The 2022 NHL Draft gets underway at the Bell Centre in Montreal Thursday night with the Canadiens owning the rights to the first overall selection for the first time since 1980. There’s still uncertainty over their pick, even if the online sportsbooks have a clear favorite.
Center Shane Wright is the odds-on choice to be taken first overall, with sportsbooks posting his number somewhere between -220 and -310. Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky has the next best odds at around +150 to be selected first.
Respected Canadian NHL analyst Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings have Slafkovsky as the top prospect this year over Wright. Five of the 10 scouts surveyed by McKenzie ranked the 6-foot-4 Slafkovsky as the best prospect, while four scouts slotted Wright in the top spot. Canadiens General Manager Kent Hughes also isn’t ruling out the possibility that center Logan Cooley will be the team’s selection.
Kent Hughes says decision is between Wright, Slafkovsky and Cooley.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) July 4, 2022
In 1980, the Habs selected center Doug Wickenheiser first overall ahead of future Hall-of-Famer Denis Savard. Wickenheiser turned out to be a dud who was traded in his fourth season with Montreal.
No. 1 pick odds
Here are the No. 1 pick odds posted by FanDuel:
Shane Wright -310
Juraj Slafkovsky +140
Logan Cooley +2100
Simon Nemec +10000
Matthew Savoie +10000
Wright, who finished eighth in scoring in his junior hockey league with 94 points in 63 games, is still the consensus No. 1 pick despite not having an outstanding year. The fact that he plays the important position of center apparently helps give him an edge over Slafkovsky. He would fit in nicely with a duo of promising young forwards — Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki — on Montreal’s roster.
Slafkovsky significantly raised his draft stock with a standout performance at the Winter Olympics, where he netted seven goals and won MVP honors. His oversized frame makes him an ideal NHL power forward, and he has a great release on his shot.
Cooley, who many deem the best two-way forward in this year’s draft, has amassed 70 points in 48 games with the U.S. U18 national team. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Canadiens or the New Jersey Devils (who own the second pick) taking him before Wright and Slafkovsky. Cooley is -215 at FanDuel to be taken third in the draft, with the Arizona Coyotes holding the rights to that third overall pick.
Some player draft position odds
Matthew Savoie under 9.5 (-162 — BetRivers)
Today’s NHL is all about speed and skill and Savoie fits that bill. His game is purely offensive, and he’s drawing comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane at the NHL level. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound center put up 35 goals and 55 assists in 65 games in junior this past year, and it’s hard to imagine nine teams passing up on his elite scoring potential. Some mock drafts have projected Savoie to be taken as high as sixth, and he’s listed as the ninth-best prospect overall by McKenzie.
Owen Pickering under 18.5 (+106 — BetRivers)
Many mock drafts have Pickering being selected 15th overall by the Vancouver Canucks. A mobile two-way defenseman who stands 6-foot-5, Pickering finished the year in junior with nine goals and 24 assists in 67 games. He was also given an opportunity to play a significant role on special teams with Canada’s U18 team. Although considered a raw prospect who may take a few years to develop, his top-pair upside and huge frame make him one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s class.
Joakim Kemell under 8.5 (-118 — BetRivers)
Finnish forward Kemell seems like a logical fit at right wing with the Ottawa Senators, who own the rights to the No. 7 pick and have a recent history of drafting Finnish players (Lassi Thomson, Roby Jarventie). Kemell played last year in Finland’s top professional league, Liiga, and was averaging more than a point per game before being slowed by a shoulder injury in the second half of the year. His shot is his main weapon, and he’s drawing NHL comparisons to David Pastrnak.
Alright, now that I’m back in session, it’s time to officially declare “my guy” at the 2022 NHL draft.
It’s Joakim Kemell for obvious reasons and here’s his hat trick at the U18’s from yesterday.
— Derek Lee (@DLee075) April 29, 2022
Ottawa, which is already deep with prospects, is open to trading away the seventh overall pick, but Kemell would still be a fit at No. 8 with the Detroit Red Wings, who also have shown a strong preference for drafting European players.
What the experts are saying
Rogers Sportsnet hockey analyst Sam Cosentino:
This draft projects to be one full of volatility and two key elements are contributing to the uncertainty. First, we have players who have missed significant development time [due to pandemic]. Second, we will have teams back on the draft floor, live and in-person which should lead to more conversation and more business getting done on or before July 7.
The volatility may start as early as the first pick. Shane Wright, granted exceptional status into the OHL, has owned top spot for the better part of three years. But now he has two challengers in Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky, who had strong finishes to their respective seasons. It was clearly evident speaking to scouts and executives at the NHL Combine that the gap between Wright, Cooley and Slafkovsky is as tight as any draft we have experienced in recent times.
Aside from this talented trio, things will start to scattershoot after the top eight picks, which is much earlier than we are used to. Typically, we have some certainty as to the first half of the draft, but this year we have some level of certainty in the first quarter of the opening round, or the first eight picks.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
There’s some pretty wide variances on prospects this year. Every player ranked in TSN’s Top 50, and a handful of prospects beyond No. 50, got some level of consideration as a Top 32 pick.
The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler:
On the whole, this year’s draft class is weaker than usual at the top but has grown on me in terms of depth.
2022 #NHLDraft order: Round 1 pic.twitter.com/DinESyDcpJ
— NHL News (@PuckReportNHL) June 28, 2022
Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY