By DraftPro staff
I know, I know, what a disappointment the abbreviated World Juniors were, not only to the fans, the players, the coaches, trainers and countless volunteers, but also the NHL types who really look forward to this event as the majority of them get to see, in a two week snapshot, of the best prospects coming down the pipeline for their NHL franchises.
Even though there were just a few games played, our guys still were able to see some of the highly regarded draft eligible against those who were a couple years older than they and competing at an elite level and were more than happy to offer these takes and opinions from these limited views.
TOP 2022 DRAFT ELIGIBLES
“Shane Wright is still a dominant defensive centre currently. His attention to detail and IQ away from the puck is better than anyone else in his class. He’s also got 25 primary points out of his 30. And SH% is low. I’ll admit he hasn’t shown anything exceptional that makes me go “wow” this year. So it’s fair to maybe say he isn’t going to be a franchise centre but he will be an elite first liner in his NHL career. The top 10 is very much up for grabs in terms of jockeying for position. A lot of strong candidates but it’s missing elite talent in the top 10.” – Jared Brown
“Did Brad Lambert bring his stock back up into the top five discussion following the very abbreviated WJC? He showed just what a dynamic, offensive player he can be in the two games he played by being able to carry the puck around/through traffic, fire shots on net or distribute the puck to linemates with near perfection. His skating was smooth, precise, and allowed him to be a threat to break away every time he was on the ice. His vision and ability to spot teammates was incredible and the best part is, he made it look easy. He finally looked like he was having fun again. He displayed the talents he used that originally had his name near the top of draft lists. But unless he can shake the monkey off his back and continue this caliber of play back home regardless of linemates, I feel he won’t quite have enough to crack the top five at the end of the day.” – Matt Hnatiuk
“Logan Cooley has a real good shot at going 2nd overall, after of course Shane Wright. Skating is dynamic both laterally and vertically. Shot keeps on improving and should be considered a strength. Playmaking and puck distribution are near elite. Two-way hockey sense is high-end.” – Jared Brown
“Joakim Kemell wasn’t the guy we saw before the injury. His confidence level seems to be significantly lower and it’s interesting to see how long it will take for him to pick it back up as he hasn’t had this kind of slumps earlier during his career. Before the injury Kemell looked like he shot the puck knowing he was going to score with every puck he shot at the goal. In WJC it seemed like he shot the puck just to finish the attack which is a giant difference to what we saw from him earlier. He is still skating well though, is responsible and playing with good attitude. He didn’t really make anything happen. He tried. He just lacks the feeling that he’s on top of the world and the confidence.” – Mikko Saarela
“Assuming David Jiricek comes back from his knee injury with no complications, he will be a top five pick. He is the most NHL ready defenseman in the class. His powerful stride combined with his big physical presence make him a force to be reckoned with on the ice. To top it off, he has some of the best hands you will see out of a guy his size. He could be a regular NHLer as soon as next year.” – Andrew LeBlanc
“Once again, Simon Nemec displayed he is a defenseman who offers skill and an offensive touch. Poised and smooth transitional skating. Composed with the puck, but not as much without the puck. Still has his struggles and areas of improvement, but provided slick puck movement up the ice. With his head up, he recognizes what is in front of him quickly. Quick stick handle and cuts on his edges, he is most efficient on the attack through the neutral zone. His mind processes the game like a forward. A team looking to add offense and creativity from the backend, he is a top option in this draft. There are still some question marks without the puck. His gap control and overall mindset in the defensive zone need improvement, but not drastic. He should contend for a top ten spot, as well as the top defenseman taken in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.” – Joseph Peters
“I’ll add onto Nemec by saying I didn’t like the way he defended. He wasn’t tough in front of his net and didn’t box his man out well. I thought his anticipation and timing on making defensive stops was a smidge off and at times had him behind his man and chasing. But if you want and offensive defenceman with creativity like Joseph said, Nemec is your man. He constantly activates into the rush and provides his forwards with a passing option in transition. He plays the game how you’d want a mobile offensive minded defender to play, aggressive, confident, and the skill to maneuver through traffic. Defensive game can be worked on. But having the confidence to create offence and opportunities as consistently as he does is a talent and an early sight at a defenceman that can be of impact at the pro level.” – Jared Brown
“Juraj Slafkovsky never seems to reach full speed and his slow skating allowed the opposing players to pressure him from behind a lot and it clearly was a conscious decision by them to do that as often as possible. Slafkovsky uses his body very well to protect the puck but when you don’t create separation and you are double-teamed you can only do so much. His defensive positioning also needs quite a bit of work, he tends to drop very deep and forget about his guy (loosing coverage). He clearly wants to take over a shift, but he was often quite passive when his team had the puck. He usually shoots a lot which sometimes leads to a bunch of blocked shots. That didn’t happen in this game but against Sweden he took 13 shots and five of them were blocked. Slafkovsky’s long reach allowed him to pressure the American defencemen one contest and take the puck away a couple of times. If he only skated better, he could do so much more out there. He’s got a lot of potential but he’s far from being NHL ready.” – Mikko Saarela
