NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines heading into NHL Free Agency

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look ahead to the start of free agency on Wednesday and the top storylines that will unfold over the next few days.

Will Johnny Gaudreau reach the open market? Will Pittsburgh find a way to keep Evgeni Malkin? Just how low will the Chicago Blackhawks go in their rebuild? How about that goalie market?

We take a look at all of those stories and more.

What are we paying attention to most?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Will Calgary get Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk signed long-term?

Gaudreau and Tkachuk were one of the most dominant duos in the NHL during the 2021-22 season, and there is a very strong and convincing argument to be made that they were the most dominant duo. When those two were on the ice the Flames were a runaway freight train that steamrolled over everybody they played. They are both in need of new contracts this offseason, with Gaudreau still eligible for unrestricted free agency and Tkachuk a restricted free agent. Gaudreau will have no shortage of suitors if he reaches the open market and would seem a lock to sign the biggest contract this offseason. The Flames’ ability to re-sign him and work out an extension with Tkachuk will go a long way toward determining what their next few years will look like.

2. Will Evgeni Malkin be back in Pittsburgh?

The Penguins have already re-signed two of their top unrestricted free agents by agreeing to long-term deals with Bryan Rust and Kris Letang. Malkin still remains a mystery with the start of free agency just days away. The main sticking point seems to be term, with the Penguins seemingly preferring a two-or-three year deal and Malkin wanting a four-year deal. The concerns with Malkin are fair. He is going to be 36 years old, he has had major knee injuries the past couple of years, and he is going to start slowing down. In all honesty, he already has. The counterpoint to that is that he is still almost certainly a better option than any potential replacement the Penguins can bring in this offseason.

[Related: Penguins re-sign Kris Letang to six-year, $36.6 million contract]

3. What is Toronto going to do in goal?

This is starting to get interesting. Talks with Jack Campbell do not seem to be progressing, and the goalie market has dried up significantly over the past week with Marc-Andre Fleury, Alexandar Georgiev, and Ville Husso all going off the market. Can they afford Darcy Kuemper? Do they trade for Matt Murray and hope he can rebound? This is a big question mark that still needs to addressed and the options are getting thin.

4. How deep will Chicago’s rebuild go?

Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Hagel, and Kirby Dach are gone. Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome seem unlikely to get qualifying offers. Brett Connolly is getting bought out. This team already stinks and it is going to get dramatically worse. The only next logical steps are trading Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They will almost certainly have to eat salary to make those moves happen, and Toews’ value is probably in the tank, but there is really no point in keeping them around at this point given the direction this team is clearly taking.

[Related: Blackhawks trade Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa Senators]

5. What will Edmonton do with its newfound salary cap space?

Thanks to Duncan Keith’s retirement and the trade to dump Zack Kassian’s remaining salary the Edmonton Oilers are actually entering the offseason with some salary cap flexibility. Despite their success this past season it is still a team in need of some major improvements regarding its depth and goaltending. How much are they willing to pay Evander Kane? Can they get Kuemper in free agency?

6. How much will John Klingberg get?

With Letang re-signed in Pittsburgh, the already-thin UFA defense market gets even thinner. It is basically Klingberg, and then a pretty gigantic gap to the next best player. That is bad news for everybody except John Klingberg. He can still bring plenty of offense and is not just the best option for a team in need of a top-four defenseman in free agency; he is probably the only option in free agency.

7. What will the Canucks do with J.T. Miller?

He has been on the trade rumor mill for more than a year. He has just one year remaining on his contract, and it remains to be seen whether or not they can get him re-signed. He has been outstanding with the Canucks and is coming off a career year that saw him record 99 points. He is an impact player, but do not get high hopes for a massive trade return. These deals never bring back what you expect.

8. Who can Colorado keep?

There is no downside to winning, but if there were a downside it would probably be the fact your players get more expensive and you can not keep everybody. Darcy Kuemper is already done, but Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, and Nazem Kadri are all unrestricted free agents, while Arturri Lehkonen is a significant restricted free agent. They do not have the salary cap space to keep everybody. Nichushkin in particular seems like he might be able to really cash in after his playoff run.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Signing Tracker]

9. How does Tampa Bay solve its salary cap crunch?

The Lightning enter the offseason with no salary cap space and have already traded Ryan McDonagh. Most of the roster remains under contract, but Ondrej Palat is a pretty significant unrestricted free agent. Can they move somebody like an Alex Killorn to create more flexibility?

