2022 Draft Class : Star Studded Draft
We are fast approaching the hockey season and I for one cannot wait. Last year was a tumultuous time, probably for the majority of us all. For me in terms of hockey watching, I think I watched the least hockey since I was 8 years old and would prefer endless hours of Dragon Ball Z, The Simpsons and Pokémon. The OHL was shutdown all season so I couldn’t attend the local 67’s games, Gatineau was closed off to all non-essential travel and the Q starting and stopping every three minutes and with no fans at any of the games there just seemed to be something…off.
Due to the past season, we enter a 2022 Draft Class that has major questions that beg answers. How will the young players perform especially those who had to sit out the entire season?
Here are just a few players that you should…and I will…be watching closely this season.
Shane Wright – Centreman, 17 Years Old, 6’1 187lbs, Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL
The most hyped OHL prospect since Connor McDavid, Wright enters this season as the presumptive 1st Overall Pick. Despite sitting out the entire year in the OHL last season, Wright played in the U18 Tournament and despite some rust in terms of getting some minor injuries, he was back to dominating everyone again as we all expected. The Captain had 9 goals and 14 points in just 5 games. Good for a 2.80 PPG. Not too shabby. For some context his PPG pace was the fourth highest ever in tournament history and the highest by a 16 year old.
The CHL and OHL Rookie of the Year is a part of the semi-distinguished list of players granted Exceptional Status by the CHL to enter the league as a 15 year old. His 39 goals and 66 points in 53 games that year put him in excellent company near Connor McDavid who had 25 goals and 66 points in 63 games as a 15 year old.
All of this is to say that Wright will be must watch for any fan of junior hockey and prospects in general. I know that when the Fronts show up to Ottawa, I will be making the trip to watch them. He’s one of the most dynamic offensive players we’ve seen become available since 2016 and he has franchise centre written all over him. He has electric speed, good size, an amazing shot and fantastic vision. He’s a leader on and off the ice. We’ll see how this season plays out, but the 1st overall selection is his to lose.
Lian Bichsel – Left Defenseman, 17 Years Old, 6’5 212lbs, Leksands IF in the SHL
Bichsel piqued my interest during the U18 Tournament. He wasn’t a player that I had ever heard of before and when I watched Switzerland play, this behemoth on the blueline with an effortless stride was catching my attention. The then 16 year old was named a Top-3 Player on his team during the tournament and was the standout on a very underwhelming Swiss squad. A good example of this is that his 2 points put him in an electric second in team scoring. He will be eligible to play for the Swiss U18 team again this year and I expect that it will be one of the solidification moments about his viability as a prospect. It’s also expected that he will be their Captain as he wore the “C” during the recent Hlinka Gretzky Tournament.
While his skating is not at a Victor Hedman level in terms of height to mobility ratio, nor does he have the same dynamic skillset, there is a lot to like about Bichsel’s game. He’s a good puck mover and passer. He plays a physical game and despite his youth has roughed up pro players already (check out his dirty hit in the CHL game against HC Slovan Bratislava). Currently being a bit of an unknown he is ranked somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd Round. If his solid start in the J20 League in Sweden is any indication, I feel like Bichsel is going to be a player finding himself more and more in 1st round Mock Drafts as the season goes on.
Ivan Miroshnichenko – Left Winger, 17 Years Old, 6’1 185lbs, Omskie Krylia in the VHL
While Matvei Michkov, the main competitor with Connor Beddard for the 2023 1st overall pick, has outshone Miroshnichenko at both the U18 and Hlinka Gretzky Tournaments, it hasn’t diminished the fact that he is a very good prospect. The winger put up 6 goals and 8 points in the 7 games at the U18’s and Captained Russia to Gold at the Canada-less Hlinka Gretzky Tournament with 4 goals and 9 points in the 5 games. As we enter the season, the Russian speedster is considered a top-10 selection by most outlets. He has the ability to change speeds that really can’t be taught. It makes him exceptionally dangerous off the rush and on broken plays.
Like most top end Russian prospects his shot is considered elite with the deceptive quick release we are seeing become more and more popular with today’s young stars. He can be a deceptively physical player who knows when to pick his spots.
Right now, Miroshnichenko finds himself as the top prospect in 2022 out of Russia. Though a contract he signed as a 16 year old that makes his release from the KHL almost impossible until he is 20 could sour some teams picking early and looking for more immediate help. The Russian hockey seasons have already started and he currently leads his VHL squad in goals with 2 in their first 5 games.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki – Centreman, 17 Years Old, 5’11 172lbs, Djurgårdens IF J20 in the J20 Nationell
Lekkerimäki is my early favourite to be the Dark Horse riser in this draft. The thin Swede has started his season off as an absolute terror torching the J20 League with 8 goals and 12 points in his first 5 games. This after a strong Hlinka Gretzky Tournament where he scored 5 goals in the 5 games. The 8 goals and 12 points puts him in first place in league scoring and on pace to have the best season by a 17 year old in league history (unless you count Alexander Holtz’ 3 games in 2019-2020 which helped net him the 7th overall selection).
This is a player I have not seen a lot of. I’ve only been able to watch him twice on “TV” so this might be presumptuous of me to post an opinion on the player. From what I’ve seen of him he’s a very smart player with very good speed that really gets a lot out of the slot location on the Power Play. I feel like this will be a player who will turn heads at the U18’s and cement his status as a top-15 pick as the year rounds into form.
Thanks for reading. I will be posting some more players to watch tomorrow.