With the NHL draft set to get underway Thursday in Montreal, Sports Interaction is previewing and predicting what every Canadian team will do with their first selection.
The 2021-22 NHL season is officially behind us and that means we can start looking ahead to 2022-23. As in every year, the first major decision teams will need to make involves their draft strategy. This year’s draft runs from July 7-8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal where the hometown Canadiens will make the first selection.
At this point it feels like a two-horse race between Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky. Wright has been the consensus No. 1 pick all year, but Slafkovsky has closed the gap considerably in most scouts’ final draft rankings. With all of these prospects missing considerable development time because of COVID, this could be one of the most unpredictable drafts in years.
Every Canadian team other than Calgary is slated to pick in the first round this year, so Sports Interaction is previewing and predicting who each Canadian team will take with their first selection in the draft. Make sure to check out complete odds for all Sports Interaction NHL futures bets.
Montreal Canadiens (1st overall)
Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Shane Wright has been the consensus No. 1 pick all year for a reason. Only the sixth player to be granted exception player status in the OHL, the Kingston Frontenacs captain has been on NHL radars for years. Wright is the most complete player in the draft and the debate between him and Juraj Slafkovsky is likely overstated. Taking Wright is a slam dunk for Montreal.
Ottawa Senators (7th)
Joakim Kemell, LW, JYP (Liiga)
Ottawa has made it clear they are not moving the seventh overall pick and that likely means they are high on a specific player. Could that player be Joakim Kemell? Coming out of the Finnish Elite League, Kemell fits the Senators recent draft history of taking European players from professional leagues overseas. Kemell suffered a shoulder injury this year, but ended the season strong and projects to be a skilled top-six NHL forward.
Winnipeg Jets (14th)
Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
If Conor Geekie is still available at No. 14, you can bank on the Jets taking the hometown kid. A nice combination of size, skill and playmaking ability, Geekie is a confident player who could crack Winnipeg’s roster next year.
Vancouver Canucks (15th)
Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USNTDP
Jimmy Snuggerud is ranked somewhere between 15th and 20th on most scouts’ radars. Snuggerud projects to be a top-six NHL forward thanks to his skating ability. He may need a little more development before he’s NHL ready, but he’s a smart player who could be effective in a lot of different scenarios.
Toronto Maple Leafs (25th)
Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Projected to be a late first-round pick, Jagger Firkus would likely be ranked higher if not for his smaller size. Firkus will need to work on his skating, but his shot and compete-level are both NHL-ready. He’ll be a bit of a project, but he has the potential to crack the Leafs roster sooner rather than later.
Edmonton Oilers (29th)
Jiri Kulich, C, HC Karlovy Vary (CZE)
Jiri Kulich’s standout nine-goal performance at the U-18’s in Germany turned heads and certainly helped raise his stock. Kulich is a skilled goal scorer and his defensive game is above average, but can he translate that skill to the NHL level? He’s definitely worth taking a chance on.
Calgary Flames (59th)
The only Canadian team without a first-round pick as of Wednesday, Calgary may make a move to climb higher in the draft. If they remain at No. 59, however, potential targets could include Gatineau Olympiques blue liner Noah Warren, USNTDP winger Devin Kaplan, or Soo Greyhounds centre Bryce McConnell-Barker. Al three players provide decent size and production and they should all develop into NHL regulars over the next few years.