Central Scouting revealed its midterm ranking of the top North American skaters and goalies, and the top International skaters and goalies, on Wednesday. Right wing Joakim Kemell of JYP in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, is No. 1 among International skaters.
“There was not consensus for the No. 1 ranking [in North America] for the 2022 draft class at midseason, but at this point Shane Wright does maintain the top spot,” director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. “Taking everything into account, Shane remains a desirable package of NHL talent and has proven he can carry the load and be the difference maker when it’s needed in game situations. He has both conducted and carried himself remarkably well amongst the many disruptions and distractions of the past year and a half.”
The 2022 draft is scheduled to be held at Bell Centre in Montreal, with the first round July 7 and Rounds 2-7 on July 8. The NHL Draft was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The NHL Draft Lottery to determine the first 16 picks in the draft will be announced at a later date.
Wright (6-foot, 185 pounds), a right-shot center, has scored 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) with 86 shots on goal in 22 games this season. The 18-year-old also had one assist in two games for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship before the tournament was canceled Dec. 29.
“Shane is an excellent prospect and a guy that the scouting community has been tracking for a while now so everyone’s familiar with the attributes he can bring to a team,” Joey Tenute of NHL Central Scouting said. “He shows up every night, is a leader and plays every situation. He does what it takes all over the ice and any coach can rely on a player like that because he not only provides offense but is an all-around leader of a team … lead by example type of guy.”
Wright was playing with the Don Mills Flyers Minor Midget AAA team when granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada in March 2019, and he was selected by Kingston with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 OHL draft as a 15-year-old. He was named rookie of the year in the Canadian Hockey League after scoring 66 points (39 goals, 27 assists) in 58 games in 2019-20.
Center Logan Cooley (5-10, 174) of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 Team is No. 2 on the North American skater list. Cooley, a left-handed shot, has scored 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 24 games and leads the NTDP with an average of 1.42 points per game. The 17-year-old had one assist in 15:23 of ice time for the United States in his only game at the WJC.
“Cooley’s continued development and successes have made the No. 1 ranking for the 2022 draft class a two-player race,” Marr said. “In his own right Cooley is a player who can impact games. His top-end speed is off the charts and his ability to quickly process and execute on plays make him a scoring threat every time he steps on the ice.”
Cooley is one of nine NTDP players ranked in the top 32, including left wing Cutter Gauthier (6-2, 189) and right wing Jimmy Snuggerud (6-1, 186) among the top eight. A record eight NTDP players, including seven in the top 15, were selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Rounding out the top five North American skaters are centers Matt Savoie (5-9, 179) and Conor Geekie (6-3, 193) of Winnipeg in the Western Hockey League, and defenseman Pavel Mintyukov (6-1, 192) of Saginaw (OHL).
Savoie leads the WHL with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) and 25 power-play points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 34 games. Geekie has scored 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) in 34 games.
“Savoie has great wheels and is a dynamic player,” John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said. “Geekie is taller and lankier and reminds me a bit of Joe Thornton at this age in the way he skates.”
Mintyukov, a left-handed shot, has scored 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 29 OHL games.
“Mintyukov, to me, is the best at his position for the 2022 draft,” Marr said. “He plays a very dynamic game utilizing his size, skating, smarts and skills to control the play in all zones and situations. The confidence, composure and degree of authority in which he takes charge and executes on plays places him in a category all to himself.”
Kemell (5-11, 171), a right-shot forward, has scored 18 points (12 goals, six assists), six power-play goals and three game-winning goals in 21 games with JYP. The 17-year-old has taken 105 shots on goal and averages 16:48 in ice time. He missed three weeks with an upper-body injury earlier in the season.
“We have considered the whole season, beginning with the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, and Kemell had a sensational start with JYP and is therefore, at present, ranked No. 1,” NHL director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. “He missed several weeks with an injury, but when healthy is a highly skilled playmaker with acceleration and speed. He can use his smooth hands and passing abilities to move the puck through traffic.”
Rounding out the top five International skaters are Slovakia-born center Juraj Slafkovsky (6-3, 218) of TPS in Liiga; right wing Danila Yurov (6-1, 178) of Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League; defenseman David Jiricek (6-3, 189) of Plzen in the Czech Extraliga; and center Brad Lambert (6-0, 175) of JYP in Liiga.
Slafkovsky has scored four points (one goal, three assists), has 51 shots on goal and is averaging 13:29 in 20 games for TPS. The 17-year-old averaged 22:03 in two games for Slovakia at the WJC.
“Slafkovsky should be on the Slovakia men’s national team in the 2022 Beijing Olympics in February,” Stubb said. “He uses his great size, reach and strength very well, inside the rules. He’s an active, effective checker in both zones, has good vision and all the tools needed to have a great career.”
The No. 1 North American goalie is Tyler Brennan (6-4, 180) of Prince George (WHL). He’s 5-11-1 with a 3.55 goals-against average and .896 save percentage in 17 games.
“He’s got good pro size, is very calm and relaxed and is smart at reading the pass across for a one-timer or back-door play,” Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting said. “I also like how he gets back to stop dump-ins and can move the puck properly from behind his net area. He’s got very good pro potential.”
The No. 1 International goalie is Topias Leinonen (6-4, 214) of JYP in Finland’s junior league. The 17-year-old, who could be the starting goalie for Finland at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship in Germany in April, has a 2.20 GAA and .911 save percentage in five games.
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