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10. The Bruins offseason

All signs point to Patrice Bergeron returning, but nothing is official yet. There is speculation that David Krejci could return, but that is far from a given. There is also the looming David Pastrnak contract extension that needs to be settled. They could either still look like a strong contender, or take a pretty significant step backwards depending on how all of those play out.

11. Offer sheets?

This is typically a waste of time to discuss because it is rare to see them signed, and even rarer to see them not get matched. But we have seen more of a willingness to go that route in recent years, at least as far as Montreal and Carolina are concerned. Could Calgary be vulnerable to an offer sheet for Andrew Mangiapane if they re-sign Gaudreau and Tkachuk? Would Toronto try to get bold and go for Jake Oettinger? Is there somebody in Carolina (Martin Necas) that Montreal could target to continue their RFA back-and-forth? Somebody might want to look at Arturri Lehkonen in Colorado is the Avalanche have a salary cap crunch.

[Related: NHL Power Rankings: Most intriguing restricted free agent situations]

12. What do the Rangers do?

The New York Rangers had a great playoff run, but there was nothing about it that seemed sustainable. They still need to get better and that might be a challenge. Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, and Ryan Strome are all unrestricted free agents and will need to be replaced while also making the necessary improvements to take the next step. As of Monday they have about $10 million in salary cap space to do all of that.

13. Does Detroit have another big move?

It is time for the Red Wings to take the next step in their rebuild. They have some great young core players, made a big move for a goalie (Husso), but they are still facing an uphill battle in that division.

14. How do the Islanders get better?

Speaking of New York teams needing to get better, what about the Islanders? It is pretty clear they think they can still compete and that the 2021-22 season was a fluke (and maybe it was), but they have got to add some offense somewere. Alex DeBrincat and Kevin Fiala have already been traded. Filip Forsberg re-signed in Nashville. Johnny Gaudreau seems like a pipe dream. Could they put together enough of a trade package for J.T. Miller? They need to do something because the team as constructed is not close to good enough.

15. What is the market for the big names that are declining?

Specifically, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, and P.K. Subban. Of the three, Giroux is probably still the most productive, but how much is a team willing to give him? Could he return to Philadelphia? Re-sign with Florida? Maybe go closer to home to a suddenly improving Senators team? Kessel is also intriguing because even though his goal scoring has dried up, he remains a solid playmaker that could still produce in the right role.

16. Capitals questions

They still have Ilya Samsonov in net, but is he the answer? How do they find a complement to him? Also what are their plans at center with Nicklas Backstrom’s injury situation? Will he back? Do they LTIR him and find a replacement?

 

Winners and losers from the 2022 NHL Draft

2022 NHL Draft Winners And Losers
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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.

2022 NHL Draft Winners And Losers
(Harry How, Getty Images)

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.

2022 NHL Draft Winners And Losers
(Claus Andersen, Getty images)

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.

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.

 

Trade: Flyers acquire Tony DeAngelo from Hurricanes for three draft picks

Tony DeAngelo
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Tony DeAngelo is on the move again.

The Carolina Hurricanes traded the restricted free agent defenseman on Friday, along with a seventh-round draft pick, to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for second, third, and fourth draft picks that will be spread out over the next three years. The second-round pick is in 2024, the third-round pick is 2023, and the fourth-round pick is for this year.

Philadelphia then reportedly re-signed DeAngelo to a two-year contract extension with a salary cap hit of $5 million per season.

“We’re very happy to add Tony to our team and I know he is very excited to join the Flyers,” said Fletcher. “We did our due diligence and we strongly believe in Tony and his ability to help our team. He is a right-handed shot who moves the puck extremely well and will drive offense from the back end for us.”

On one hand, DeAngelo provides a ton of offense from the blue line and is coming off of a 10 goal, 41 assist, 51 point season in 64 games. Over his past two seasons he has scored at a 64-point pace over 82 games. So there is definitely a lot of offensive upside there.

The downsides, though, are that DeAngelo gives up a lot on the defensive end of the ice and brings a ton of baggage with him off the ice. DeAngelo has already worn out his welcome in multiple organizations, and is now set to join what is already his fifth different team at 26. For a defenseman that produces the way he does, that should be an alarming red flag. Why doesn’t anybody want to keep him?

[Related: Free agency tracker: Full list of 2022 offseason signings]

He has only stuck with one organization for more than two years (he spent just a little more than three years in New York) and is on the move again. Tampa Bay moved on just one year after using a first-round pick on him (despite strong play in the American Hockey League) for a second-round pick. Arizona traded him after just one year in its organization in the move for Derek Stepan. His fallout from the Rangers after his three years there was tumultuous to say the least. And now after a 51-point season, the Hurricanes are moving on.

Maybe they wouldn’t be moving on if not for salary cap reasons, because they were reportedly considering not tendering him a qualifying offer this offseason. And that is definitely a fair argument in this case. But if you really want to keep a potential 60-point defenseman that is still only 26 years old, you probably find a way to make that work.

As it stands, he is now a member of the Flyers and gets yet another fresh start.

That now brings us to the question with the Flyers.

Giving up three draft picks for a player that might have been available in free agency in a couple of weeks is certainly an interesting choice, especially for a team in the Flyers’ position.

The Flyers’ approach to the 2022-23 season remains curious because they still seem to think they are better than they actually are. The Flyers had one of the worst records in the league last season, no longer have Claude Giroux, and still seem to believe they have a chance to make the playoffs. Otherwise, why hire an established coach like John Tortorella? Or re-sign Rasmus Ristolainen for such a massive salary? Or trade for DeAngelo and sign him for two years? They still have major questions all over the roster, including a massive one in net with Carter Hart. The acquisition of DeAngelo might also be bad news for a potential Ryan Ellis return anytime soon as the team still does not know when he will be skating or return to the lineup. He was one of their main offseason additions a year ago but was limited to just four games due to injury.

It all reeks of a team without much of a direction and a weird push for 85 points.

Salary cap trades: Maple Leafs move Mrazek; Oilers ship out Kassian

Salary cap trades: Maple Leafs move Mrazek; Oilers ship out Kassian
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As Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft goes on, the Maple Leafs and Oilers pulled off trades to shake loose of salary cap problems in Petr Mrazek (to the Blackhawks) and Zack Kassian (to the Coyotes) respectively.

Both look like wise moves by the Maple Leafs and Oilers.

Maple Leafs clear salary cap space with Petr Mrazek trade to Blackhawks

The Blackhawks rebuild continues, and in this case, it meant taking on Petr Mrazek for a fairly small price to the Maple Leafs.

Blackhawks receive: Petr Mrazek and the 25th pick of the 2022 NHL Draft.

Maple Leafs get: the 38th pick of the 2022 NHL Draft.

So, the Maple Leafs moved back 13 picks to trade Petr Mrazek off of their salary cap. Reporters including Chris Johnston note that there was no salary retention involved.

Mrazek, 30, carries a $3.8 million cap hit in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons. Via Cap Friendly, the Maple Leafs now have about $10.2M in salary cap space.

Naturally, they have a lot of work to do. Will this extra money open up space to keep Jack Campbell? Might Toronto go after a different goalie option?

It’s still a snug situation, but the Maple Leafs are far more flexible. And not really for too bad of a cost, especially if the Maple Leafs believe they’d get a similar value at 38 that they would have at 25.

Oilers give up draft capital to trade Zack Kassian to Coyotes for salary cap space

Coyotes receive: Zack Kassian, 29th pick in 2022, 2024 third-rounder, and 2025 second-rounder.

Oilers receive: 32nd pick in 2022

So, really, the Coyotes climb ever so slightly but add two draft picks to take on Kassian’s contract. Edmonton doesn’t tumble much as far as their 2022 first-rounder goes.

Crucially, this is reportedly another case without any salary retention involved.

Kassian, 31, carries a $3.2 million cap hit for the next two (2022-23 and 2023-24) seasons.

This one makes a ton of sense for both the Oilers and Coyotes (Arizona took advantage of the situation to get some decent draft volume).

Like the Maple Leafs, this trade doesn’t totally solve all of the salary cap problems for the Oilers. That said, they bought a lot of flexibility. They’re now at $10.33M in projected salary cap pace, albeit with just 14 roster spots covered. Both teams have goaltending questions to answer.

