorial, which is the two-rink facility being refurbished by the team and will become its practice headquarters.

    “We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks,” Caldwell told The Associated Press. “Our youth hockey team kind of brought it up as a joke to me, but I said, `Let’s think big. We’re building this huge facility. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”‘

    The only part Caldwell was less than serious about with Nurse was how the Panthers don’t deal with agents. He spoke with Nurse’s representative, Thomas Houlton, after the event.

    Houlton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Caldwell spoke for about 15 minutes after the event, which was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Panthers stars Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, and dozens of kids who got to play ball hockey afterward.

    Nurse played for Canada’s world-champion teams in 2021 and 2022, along with Canada’s Olympic gold winners at the Beijing Games last year.

    She was one of five women’s players from USA Hockey and Team Canada – the two most dominant women’s national teams in the world – who were part of the skills events. She wore custom skates highlighting Black History month and the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit focused on getting more Black girls and women into the sport.

    She used a move made famous by Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg when he helped Sweden win gold at the 1994 Olympics against Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.

    U.S. star Hilary Knight didn’t think Nurse’s goal should have surprised anyone, saying, “she’s a top scorer.”

    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.