“Slafkovsky’s best attribute is by far his hockey IQ in my opinion. This man pre-scans before every puck touch, then once with the puck is back to scanning and assessing his passing options. This allows him to execute on quick passing plays as soon as he gets the puck. Excellent vision and puck distribution from the outside. In the game against USA I though he was the only forward really generating offence. I agree his top speed isn’t at a high level, but mobility wise he moves well enough for such a big man. The heads-up awareness is utilized to identify routes of attack quickly and effectively skate the puck through the neutral zone and gain zone entries for his team.” – Jared Brown
OTHER 2022 STANDOUTS
“Lian Bichsel inserted himself in the first-round discussion at the WJC. In his one game against the Russians, Bichsel imposed his will physically and did not let the skilled wingers dance around him. He is a big man, but don’t let that fool you. Bichsel has great hands for a guy his size. He is excellent at feeling pressure from forecheckers and making a quick move to send them flying by. What’s holding him back from the top tier of defensemen in this class? His skating ability. He has a powerful stride when he gets going but takes a while to get up to speed. In the next few months, if Bichsel improves his skating skill while adding more size, he will have to be considered in the first round.” – Andrew LeBlanc
“With much anticipation from the group of forwards from Slovakia, Filip Mesar was one of those key forwards to the success of this team. Playing with some highly skilled forwards he fit right in as a top six forward. Fluid skating winger who pounces on the puck with a quick strike ability. On the powerplay or even strength, he gets the puck on net. Often finds a way to escape with his fluid skating and nifty stickhandling. Handles the puck with a calm, yet, higher tempo nature. He is going to find a way to get his shot off. Had some trouble leading the charge down the ice. Great awareness and competition go a long way with him. Gets into a fog, but he can quickly reset himself. Overall, he is a legit forward in the 2022 draft class, who sort of hides behind the curtains of the other names.” – Joseph Peters
“Marco Kasper took on an enormous task of representing his country as the captain of a team with less high-end power and depth than others. No matter the score, he displayed smarts, skill, and passion, sometimes crossing the line. His aggressive style of play, his tenacious pursuit of the puck, reasons him as a standout from this shortened tournament. Impressively smart winger showing he anticipates passes by jumping into the lane and disrupting the intended play reaching with his stick, then going on the attack. Has that drive to the net attitude. With his hand skills and strong balanced skating on his edges, along with his general hockey smarts and mechanics, Kasper may have solidified himself as a late first round selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.” – Joseph Peters
“Kasper was a literal bulldozer and made opponent’s lives a living hell along the boards and in front of the net. Having not watched the kid since last year’s tournament, it’s incredible how far one can come. I’ll never forget his innocent, light hearted interview during the intermission on TSN at last years tournament, the kid was all smiles and seemed as if he couldn’t harm a fly… now he’s just a pure ball of hate. Doesn’t fly by anybody, always flying shoulder first into every check, tying up sticks and bashing bodies in front… he’s a menace. Kasper knew if he wanted to grab attention at this event, he’d have to do so with his physicality and defense. There were a few defensive mishaps here and there in front of goal where he missed catching the late guy coming in for a rebound, but when you’re facing ~60 shots a game… how can you blame him for 2 mistakes when he’s done 30 things correctly?.. it’d just be unfair. He made the most of his opportunities in the offensive zone and showed off some good footwork and effort when chasing pucks in deep. I don’t think Kasper will be as dynamic as his line mate Vinzenz Rohrer… but by god, could I see this guy stirring the pot and being a clinical middle 6 forward on the NHL stage.” – Kai Farenholtz
“Jiri Kulich played with relentless puck pursuit mentality. Using his speed and strong forward strides to consistently be the first forward on the forecheck. His skating is an asset and uses it to his advantage to close gaps and pressure quickly. Possesses an extremely active stick as he checks his man. Whacks at the puck trying to poke it free. Leads with it defensively to take away space and force his opposition into an uncomfortable position. Operated on his off side on the powerplay where he likes to utilize his one-timer or whipping wrist shot to get pucks through to the net. Generates a lot of power in his shots. Showed off some quick skilled hands to perform moves with the puck at full speed. Sometimes his hands don’t move as fast as his feet which causes him to bobble the puck or over skate it. There is a solid foundation of abilities to work with for Kulich. He owns great skating, speed, and utilization of it with and without the puck. Gives you 100% effort without the puck and can quickly turn a turnover into a rush chance. There is a lot to like in Kulich’s game.” – Jared Brown