Nonetheless, that $3.2M could be huge for Edmonton. That goes for if the Oilers defy worries and keep Jesse Puljujarvi, strain to keep Evander Kane, or maybe find a route we’re not even thinking about.

2022 NHL Draft tracker — Round 1: Slafkovský and beyond

Wright, Slafkovsky, Cooley 2022 NHL Draft
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Some years, it’s painfully obvious who will be picked first overall in an NHL Draft. Heading into the first night of the 2022 NHL Draft, there was instead plenty of intrigue. In the end, the Montreal Canadiens selected Juraj Slafkovský overall to kick off the 2022 NHL Draft.

Of course, “Who goes No. 1?” wasn’t the only reason why there was intrigue heading into Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft. Hockey fans also feasted on trade rumors, and actual trades on Thursday.

The splashiest pre-draft trade featured the Senators landing Alex DeBrincat, sending the Blackhawks three picks, including No. 7 in 2022.

While the defending champion Avalanche might not be so focused on Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft, they also made a trade, acquiring goalie Alexandar Georgiev from the Rangers. There was also a key signing, as the Penguins locked down Kris Letang.

So, it’s already been a fascinating start to 2022 NHL Draft week(end). Stay tuned at PHT as the fun continues.

On that note, keep track of each pick from Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft with PHT’s tracker. This post will be updated as picks roll in on Thursday.

1. Montreal Canadiens: Juraj Slafkovský, LW, TPS (Liiga)

In PHT’s Mock Draft, Brock Otten of McKeen’s Hockey wrote this about Slafkovský, the first Slovakia native to go No. 1 overall:

Slaf is the draft’s most NHL-ready prospect thanks to his size, speed, and skill combination. What he has been able to do playing against high caliber competition at the Olympics and at the World Championships is mighty impressive.

Slafkovský brings size and skill to the Canadiens. He’s basically as big as the pressure he’ll face if Shane Wright and other potential top 2022 NHL Draft picks end up being consistent high-level players.

It’s a fascinating move, and could have interesting ripple effects on other picks.

2. New Jersey Devils:  Šimon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Svk)

Slafkovský ended up the first prospect from Slovakia to go first overall. Šimon Nemec went second, which happens to be the second-highest a prospect from Slovakia has ever gone (Marian Gaborik held the previous mark, third overall in 2000).

On plenty of draft lists, Nemec ranked as the top defenseman in the 2022 NHL Draft. Some, however, might prefer David Jiříček. However that debate plays out, the Devils address a serious need on defense.

3. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley, C, USN U18 (USNTDP)

Will Scouch of McKeen’s Hockey connected Cooley with the Coyotes in PHT’s Mock Draft. This is some extremely glowing praise of a player who could very well create some excitement for a franchise that sorely needs it:

Cooley has an excellent combination of skill, creativity, dynamic pace and impressive offense tools and if Arizona can draft other skilled, high pace players who can finish and chip in defensively a bit on Cooley’s wing, he could be one of the most productive players in the draft. One of the most efficient offensive transition players I’ve tracked with a heck of a playmaking mind, Cooley is a great building block to get the Coyotes pointed in the right direction with an exciting streak to his game putting bums in seats.

4. Seattle Kraken: Shane Wright, C, Kingston (OHL)

For a long time, Shane Wright topped boards as the expected No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. As the draft week approached, intrigue bubbled up. Between Wright and Matty Beniers, the Kraken’s two top prospects both have been described as “two-way centers.”

Via Sam McGilligan of McKeen’s Hockey:

 … There’s a reason he was deemed the potential first overall for the years leading up to this draft and it’s because of his impeccable understanding of the game, killer release and the most pro-ready playstyle of the entire draft. There’s a level of safety and projectability in every one of his strengths and while weaknesses do exist, they aren’t anything significant enough to reasonably predict Wright struggling in the NHL. The floor here is a low level second line center, and some may wince reading that knowing this is a first overall pick who is supposed to alter a franchise …

5. Philadelphia Flyers: Cutter Gauthier, LW/C, USN U18 (USNTDP)

See that LW/C designation? Depending upon whom you ask, there’s a belief that Cutter Gauthier could move to center, instead of playing wing. Some believe that development pushed him up the 2022 NHL Draft ranks.

