Welcome to SBNation’s 2022 NHL Mock Draft—my fourth year running the mock draft table here at On The Forecheck. With a weaker draft class, I was entertaining the idea of trading back from the 17th pick to add a second-rounder to Nashville’s arsenal. While there were some teams behind us interested in moving up (notably Arizona), a few names left on the board were too good to pass up. So, with the 17th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Mock Draft, On The Forecheck selects…
Pavel Mintyukov, Defender, Saginaw Spirit
In my final ranking for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Mintyukov finished 15th. From my notes:
“Mintyukov is another defender who is a net positive in all three zones. He’s a good, physical player (for the most part), but he does make mistakes here and there in attacking his gaps or staying with the play after his man dishes the puck. He smartly decides when to join the rush or when to drop low in the offensive zone, and he’s a good shooter from the point. If he cleans up some careless puck errors in the middle of the ice, he could be an impactful top-three defender in the NHL.”
After the two right-handed defenders at the top of this class, there have been varying opinions about how to rank the next tier of Mintyukov, Lian Bichsel, Denton Mateychuk, and Kevin Korchinski. Here’s where other outlets have Mintyukov ranked:
NHL Central Scouting: 6th, NA Skaters
Elite Prospects: 7th
Bob McKenzie/ TSN: 12th
Dobber Prospects: 13th
Chris Peters/ Daily Faceoff: 17th
Corey Pronman/ The Athletic: 18th
FC Hockey: 20th
Scott Wheeler/ The Athletic: 25th
My bet is you couldn’t go wrong with a handful of the defenders listed above at this pick, but I’m nearly certain one or two of them will be off the board by this point next Thursday.
Pavel Mintyukov is a bit of an older skater in this draft class with a November 2003 birthday. His first OHL season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but he made the most of this 2021-22 campaign with Saginaw, scoring 62 points in 67 games, which led the Spirit in scoring and topped all draft-eligible OHL defenders. His 0.597 primary points per game and 0.373 even-strength, primary points per game were also best amongst his peers.
As noted above, Mintyukov makes a positive difference in all three zones each night. He’s got a great set of tools across his game and plays a smart but aggressive brand of hockey. Defensively, Mintyukov (#10, white) assess opponents’ speed well and manages his gaps accordingly. His stick is always active, challenging shooters soon after a zone entry as seen above. He’s able to easily fend off the pick set by F1 and force F2 into making a bad pass. When the puck goes low in the zone, he doesn’t panic; Mintyukov angles himself perfectly along the goal line and ends the play with two decisive poke checks, sending his Saginaw teammate up the ice.
Offensive activations are at the heart of Mintyukov’s game, but I never found that he overused them on a game-to-game basis. He plays deep in the offensive zone when he chooses to, but he’s mostly good at getting back into defensive positioning when need be. Due to those instincts and his ability to scan the ice well ahead of the current play, Mintyukov can be a nightmare for opponents when it comes to his play reversal speed. In the clip above, notice how he tries to set the terms of London’s breakout early by crowding Luke Evangelista high in the zone; Mintyukov can get away with that against faster puck carriers due to his skating power and mobility. Then, with help from his teammate, his active stick comes into play, and Mintyukov immediately jumps forward, setting up a shot attempt in the offensive zone instead of dumping the puck in or regrouping in his own end.
As I mentioned above, Mintyukov loves to activate low in the offensive zone. When he sees a smart opportunity, he’ll deceive opponents by dropping below the hash marks and playing a hybrid forward role for half of his shift. Defensively, his game is similar, religiously playing a man-to-man scheme no matter where it takes him. In the clip above, his activation doesn’t win him the puck, but it does create a board battle below the goal line. As Sarnia reverses possession, we see Mintyukov’s skating mechanics on display: proper knee bend, a full extension, good stride recovery, but a bit of a dropped chest. He doesn’t have elite NHL speed, but his pace is very good and shouldn’t be an issue in the pros just as it isn’t here. He recovers his position and then immediately reverses back into the offensive zone, reading an opportunity for a potential scoring chance.
Along the offensive zone blue line, he’s not always so consumed by the puck that he ignores potential breakouts. In the clip above, notice how well he mirrors Guelph’s wingers, preparing to defend at a moment’s notice; he covers so much ice at the top of the zone, regularly giving his teammates a good passing option. As he sees all give Guelph skaters shift to the right side of the zone, Mintyukov drops low, noticing a clear path to the net. His next two passes are a little careless and rushed, but the play results in a Mintyukov goal nonetheless. While he gets high marks for awareness and puck management, he’s not immune to careless turnovers or boneheaded outlet passes from time to time. Improving his consistency with those puck touches will be key to succeeding in the pros.
Mintyukov’s game is completed by an exciting level of puck skills. While not all of his goals will be highlight reel ones as seen above, he’s dangerous enough with the puck, giving forecheckers a handful when he’s on his game. He can stickhandle across his body at pace when moving up the ice in transition, he can deliver rapid, accurate passes to begin give-and-go sequences, and he can pull pucks from off the wall or out of scrums and immediately orchestrate a breakout. His slap shot is a good weapon from the point as he generates low, hard shots suitable for rebounds; his wrist shot is okay but his strength there will need to be improved.
The 2022 NHL draft class doesn’t have the deep star power you look for, but there are a lot of very good prospects who project to have very good NHL careers. Nashville has invested heavily in forwards the past several years, and I expect most of this group of defenders to be available at pick #17. Selecting Mintyukov gives you another potential top-four NHL defender in a pipeline headlined by Jeremy Davies, David Farrance, and Ryan Ufko.