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Sunday, August 14, 2022

2022 NHL Draft: Central Division needs

The 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held July 7-8 at Bell Centre in Montreal. The first round will be July 7 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and rounds 2-7 are July 8 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, we examine draft needs for teams in the Central Division. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.

The 2022 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of young talent.

Here are what the eight teams in the Central Division could be looking to do at the draft (teams listed in alphabetical order):
 

ARIZONA COYOTES

Top Priority: Top-end talent

First pick: No. 3

The situation: The Coyotes were last in the NHL with an average of 2.51 goals per game this season, the eighth straight season they’ve ranked in the bottom 10 in the League. Dylan Guenther, the No. 9 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft who was sixth in the Western Hockey League with 91 points (45 goals, 46 assists) in 59 games this season, likely will push for an NHL spot next season. But finding more creative, high-skill forwards is a must, and with three picks in the first round (also Nos. 27 and 32), as well as four picks in the second round, the Coyotes should be able to add skilled depth throughout their development pipeline. In addition to the group of skilled forwards available at No. 3, Arizona could look to add a defenseman who could play on their top pair, especially with the uncertainty surrounding defenseman Jakob Chychrun. General manager Bill Armstrong said several teams asked about possibly trading for Chychrun before the NHL Trade Deadline. 

Possible fits: Logan Cooley, C, USA U-18 (NTDP); Simon Nemec, D, Nitra (SVK), Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (FIN)

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Top Priority: Offensive defenseman

First pick: No. 38

The situation: The Blackhawks will make their first selection in the second round after they traded their first-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the package for defenseman Seth Jones. Chicago had 140 points (29 goals, 111 assists) from its defensemen this season, the third fewest in the NHL. The Blackhawks lack an offensive-minded defenseman in their prospect group; their top defenseman prospects, Nolan Allan (2021, No. 32) and Alex Vlasic (2019, No. 43), don’t project to be big offensive producers. The Blackhawks also could opt to add a left wing to a thin group.

Possible fits: Ty Nelson, D, North Bay (OHL); Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands (SWE); Dylan James, LW, Sioux City (USHL)

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Top Priority: Goalie

First pick: No. 97

The situation: After trading their selections in the first round (Coyotes, goalie Darcy Kuemper) and the second round (New York Islanders, defenseman Devon Toews), the Avalanche won’t pick until the end of the third round. Colorado has enviable prospect depth with forwards Oskar Olausson (2021, No. 28), Jean-Luc Foudy (2020, No. 75), Martin Kaut (2018, No. 16) and Sampo Ranta (2018, No. 78), and defenseman Sean Behrens (2021, No. 61). They could look to add a goalie here, or possibly depth at defenseman after trading their top prospect at the position, Justin Barron, to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Artturi Lehkonen.

Possible fits: Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George (WHL); Topias Leinonen, G, JYP Jr. (FIN-JR); Angus Booth, D, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

DALLAS STARS

Top Priority: Defenseman

First pick: No. 18

The situation: Of the eight defensemen to play for the Stars this season, the only one under 30 assured of being on the opening-day roster next season 23-year-old Miro Heiskanen; John Klingberg, 29, is a pending unrestricted free agent. Thomas Harley, 20, is their top prospect at the position and likely will have a larger role next season after playing 34 regular-season games. But more depth at the position will be important moving forward.

Possible fits: Lane Hutson, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle (WHL); Ryan Chesley, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)

MINNESOTA WILD

Top Priority: Center

First pick: No. 19

The situation: The Wild acquired the No. 19 pick from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Kevin Fiala on June 29 and could look to select a skilled wing that eventually could provide the same level of production. Another need is at center, where Ryan Hartman had a career season in 2021-22 with 34 goals and 65 points, but he never had more than 19 goals or 31 points prior to that and it’s fair to ask if that level of production is sustainable. Joel Eriksson Ek arguably is the Wild’s best center but is more suited to a shutdown role than being an offensive driver. Center Marco Rossi, the No. 6 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, likely will push play on one of the top two lines next season, but more skilled depth is needed at the position. The Wild also have the No. 24 selection.

Possible fits: Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga (OHL); Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec (QMJHL); Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Top Priority: Defenseman

First pick: No. 17

The situation: Norris Trophy finalist Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm are each still in their prime, but the Predators lack a top-end prospect close to being able to help them; Ryan Ufko (2021, No. 115) and Luke Prokop (2020, No. 73) are at least a few seasons away. Nashville hasn’t used a first-round pick on a defenseman since selecting Dante Fabbro at No. 17 in the 2016 NHL Draft, but with the talent likely available for them at this spot, it could be the best option.

Possible fits: Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current (WHL); Lane Hutson, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Ryan Chesley, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)

ST. LOUIS BLUES

Top Priority: Defenseman

First pick: No. 23

The situation: Injuries during the Stanley Cup Playoffs put a spotlight on the lack of depth at defenseman at the NHL level and through their prospect pipeline. St. Louis hasn’t selected a defenseman in the first round since taking Jordan Schmaltz at No. 25 in the 2012 NHL Draft, but this could be the time to take one. Depth at center also could be an area to address, with Ryan O’Reilly (31) and Brayden Schenn (30) each at least 30 years old.

Possible fits: Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau (QMJHL); Mattias Havelid, D, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR); Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec (QMJHL)

WINNIPEG JETS

Top Priority: Right wing

First pick: No. 14

The situation: After Blake Wheeler, the Jets didn’t get much of a contribution from the other players who skated regular shifts at right wing, a group that included Jansen Harkins, Mason Appleton and Evgeny Svechnikov. Center Chaz Lucius, the No. 18 pick of the 2021 draft, is a right-handed shot, but finding a natural wing could be the best option with their first selection. Winnipeg also has No. 30, acquired from the New York Rangers in the Andrew Copp trade.

Possible fits: Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP); Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw (WHL); Frank Nazar, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class

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