Either way, he brings obvious perks that appeal to the Flyers: size and snarl to go with his skill.

More from Brock Otten:

His game is tailored to having a long and impactful NHL career thanks to a well-rounded skill set. He is one of the better goal scorers available this year and his off-puck play is strong. The jury is still out on whether he can play down the middle, but if you are drafting him this early, you envision that.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets (from CHI): David Jiříček, D, HC Plzeň (Cze)

Some believe that David Jiříček is the most promising defenseman in the 2022 NHL Draft, not Nemec. Otten opined that Jiříček “may offer the largest boom potential of any defender available this year.”

7. Chicago Blackhawks (from OTT) – Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle (WHL)

Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson emphasized that Korchinski was the player he had in mind when making the DeBrincat trade.

From Otten:

One of the draft’s biggest risers over the course of the year, Korchinski is a terrific puck mover and powerplay quarterback. There are some concerns over his decision making and defensive play, but his improvement over the course of the season was encouraging. Plus, it is rare to get a high-end puck mover with his size and athleticism.

8. Detroit Red Wings – Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK (SHL)

The Red Wings added Kasper to their already-deep prospect pool. Plenty of scouts covet his competitive style.

9. Buffalo Sabres – Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)

Scouch believed that the Sabres would pick Savoie at ninth overall. While Scouch noted concerns about Savoie’s speed, he noted underrated defense, and plenty of pluses.

He’s one of the most agile and daring players available in the draft, showing me an ability to create plays as well as generate chances for himself over the season. He’s exciting, could play center or wing, and would provide a great offensive boost to the Sabres’ future to complement the more well-rounded forwards they drafted in 2021.

10. Anaheim Ducks – Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw (OHL)

Otten acknowledges that Mintyukov needs to refine his defensive game, but “his offensive upside is through the roof due to his creativity and playmaking abilities.”

11. Arizona Coyotes (via SJS) – Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)

The Coyotes traded up for a center prospect who created some debate among different scouting staffs. Sam McGilligan described the range of possibilities for Geekie as “a fringe bottom six physical presence on one end and a polished top six monster with skill and size on the other.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets – Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Denton Mateychuk could be an even bigger mystery. He’s one of the most polarizing prospects of the 2022 NHL Draft. Otten explains it succinctly.

It comes down to whether you think he can defend at the NHL level, because there is no question that his offensive abilities should translate well.

13. Chicago Blackhawks (from MTL) – Frank Nazar, C, USN U18 (USNTDP)

Yet another player who inspires some real debate in scouting communities. Will Scouch captures some of the push-and-pull about Frank Nazar:

Nazar is a great straight-line skater, one of the fastest blueline to blueline that I tracked of high end talents this year, with excellent individual chance generation offensively. I’d like to see a bit more intensity and physical strength away from the puck, but Nazar plays a strong offensive grinder’s game and with crossover/agility improvements, you could unlock a ton of potential from Nazar over time.

14. Winnipeg Jets – Rutger McGroarty, LW, USN U18 (USNTDP)

If nothing else, the Jets added a top-flight name to their mix. Otten described Rutger McGroarty as a “true power forward who can play in any situation” and become a fan favorite.

15. Vancouver Canucks – Jonathan Lekkerimäki, RW, Djurgårdens (SWE J20)

Habs Eyes on the Prize’s Jared Book put together a “consensus” mock draft for the 2022 NHL Draft, collecting 15 lists. Lekkerimäki averaged out as a possible ninth pick, and was in that 9-12 range in general.

Rob Howard showered Lekkerimäki with praise:

He is young, just turning 18 in July, and needs to add strength but has not shied away from traffic in the Swedish men’s league. He brings the unteachable instincts of a goal scorer, along with the best shot in the draft.

16. Buffalo Sabres (from VGK) – Noah Östlund, C, Djurgardens (SWE J20)

Howard describes a player who brings a lot to the table, if he can overcome size limitations.

A very intelligent playmaker and offensive creator, there are not many players with as solid a skill set, combining elite vision with clever stickhandling, precise passing and a gift for finding opportunities. Size registers as a concern, and his ability to handle the physical game at a higher level, but the home run potential at this stage of the draft is just too tempting to pass up.

Consider Östlund another key part of the Jack Eichel trade alongside Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch.

