The 2022 NHL Draft is still almost nine months away, but it’s never too early to be scouting the top NHL Draft Prospects!
While Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs is nearly a consensus number one pick, the rest of the draft order after that gets a bit dicey. However, here are three other NHL draft prospects I’ve got my eye on as first rounders in the 2022 draft.
Juraj Slafkovský, LW, TPS (Liiga)
The first NHL draft prospect I want to highlight is Juraj Slafkovský. NHL GMs are likely salivating at the idea of getting a prospect like Slafkovský in the system. At 17 years of age, Slafkovský is already 6’4” 225 lbs, and playing in one of the top European leagues, valuable experience that will serve him well when he comes stateside to join the NHL.
However, he’s more than just a physical presence on the ice. Slafkovský is an above average skater for his size and a playmaker in the offensive zone. In the highlight below, he strips his opponent of the puck, reverses course to find a forward in the slot who was driving the net to pick up the assist.
When he’s playing against other U20 players, Slafkovský has been nearly unstoppable. In six games with TPS’ U20 team, Slafkovský has five goals and 13 points. Scouts are raving about his offensive instincts and high compete level.
He checks so many boxes as a winger and whichever team lands Slafkovský in the draft is going to get an incredible player. Slafkovský is almost certainly going to be a Top 10 pick and he could be one of the first five players off the board.
Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
The next NHL draft prospect to consider is Conor Geekie. Scouts and draft analysts are all over the board on Geekie, with some having him as high as a Top Five pick and others having him as a late first round to early second round selection.
Like Slafkovský, Geekie already has the size (6’3”, 205 lbs) to play in the NHL, and his older brother, Morgan, is already playing with the Seattle Kraken. However, what truly makes the younger Geekie stand out is his skills with the puck. He’s also incredibly responsible defensively and excels in the transition game.
An early season Conor Geekie stick work reel.
Among the highlights:
• gets under opponent's stick
• times pokechecks/stick lifts
• angles feet to stay in play
• knows the next play (e.g., puts pucks into space)#2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/lndf0ZUoqm
— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) October 18, 2021
The knock on Geekie is his skating, though scouts have said his skating is ahead of where his brother’s skating skills were during his draft year. He has the rest of the skills to be a successful NHLer, though it could be enough to keep him out of the Top Five.
Geekie’s teammate in Winnipeg, Matthew Savoie, is another likely Top 10 pick and one of the top NHL draft prospects. Through eight games with the Ice this season, Savoie has four goals and nine assists while Geekie has three goals and five assists. Savoie’s offensive upside may make him a higher draft selection, but Geekie may be the best two-way forward in this draft class.
David Jiříček, RHD, HC Plzen (Czech Republic)
The top defenseman in the 2022 Draft Class, David Jiříček is the third NHL draft prospect I’m watching and expecting near the top of the draft board. Jiříček is one of the most complete defensive prospects the draft has seen over the past several seasons, and like Slafkovský, he’ll already have experience playing in a professional league.
Though he’s only 12 games into the season, Jiříček has eight points (three goals, five assists). At 0.75 points per game, he’s on pace for the highest U19 points per game season total in the history of the Czech Extraliga. He’s got solid playmaking ability on the blue line and should be capable of skating on the power play unit.
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) September 24, 2021
A 6’3” right shot defenseman, Jiříček is one of the better skaters at any position in the class, though he isn’t doesn’t have high-end blazing speed. He’s rarely caught out of position and uses his frame, skating ability, and hockey sense to excel in zone entry denials and to shut down shooting and passing lanes. Jiříček is an excellent NHL draft prospect and as early as he’ll go on draft day, he’s going to end up on a team that needs the defensive help.
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