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2022 NHL Entry Draft: Round 1 Instant Reactions

A quick breakdown of each pick from tonight.

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft started with chaos and it only continued from there. Tonight, we saw plenty of trades, plenty of questionable picks, and plenty of big swings from NHL clubs. Below, I graded each pick from tonight with some quick thoughts on every prospect.

#1 - Montreal Canadiens - Juraj Slafkovský (W)

Grade: A

The Canadiens did their best all week to disguise who they were taking first overall tonight, and I absolutely love the home-run swing in taking Slafkovský. He and Wright were neck and neck in my final ranking, and it will be fascinating to compare their careers for years to come.

#2 - New Jersey Devils - Simon Nemec (D)

Grade: A+

It’s tough to pass on Shane Wright at pick #2, but if you’re going to do it, you go with Simon Nemec. He was a close third in my final draft ranking, and I see him as the best defender in this draft class who could become a franchise defender for the next decade.

#3 - Arizona Coyotes - Logan Cooley (C)

Grade: B

Cooley is an electric prospect, who I had ranked at this exact spot. But, with Shane Wright shockingly still available, I docked a letter from the Coyotes for passing on him.

#4 - Seattle Kraken - Shane Wright (C)

Grade: A+

I’m sure Seattle didn’t anticipate walking away with the presumed number one pick tonight, but here we are. What a treat for the Kraken, who will now have Matty Beniers and Wright to build their team around.

#5 - Philadelphia Flyers - Cutter Gauthier (F)

Grade: B

Gauthier and Philadelphia seemed like a natural pairing after all the draft-week reporting about his rising stock. I like the pick—Gauthier ranked ninth on my board—but I would’ve picked Jiříček here.

#6 - Columbus Blue Jackets (via CHI) - David Jiříček (D)

Grade: A

Much like Wright and Slafkovský, watching Nemec and Jiříček for the next decade will be interesting. Jiříček has the size advantage, and Columbus got exactly who they wanted right around where I would’ve drafted him.

#7 - Chicago Blackhawks (via OTT) - Kevin Korchinski (D)

Grade: C

The merits of the DeBrincat trade aside, this is such a bizarre pick to me. It’s clear Korchinski was Chicago’s guy, but there are three other defenders I would’ve selected ahead of him. I think a top-ten pick on Korchinski poses a considerable risk here.

#8 - Detroit Red Wings - Marco Kasper (C)

Grade: B

I love Kasper’s game, and I tried hard to separate how fun he is to watch from how projectable his skills are. I don’t have much of an issue with this pick, but at 16th on my final board, it’s a touch too high for me.

#9 - Buffalo Sabres - Matthew Savoie (C)

Grade: A

Savoie, despite being undersized, is a dazzling forward who’s electric with the puck. I had him sixth on my board, so this is a solid grab for Buffalo.

#10 - Anaheim Ducks - Pavel Mintyukov (D)

Grade: B

Mintyukov was one of my main targets for Nashville at pick 17, but the closer we got to tonight, the clearer it was that he would be gone by then. I think he could become a huge piece of Anaheim’s blue line in the future, but I didn’t have him ranked until 15th.

#11 - Arizona Coyotes (via SJS) - Conor Geekie (C)

Grade: C

For a team with so many first-round draft picks, I don’t mind going off the board a bit. Regardless, 11th overall is far too high to take Geekie in my eyes. I had him as a late first-round pick who is a below-average skater that may struggle with quicker decision-making at the NHL level.

#12 - Columbus Blue Jackets - Denton Mateychuk (D)

Grade: B

Mateychuk was the prospect I wish I watched more tape of the most. There’s so much about his game to love, including his obsession with handling the puck. Ultimately, I still have concerns about his defensive approach, ranking him 22nd. But Columbus had plenty of picks to play with, so I’m fine with this selection.

#13 - Chicago Blackhawks (via NYI and MTL) - Frank Nazar (F)

Grade: A+

Where Chicago faltered with Korchinski, they knocked it out of the park with this pick. Nazar was my 11th-ranked prospect, and despite size concerns, I think he’ll be a dynamic middle-six player in the NHL.

#14 - Winnipeg Jets - Rutger McGroarty (C)

Grade: C

McGroarty got a lot of high marks for his compete level and leadership skills, but I saw a skilled player held back by his weak skating. I wouldn’t have taken him until the mid-20s.

#15 - Vancouver Canucks - Jonathan Lekkerimäki (W)

Grade: A

Lekkerimäki isn’t the first of the Djurgårdens trio that I would’ve taken, but I love his scoring touch. He loves to shoot the puck and plays with good pace off the puck. I had Lekkerimäki as my 13th-ranked prospect.

#16 - Buffalo Sabres (via VGK) - Noah Östlund (C)

Grade: B

I’m a bit shocked that Östlund went before Liam Öhgren, but I respect the opinion that the former was the true offensive driver for this unit in Djurgårdens this season. Buffalo had picks to spare, so I’m fine with them going for a player I ranked 31st.