“Adam Sykora is the player type every coach would like to have in their team. He reminds me of Artturi Lehkonen, a high-energy player with great skating. Sykora showed absolutely relentless backchecking and forechecking. He’s got everything you want in a bottom six forward except the size. He’s not your typical top six forward but with the right linemates he can fit there as well. Sykora has shown in Slovakia that he can also score. I think he deserved at least 14-15 minutes of ice time at WJC but he didn’t get more than 10. He didn’t allow Sweden to have almost any controlled attacks and the puck stayed mostly in the offensive zone when he was on the ice. Sykora is definitely someone worth drafting.” – Mikko Saarela
2023 ELIGIBLES SHINE
“Matvei Michkov. This kid is a pure goal scorer and a highly effective offensive talent. He is willing to shoot the puck from anywhere using any form of shot he can get away, and he gets them on net with speed and accuracy. He has an astonishingly quick wrist shot that is deadly accurate, and he displayed the fact that his backhand shot is very ‘Crosbyesque’ in its power (sometimes it’s just lucky. See his goal vs Sweden). His skating was low and powerful giving him a solid, balanced stance no matter the speed he is travelling down the ice. He is creative and deceptive with his movements and speed, allowing him to draw defenders in before he explodes forward making his move. His passing was highly accurate and extremely crisp in all situations and speeds. His vision is elite and time seems to slow down for him in the offensive zone, giving him the ability to quickly decide pass, shoot, deke or carry the puck. He displayed the ability to drive hard to the net with and without the puck and create high quality scoring chances shift after shift. He did seem to be lacking in his defensive play, but that isn’t what he’s on the ice for. Teams long for players like him, and I’m sure there are many licking their chops at a chance to select him. Unfortunately they will have to wait until 2026 before they even have a chance of adding him to their roster due to his KHL contract.” – Matt Hnatiuk
“I thought Dalibor Dvorsky looked matured and a player that can be trusted to play respectable minutes and not a 16-year-old that needed to be sheltered. Displayed strong compete along the boards in his own end. Solid IQ to get inside body positioning and outwork his opponent to get the puck back. Overall showed high compete and good defensive positioning. He looks to anticipate and knock down passes, not always looking to chase down the hit and instead stay with the developing play away from the puck. He’s a great give and go passer. Keeps his feet moving after he distributes the puck. Quick hands in tight spaces to dish off high IQ passes that showed off his small area skill level. Great accuracy on these passes, keeping the continuation of the play going. Though he didn’t showcase elite talent or skill in his skating or the ability to create high-danger opportunities, Dvorsky played a strong 200ft game down the middle and distributed the puck with intelligence and accuracy.” – Jared Brown
“Connor Bedard is a gem. He oozes brilliance and offensive talent. In this shortened tournament, he showed he is a versatile goal scorer with an NHL shot. Slippery on his edges, as he can pull the puck on a string close to his body, toe dragging the opposition. Certainly got the most out of his ice time. He is truly a brilliant skater. Fast feet and controlled body movement. Feet, hands, mind, vision, he has it all. Defending is not too shabby either. He applies pressure and is positionally aware. Wisely uses his stick to redirect the play in front of him. When able, he can quickly transition up the ice. Finds a way to cycle the puck, interchange, get into the middle of the ice, as well as gain position in front of the net. He just finds a way. Rarely a time where he looks out of place. With the absurd amount of talent stacking up for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, in my opinion Bedard has the tools and mindset to maintain his position as the projected first overall pick.” – Joseph Peters
“Keep a look out for David Reinbacher. If there was one positive thing about Austria’s blue line, it’s the blooming presence of 2023 eligible Reinbacher… in fact, he seemed as if he was the only one comfortable with the puck on his blade in most situations when it came to Austria’s defenders. For a late 04 on an inexperienced and overwhelmed core, I was astounded with his professionalism and poise at this stage already, especially given his team’s situation. I found he was quite adept at taking away lanes with his quick defensive thinking and really forced opponents to make adjustments on the rush since he read the developing play so maturely. He was tidy with his stick checks and with the bit of size that he possesses he was terrific at holding attackers wide while they tried to develop plays down low. His play with the puck was just as noticeable, as he was the only defender that wasn’t rimming the puck up the boards with his head down… always surveying, and not afraid to take matters into his own hands and even stickhandle a forechecker before lacing an easy pass. He’s mature beyond his years in all aspects of his game… this is surely a prospect I’d have as a first rounder, and possibly a top defender in the forward heavy 2023 draft.” – Kai Farenholtz
So that is a wrap for us from the abbreviated 2022 World Junior Championships as we hold out hope that the IIHF and participating countries will be able to get a redux event off the ground some time before the 2022 NHL Draft in July.
We value all of our views on a prospect as a part of the big picture when formulating our rankings and that is what these two games were for our guys, a piece of the puzzle. We will be once again going into ranking meeting as we look to put together our teams Winter Rankings in the coming weeks so be sure to keep an eye out for those.
And if you are looking for a mid-season rundown on the 2022 draft class as a whole be sure to pick up your copy of the Draft Prospects Hockey 2022 Preview Magazine available for instant download or print through Amazon.
Photo’s courtesy of IIHF.com