The 2022 NHL Entry Draft is in the books.
The Bell Center was rocking on Thursday for the highly anticipated first-overall selection from the Montreal Canadiens. Day 2 produced a bit of everything. Some teams exchanged draft picks. Other made roster trades. Finally, the announcement that Duncan Keith had decided to retire after a storied career also made waves on the floor.
It’s my opinion that no other professional league does it better than the NHL when it comes to the entry draft. It never gets old seeing the excitement on the faces of prospects and their family members after their names are called.
Congratulations to the city of Montreal. One of my favorite scouting destinations in the world delivered what we expected they would: A fantastic event hosted by one of the classiest hockey cities in hockey.
Here’s a look at some intriguing picks from each round:
No. 1: Juraj Slafkovsky, Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens did their due diligence and settled on Slafkovsky over the likes of Shane Wright, Logan Cooley, and Simon Nemec. The management group in Montreal eliminated any outside noise, and pressure, and went with the player that they believe will assist the most in taking the organization to another level.
This selection said something to me about Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes: that they have their own vision of how they want to build their team. There have been drafts in the past where teams cave and take the consensus No. 1. This wasn’t one of those moments.
An observation: Watching Slafkovsky get paraded around the Bell Center for media interviews and the fans clamouring to get a picture, fist pump, or autograph was something to behold. He’s already a rock star in Montreal.
No. 62: Lane Hutson, Montreal Canadiens
I absolutely love this pick. Hutson is a highly skilled transitional “D” who makes plays off the rush and quarterbacks the power play. There was a time, not so long ago, that players like this were passed over by NHL clubs due to their lack of size and physicality. Hutson made it known to teams at the combine in Buffalo that he hasn’t stopped growing and has a chance to get to around 5-foot-10. His height doesn’t bother me, but he will need to add weight as he matures.
Hutson is a difference maker. He’s uber competitive and wants the puck on his stick in key situations.
No. 88: Michael Buchinger, St. Louis Blues
This was a savvy pickup for the Blues. Buchinger is a “glue guy” for the Guelph Storm in the OHL. The two-way defenseman is a strong skater who sees the ice and distributes very well. He scored 44 points (five goals, 39 assists) this past season and was deployed in all situations. There’s a real chance the Blues have found a second-pairing NHL defender with the selection of Buchinger.
No. 122: Dennis Hildeby, Toronto Maple Leafs
Hildeby is an interesting pick in the fourth round and worth the gamble. He’s a 20-year-old European who had a breakout campaign in 2021-22. At the SHL level playing for Farjestad, he had a goals-against average of 1.93 and his save percentage was .931. He’s an absolute giant in the net, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 236 lbs.
Goalies take longer to develop than skaters and that is why I believe in the strategy of this selection. Hildeby will be in Sweden for at least one more season before potentially coming to North America. When NHL teams draft players from Europe, they hold their rights for four years of development time compared to two years for major junior players in North America. By the time his four years have expired, Hildeby will be 24 and potentially entering the NHL phase of his development.
No. 136: Jorian Donovan, Ottawa Senators
The son of Senators Director of Player Development Shean Donovan, Jorian is a nice add in the fifth round. He scored 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in his rookie OHL season with Hamilton this year. What I like most about this selection is Donovan can be used in a variety of roles. I’m projecting him to score more as he matures at the OHL level. He skates very well, outlets responsibly, has good size (6-foot-1, 183 lbs.) and will only get stronger. He will likely see some power-play time in junior but I’m not seeing him as a fit in that role as a pro.
Sometimes nepotism can sneak into some decisions that organizations make. This isn’t an example of that. Donovan has a chance to be more than just a bottom pairing “D” as a pro. I’m confident saying he’s going to put the work in. This pick has Senators scout Don Boyd written all over it and it’s a good one.
No. 179: Matt Seminoff, Dallas Stars
It’s not often teams can find a player at this stage of the draft with the kind of impact offensively that Seminoff had last year with Kamloops in the WHL. He logged 26 goals and 31 assists, with six of his goals coming on the power play. Seminoff brings more than just offense, too. He is a responsible player who is above the play when opponents have the puck and reliable defending his zone. His small-area game is very strong as well. He has the creativity to spin off checks in tight quarters and take the play to the net or distribute. His quickness will have to improve but this is a nice find for Stars director of scouting Joe McDonnell.
No. 225: Ivan Zhigalov, Colorado Avalanche
A tall (6-foot-3), lean (167 lbs.), athletic goalie who plays for Sherbrooke in the QMJHL. He was the last pick of the draft and might, literally, fly under the radar as a bit of an after thought but I actually like the upside of this selection. Zhigalov has quick feet and pads, he’s capable of making reaction saves in scramble mode and he’s a south paw who catches with his right hand, which gives opponents a different look when directing pucks on net.
Former NHL goalie Jocelyn Thibault is the owner of the team in Sherbrooke, so I’m sure the Avalanche consulted with him to get some more background on Zhigalov.
This concludes the scouting cycle for the 2021-2022 season.
There was a time when staffs took time off following the draft to enjoy what summer has to offer. That’s not the case any longer.
Prospects from around the world will be attending development camps starting Sunday July 10 and Monday July 11 for all NHL clubs.
The 2022-23 amateur scouting calendar begins July 31 in Red Deer, Alberta at the annual Hlinka/Gretzky Cup.