The 2022 NHL draft is in the books, with 225 players being selected over a 24-hour period on Thursday and Friday. Time will tell which teams made the most of their selections and got them right, but the draft picks are only a part of the story that surrounds the draft event. As trades get made and the offseason really starts to get rolling.
With that in mind, it is time to look at who had the best two days at the draft with our 2022 draft winners and losers.
Winner: Slovakia hockey
Slovakia only had six players drafted, but they made the most of their selections with three first-round picks.
That includes the top two picks in the draft (the first time that has ever happened for Slovakia) with forward Juraj Slafkovský going No. 1 overall to the Montreal Canadiens, and defenseman Šimon Nemec going No. 2 overall to the New Jersey Devils.
The Canadiens also selected forward Filip Mešár, also from Slovakia, with the No. 26 overall pick in the first round. Before the 2022 draft the highest selected Slovakian-born player was when the Minnesota Wild selected Marian Gaborik No. 3 overall back in the 2000 draft.
Loser: Chicago Blackhawks
They better get used to being in the loss column because there is a lot of that ahead in the coming years.
This was not a great weekend for Chicago. They traded a 24-year-old star winger — who is also one of the best goal scorers in the league — in Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for underwhelming return of three draft picks, only one of which was in the first round (the No. 7 overall pick this season).
They followed that up later on Thursday by trading 21-year-old Kirby Dach, a player they selected No. 3 overall just three years ago, to the Montreal Canadiens in a trade that brought them the No. 13 overall pick (originally belonging to the New York Islanders).
Chicago managed to add a third first-round pick (No. 25 overall), as well as goalie Petr Mrazek, in a trade with Toronto for the No. 38 overall pick. In the end, they moved up 12 spots in return for taking on two years of a bad contract that Toronto no longer wanted. Is that enough of a payment for taking on that contract? Certainly debatable.
[Related: Chicago Blackhawks trade Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa Senators]
The Blackhawks entered the day with no first round picks because they traded their own pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones a year ago. That trade also resulted in a swap of 2021 first-round picks that saw Columbus end up with Cole Sillinger (the higher pick) who already showed a ton of promise as an 18-year-old in the NHL.
So it was nice for Chicago to end up with three picks in the top-25 after entering draft day with none. It seems fine on the surface. More picks! Until you realize all of the moving parts required to get there because it is the culmination of a series of failures by the previous and current front offices.
They traded the No. 8 overall pick (Adam Boqvist) from 2018 and what turned out to be the No. 6 overall pick this year for Seth Jones when they knew the team was going to stink, and then signed him to a massive contract they might already be regretting. They then had to trade an in-his-prime All-Star level goal scorer (at least partly because they did not think they could pay him with Jones’ contract still on the books) just to get to the No. 7 overall pick.
Add in they gave up a recent top-3 pick (Dach) that is still only 21 years old and has hardly played, just to get a 13th overall pick, in what is thought to be a thin draft and that is a tremendous waste of premium draft assets over the years. Just brutal.
So, yeah, congratulations on getting the three first-round picks. Historically your odds are that one of them will be an above average regular NHL player for several year and maybe — maybe — one of them will be a star. If you get lucky.
As the final kick in the teeth, Duncan Keith‘s retirement will add a salary cap recapture penalty to Chicago’s salary cap over the next two years. That might not mean anything to a rebuilding team that is going to be lousy each year, but it still adds empty money to the cap.
Stan Bowman started them on this path with last year’s brutal offseason (after years of questionable/bad decisions), and Kyle Davidson finished it with the underwhelming DeBrincat trade.
Winner: Seattle Kraken
They didn’t have to do anything except sit right where they are at No. 4 and watch Shane Wright fall right into their laps. Would Wright have fallen if he had not have so much of his recent development wiped out due to COVID? Probably not. He and Matty Beniers could be a dominant 1-2 punch for years. That is a nice foundation.
[Related: 2022 NHL First Round Draft Tracker]
Loser: Your mock draft
Speaking of Wright, haybe you thought there was a chance that Montreal would take Slafkovský first over him, but I bet you did not have Wright falling all the way down to Seattle at fourth overall. Maybe I missed one, but I did not see anybody’s mocks having that happen.
Winner: Ottawa Senators
They got one of the league’s best goal scorers in DeBrincat without having to give up any key players or prospects from their system.
It also happened, probably, because Matt Murray used his no-trade clause to veto a trade that would have seen Ottawa and Buffalo swap first-round picks, pushing Ottawa down the draft board. Does Chicago still send DeBrincat to the Senators if Ottawa’s pick is 16th instead of seventh? With DeBrincat this is a really strong group of young forwards.
[Related: 2022 NHL Draft Tracker Rounds 2-7]
Loser: Philadelphia Flyers
What is the plan here? That is the feeling after every move this team makes, including the latest move this weekend. They gave up three draft picks to acquire Tony DeAngelo, an all-offense, no-defense player that has already worn out his welcome in four different organizations that might have been available as a UFA in a couple of weeks.
Winner: Alexander Romanov
This was the other part of the Kirby Dach sequence. Montreal got the Islanders’ first-round pick in exchange for Romanov. And while I am not a huge fan of this trade off for the Islanders (especially after the way they gave away Devon Toews two years ago) I do like it for Romanov. He gets a fresh start in a situation where he might do well and might have a chance to be in the playoffs.
Loser: Toronto and Edmonton’s goalie quest
The Maple Leafs and Oilers are two teams in need of a goalie, and the goalie market dried up FAST.
Marc-Andre Fleury stayed in Minnesota. Alexandar Georgiev was traded to Colorado. Ville Husso was traded to Detroit and re-signed there. Vitek Vanecek was traded to New Jersey. That leaves the free agent options as Darcy Kuemper or Jack Campbell, or a trade. Not ideal.
Winner: The Canucks drafting Elias Pettersson again
No, not that Elias Petterson. Not the one they already have. A different Elias Petterson. This is a winner just because it is funny.
Same same but different. pic.twitter.com/eMjLN7ScoN
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) July 8, 2022
Winner: Oilers collecting salary cap space
By dumping Zach Kassian‘s contract and seeing Duncan Keith retire the Oilers opened up some significant salary cap space, which is pretty important for a team that needs to build a winner around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Is it enough to land Darcy Kuemper? It certainly helps. They better land Kuemper because, as noted above, the goalie market is now very thin. Edmonton also gets a win for not making what could be a gigantic mistake by trading Jesse Puljujarvi. At least not yet.
Winner: Columbus’ defense
If you are paying attention to them the Columbus Blue Jackets have a strong outlook. Patrik Laine looks rejuvinated there. Zach Werenski is a top-pairing defenseman. And the Seth Jones trade might set them up for years with Cole Sillinger, Adam Boqvist, and Jake Bean (acquired for a second-round pick they got in the Jones trade) already to show for it. That bounty grew on Thursday when they picked David Jiříček with the No. 6 overall pick they acquired in the Jones trade. There is a belief Jiříček might have the highest potential of any defender in the draft. They followed that up at No. 12 overall by taking Denton Mateychuk who is enormous offensive potential from the blue line. Nothing is a guarantee, but there is a lot of promise there.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.