#17 - Nashville Predators — Joakim Kemell (W)

Grade: A+

After sweating that Nashville would go for someone like Owen Pickering here, I couldn’t be more thrilled with this selection. Kemell was my 10th-ranked prospect, who’s a pure sniper and tenacious in puck pursuit. He could be the best value pick outside of Wright this round.

#18 - Dallas Stars — Lian Bichsel (D)

Grade: B

If Nashville were going to pick a defender at 17th, I wouldn’t have been bothered with Bichsel. His game extends far beyond his size, and I’m excited to see if he can further unlock his offensive skill.

#19 - Minnesota Wild (via LAK) — Liam Öhgren (W)

Grade: A+

I’m higher on Öhgren than most, so I’m not too surprised he was available here (although I didn’t think he’d be the last of his linemates selected). I think there are elements to his game that could allow him to swim, not sink, in the NHL next season. Öhgren was my eighth-ranked prospect.

#20 - Washington Capitals — Ivan Miroshnichenko (W)

Grade: A

There are so many questions surrounding Miroshnichenko’s health, but if you throw all of those out the window, he’s a top-five talent in this class. I’m cheering hard for this kid, who is such a disruptive force all over the ice and who I had ranked 14th.

#21 - Pittsburgh Penguins — Owen Pickering (D)

Grade: C

It was pretty obvious that Pickering was going to be a first-round pick, and I’m pretty excited to track how his game develops. But he’s still a little too raw for me, and I don’t think he embraces his 6’5” frame enough. I had Pickering ranked 35th on my final board.

#22 - Anaheim Ducks (via BOS) — Nathan Gaucher (C)

Grade: B

Gaucher probably has a lower ceiling than other first-round picks, but he projects well into a third-line role in the NHL. He’s not the slickest player with the puck, but he’s a hardworking, big center, who was maybe taken a few picks too high.

#23 - St. Louis Blues — Jimmy Snuggerud (F)

Grade: B

Snuggerud was a complicated player to evaluate this year. He’s very skilled and strong in puck retrieval, but his skating is a concern, and it’s hard to figure out how much of an offensive driver or passenger he was. I would’ve picked him at the very end of round one.

#24 - Minnesota Wild — Danila Yurov (W)

Grade: A+

Yurov seemed like a sure bet to go to Buffalo earlier in the first round. I don’t think he’s as talented as Miroshnichenko, but he plays a different game too. He’s patient with the puck but can also drive hard to the net and score on his own. The Wild picked up some great value here.

#25 - Chicago Blackhawks (via TOR) — Sam Rinzel (D)

Grade: D

I appreciate Chicago weaponizing their cap space to make this deal but to use a first-round pick on Sam Rinzel is another example of asset mismanagement. Rinzel’s skill is tantalizing, but he’s a ways off from the NHL and could’ve been picked in round two.

#26 - Montreal Canadiens (via CGY) — Filip Mešár (F)

Grade: A+

I’m absolutely here for Montreal collecting Slovaks in round one. Mešár is an undersized forward but may be one of the most cerebral players and best passers in this draft class. He was my 17th-ranked prospect.

#27 - San Jose Sharks (via CAR, MTL, and ARI) — Filip Bystedt

Grade: F

Not only did the Sharks trade themselves out of a top-15 pick, they then used this pick on a player they could’ve easily selected on day two of the draft. I get the appeal of Bystedt due to his 6’4” frame and good skating mechanics, but I wouldn’t have picked him until the 50s.

#28 - Buffalo Sabres (via FLA) — Jiri Kulich (C)

Grade: A

Buffalo continued their impressive night, adding another center to their pipeline with a great scoring touch. I had Kulich at 18th on my final draft board, so I think the Sabres got immense value here.

#29 - Arizona Coyotes (via EDM) — Maveric Lamoureux (D)

Grade: D

Much like Bystedt, I totally get the appeal of Lamoureux. He’s a 6’7”, right-shot defender who’s flashed some offensive skill and has physical tools that any GM would be envious of. With that all said, I don’t think he was worthy of a first-round pick, but I’ll give Arizona a small break given how many prospects they’re taking home tonight.

#30 - Winnipeg Jets (via NYR) — Brad Lambert (F)

Grade: A

If Nashville didn’t take Kemell at 17, I would’ve wanted Lambert. I could be gloriously wrong about him a few years from now, but there’s so much talent to his game; I’m certain he can become a top-six power forward in the NHL, which is why I had him ranked seventh on my board.

#31 - Tampa Bay Lightning — Isaac Howard (W)

Grade: A

Howard is a good-skating winger with a high-end scoring touch and very good puck skills. I have some concerns about his passing consistency and decision-making but had him ranked 23rd on my board.

#32 - Edmonton Oilers (via COL and ARI) — Reid Schaefer (W)

Grade: F

I knew Schaefer would be picked tonight, and I’m surprised it wasn’t earlier. He’s a solid defensive player, but he largely failed to establish himself in transition this year, and he didn’t use his size to win enough puck battles in my eyes. I ranked him as a third-round pick.