NHL Staff Mock Draft 2.0 with scouts’ audit: Is Shane Wright still No. 1? – The Athletic

Today we have The Athletic’s staff of NHL writers project the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft. This allows our writers to break down the draft from the standpoint of the teams they cover with their unique knowledge of the franchise’s needs and tendencies. I provided broad guidance but the writers made all the picks. Trades were allowed (and one was executed). Afterwards I provide an audit and also enlist NHL scouts to provide feedback on our picks.

1. Montreal Canadiens: Shane Wright, C, Kingston-OHL
It may seem as though nothing has changed since our first mock with Wright still being our pick for the Canadiens here, but they have. We used to be comfortable and confident taking Wright at No. 1, but with the intel gathered at the combine, he’s now hanging by a thread in this position, and it’s become basically a coin toss between him and Juraj Slafkovsky. For now, the Canadiens’ perennial need at centre and the argument for Wright’s high floor is what keeps him at No. 1. —M.A. Godin

2. New Jersey Devils: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS-Liiga
If the Devils are going to use the second pick, they should be looking to the next best available player after Wright. In many minds right now, that’s Slafkovsky. A team has to draft for skill above all else, and flashy numbers in tournament settings have elevated his profile. But the benefit for New Jersey is that this fits a need as well. The Devils are looking to add an impact forward for years to come to give them a 1-2 punch with one of their former first picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. The power forward seems to have the tools this team is looking for to add more dimension to their offense, and the readiness to get them there sooner than later. —Shayna Goldman

3. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley, C, U.S. NTDP-USHL
It’s no secret that the Coyotes need a centre (or two, or three) to really build around. They’ve got talent on the flanks with Clayton Keller already established and Dylan Guenther on the way. But they need a line-driving, high-skill, skating pivot who can play down the middle with those guys. I imagine the Coyotes will be pleased if Slafkovsky is selected within the first two picks and Cooley is available for them, because he checks every box. —Scott Wheeler

4. Seattle Kraken: Simon Nemec, RHD, Nitra-Slovakia
What is clear is the Kraken appear to be in a position to add a right-handed defenseman. Figuring out if it will be David Jiricek or Simon Nemec is where the intrigue resides. It is possible the Kraken could elect to draft Jiricek. He would give them a 6-foot-3 two-way presence with puck-moving ability. It’s just that Nemec appears to be a more fluid skater and puck mover in addition to his two-way abilities. Furthermore, Nemec made an impression at the IIHF World Championship by scoring a goal and six points in eight games for Slovakia. —Ryan S. Clark

5. Philadelphia Flyers: David Jiricek, D, Plzen-CZREP
Assuming the draft plays out in this way, there’s a good chance the Flyers will be choosing between Jiricek and U.S. NTDP forward Cutter Gauthier. Both fit the organization’s desire to build a bigger, more traditionally “Flyers-like” roster for the future, while hopefully not sacrificing skill in the process. The Flyers have need for both a high-end RHD and a young top-six center, so position likely won’t be a tiebreaker. In the end, Jiricek probably is the slightly safer pick while also possessing top-of-the-lineup upside, given that Gauthier is no lock to stick in the middle at the next level. I also imagine they’ll be a fan of the physical side of Jiricek’s game. But it’s not difficult to imagine either one being the pick here. —Charlie O’Connor

6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Cutter Gauthier, C/LW, U.S. NTDP-USHL
The Blue Jackets may not be as desperate for top-six centers as many suspect, which is what makes this pick so interesting. In The Athletic’s first staff mock immediately after the draft lottery, we selected the small but ultra-competitive Matthew Savoie in this spot. He would still be a fine pick here, but with Cole Sillinger, Boone Jenner and the freshly-signed Jack Roslovic on the roster, they can consider more than the top center on the board. (Kent Johnson, the No. 5 pick last season, could eventually move to the middle, too.) That in mind, we’ve broadened our horizon. We’re taking center / left winger Cutter Gauthier, …….


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