17. Nashville Predators – Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)

At different times, Joakim Kemell seemed primed to go quite a bit higher than No. 17. Book’s aggregated consensus averaged him out to sixth.

Most of the nitpicking seems to revolve around Joakim Kemell as a higher pick. In this spot, seems like promising value for the Predators.

18. Dallas Stars – Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands (SHL)

While Kemell slipped, Bischel might have climbed a little higher than expected?

19. Minnesota (from LAK) – Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens (SWE J20)

In the PHT Mock Draft that tabbed Öhgren to the Wild at 19, Sam McGilligan of McKeen’s Hockey wrote the following:

Öhgren is a real 5v5 phenom that contenders want in their top six, and he’s one of the easiest picks you can make in this range with a smile on your face.

20. Washington Capitals — Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylya (VHL)

Brock Otten called Miroshnichenko “the ultimate” wild card in the 2022 NHL Draft. Otten explained why:

You have the Russian factor. You have his cancer diagnosis (which looks incredibly encouraging, thankfully). You have his mysterious VISA issues in regard to entering the United States and Canada. However, you also have a big, power, goal scoring winger with good wheels who is a top ten talent this year.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins – Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current (WHL)

A few days ago, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman wrote that Owen Pickering “projects as a second or third pair defenseman depending on how much the offense translates.”

22. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS) – Nathan Gaucher, C, Québec (QMJHL)

Brock Otten described Nathan Gaucher as “ideal pro player for today’s playoffs” and possibly a “perfect lockdown third-line center.”

23. St. Louis Blues – Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USN U18 (USNTDP)

Another wonderfully named player, Jimmy Snuggerud is someone Otten pegs as a possible “middle-six fixture in the future.”

24. Minnesota Wild – Danila Yurov, RW, Stalnye Lisy (MHL)

Brock Otten viewed Danila Yurov as “a top five talent this year when you eliminate politics” and that was if it was at No. 14. So, the Wild grabbing Yurov here at 24 looks like impressive work.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (from TOR) — Sam Rinzel, D, Chaska (HIGH-MN)

An interesting call by the Blackhawks after receiving a pick to take on Petr Mrazek‘s contract in a trade with the Maple Leafs.

26. Montreal Canadiens (from CGY) – Filip Mešár, C, HK Poprad (Svk)

The Slovakia – Montreal Canadiens connection continues with Filip Mešár. Brock Otten described him this way:

The Slovak winger loves to push the pace of play and is a skilled transitional attacker. How the rest of his game comes together remains to be seen.

27. Sharks (multiple teams, last from Coyotes) — Filip Bystedt, C, Linkoping (SWEDEN)

Look out, it’s a run on Filips. Anyway, Bystedt didn’t make the top 32 in the PHT Mock Draft, but averaged to 43 by Habs Eyes on The Prize’s consensus. Some ratings put Bystedt even lower:

28. Buffalo Sabres (from FLA) – Jiří Kulich, C, Karlovy Vary (Cze)

Rob Howard broke down what he brings to the table:

He is tenacious and aggressive and plays with pace, hustling for loose pucks, working along the boards and can be difficult to separate from the puck. He can play center or wing and is solidly built and makes for a projectable pick with a reasonable floor, but also the ability to find the back of the net.

29. Coyotes (from EDM) — Maveric Lamoureux, D, Drummondville (QMJHL)

The Coyotes fixated on size with Maveric Lamoureux.

Then again, maybe they’re counting on the entertainment value of his parents?

30. Winnipeg Jets (from NYR) – Brad Lambert, C, JYP-Pelicans (Liiga)

One of the most dramatic drops in Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft, this side of Shane Wright.

Will Scouch vouched for Brad Lambert, opining that “nobody combines skill and speed better, and nobody had as unlucky and mystifying a season as Lambert.”

Could be interesting to see how Lambert turns out.

31. Tampa Bay Lightning – Isaac Howard, LW, USN U18 (USDP)

The Lightning only get so many first-rounders, but it’s possible they really made it count. Isaac Howard carries some heavy “steal” potential.

No, this isn’t just because of his outfit.

32. Oilers (from Coyotes via COL) — Reid Schaefer, Seattle (WHL)

Finally, the Oilers closed out Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft with Reid Schaefer. It seems like he wasn’t expected to go in the first round: