Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “2021 NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you our Early Look at the 2022 NHL Draft Rankings.
The 2021 NHL Draft has come and gone, and many teams have already held their post-draft development camp, getting an up-close and personal look at the players they have selected in their new jerseys. However, scouting new talent never stops and with this, in mind we turn our attention towards the talent that will be available in the 2022 NHL Draft. It may be early and there is still a full year of hockey to be played, likely leading to a lot of movement between these rankings and where players end up at the end of next season, but still, let’s take a look and preview the 2022 NHL Draft.
Early 2022 NHL Draft Rankings
Due to the COVID pandemic, the 2021 class was very hard to scout, with many leagues playing limited schedules and some not even playing at all. This has affected the 2022 class as we have not has as good a look at them as we have with a typical class at this time. That said the 2022 Draft seems to be exceptionally strong, especially at the top of the class. The 2022 NHL Draft will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
11.) Juraj Slafkovsky, Left Wing, TPS Turku, Finnish U-20, 6’4″ 225 lbs
The big winger was dominant at the recent Ivan Hlinka tournament, helping the Slovakian team to their best-ever finish, a silver medal. He put up three goals and nine points in just five games. Last season, Slafkovsky played in the Finnish junior league, scoring eight goals and 13 points in 16 games. He is already NHL-sized and given his age could be even bigger. Slafkovsky is willing to be involved in the physical game, protecting the puck well in the dirty areas of the ice and forechecking well on the boards. He isn’t a big hitter but is willing to get involved physically.
Slafkovsky protects the puck well with his long reach and extends plays. He has very good vision and playmaking ability. Slafkovsky can set up a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass through traffic. His big frame allows him to create havoc in front of the net as well. He screens goalies and can score with tip-ins, pouncing on rebounds or one-timing a pass from an opponent. His release can be improved, but he has a hard and accurate wrist shot from further out.
12.) Isaac Howard, Left Wing, US NTDP, USHL, 5’10” 174 lbs
Howard played for the NTDP this season. He put up 27 goals and 54 points in 34 games for the Under-17 Team. He also put up five goals and 19 points in 17 games with the Under-18 Team. Howard is an outstanding stickhandler. He is very dangerous in one-on-one situations, as he can stickhandle in a phone booth and can beat his man with a variety of moves. Howard controls the puck on the rush and generates good zone entries. He also can protect the puck and make plays off the cycle.
Howard has very good vision and passing skills. He uses his ability to control the puck to create plays for teammates. He can also be a goal scorer. Howard is willing to get to the dirty areas of the ice and has a very good wrist shot and snapshot. Both of his shots are accurate and powerful. His quick hands are an asset here as well, as they allow him to change the angle of his release before shooting, which can give goaltenders fits.
13.) Tristan Luneau, Right Defence, Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL, 6’2″ 174 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2020 QMJHL Draft, Luneau made an instant impact for Gatineau. He was named the QMJHL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after putting up four goals and 18 points in 31 games this season. Luneau is an outstanding skater and this allows him to play a strong two-way game. He pivots well and his stride and acceleration are good in both directions. This allows him to push the pace offensively and still get back defensively. In his own end, he maintains good gap control and is solid positionally. He also cuts down plays with a strong stick. He needs to get stronger though.
Luneau is best known for his offensive skills. He can carry the puck through the neutral zone and create effective offensive zone entries. Once there, he uses his lateral mobility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. His vision and passing skills are very good. He is effective in starting the transition game with a good first pass. He is also very good at controlling the puck at the blueline and setting up scoring chances. Luneau has a good shot and does a good job of putting it on the net.
14.) Ryan Chesley, Right Defence, US NTDP, USHL, 6’0″ 187 lbs
Chesley had a strong season with the NTDP Under-17 Team. He put up 11 goals and 34 points in 37 games. When injuries and illness hit, Chesley was given a chance to play with the Under-18 Team. However, he wasn’t given the same offensive opportunities and had just one goal and one assist in 12 games. Chesley also added one goal at the Under-18 World Championships. He is a great skater and this helps him to maintain good gap control. Chesley is a physical defender who will throw a big hit if challenged on his side of the ice. He is also willing to battle hard in the corners and keep the front of the net clear.
The bread and butter of Chesley’s game is his offense though. He has an outstanding point shot. Chesley has a hard slap shot and an excellent one-timer. He also has a knack for sneaking in and taking a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circles. Chesley’s lateral movement allows him to open up shooting lanes and get the puck on net. He is also a good passer and this helps him in transition and allows him to quarterback the play from the point.
15.) Nathan Gaucher, Centre, Quebec Remparts, QMJHL, 6’3″ 198 lbs
Drafted 8th overall in the 2019 QMJHL Draft, Gaucher put up 14 goals and 31 points in 30 games last season. It was a nice follow up on a solid rookie season where he scored 13 goals and 24 points in 59 games in 2019-20. Gaucher is a big centre who can play well in both ends of the ice. He was nominated for the Guy Carbonneau award as the top defensive forward in the QMJHL. He is very good positionally and uses his big body and long stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Gaucher has also shown that he is effective in the face-off circle.
Gaucher is also able to create offensively. He uses his long stick, big body and good stickhandling skills to protect the puck and work the cycle game. When an opportunity presents itself, he is not afraid to take the puck to the front of the net. Gaucher has the creativity and vision to set up teammates when he gets to those areas. He also has a very good shot and release. This allows him to score goals as well.
2022 NHL Draft Rankings Main Photo:
EDMONTON, AB – DECEMBER 27: Juraj Slafkovsky #18 of Slovakia takes a shot against Canada during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 27, 2020, in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)