Barring a wild trade or two, the Vancouver Canucks will be picking 15th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft after not moving an inch in Tuesday’s draft lottery.
That means the Canucks will miss out on the top tier of the draft but general manager Patrik Allvin doesn’t seem too concerned.
“I think there are a lot of good players in the draft,” said Allvin. “I don't think there is a lot of difference between, I would say, maybe 4-5 and down to 15-16…I think our staff is pretty excited about picking 15th.”
Who are some of those “good players” available at 15th overall that are barely different from whoever will be picked 4th overall? Let’s take a look at who the experts currently have ranked 15th overall.
Of course, there is still a lot of time between now and the draft, which is still two months out. Scouts and scouting staffs (staves?) may well change their rankings in that time as they review more video, debate between similar prospects, or become enamoured with a prospect’s playoff performance. But, for now, here are 11 prospects currently ranked 15th by various scouting services, in no particular order.
1 | Conor Geekie, C
We’ll kick things off with Conor Geekie, a 6’4” centre out of the WHL. He’s currently ranked 15th overall by Elite Prospects, with EP Rinkside’s editor in chief J.D. Burke praising “his puckhandling skill and his touch as a distributor.”
Geekie racked up 24 goals and 70 points in 63 games for the Winnipeg ICE, good for fourth among first-time draft-eligible players in the WHL. He has a potent combination of size and skill that might see him come off the draft board before the Canucks pick at 15th but there are lingering concerns about his skating that show up in every scouting report.
Geekie also isn’t the most physical player, rarely using his size advantage as much as he should. On the one hand, that’s potentially a good thing, as it means he isn’t dependent on his size to score in Junior, but it is something he needs to develop. Along with that lack of physicality comes some passivity away from the puck.
If a team believes they can develop his skating and help him better leverage his physical attributes, they could have a truly unique prospect on their hands — an intelligent playmaker with silky smooth hands and the size to out-battle anyone on the ice.
The risk is that his skating could hold him back — if he can’t keep pace, he’ll never have the time and space on the ice to use his skill.
“When he’s on his game, Geekie looks like a legitimate top ten pick,” says Matthew Somma of Smaht Scouting. “When he’s off his game, however, Geekie looks like a player that I’d avoid entirely if I were drafting in the top 20.”
2 | Gleb Trikozov, C/RW
His name is Gleb. I like him already.
Gleb Trikozov is one of the younger players in the draft, as he doesn’t turn 18 until August. He’s ranked all over the place by various scouting services, from the middle of the first round to late in the second round, but FC Hockey currently has him ranked 15th overall, calling him “one of the most dynamic offensive talents in the draft.”
Despite his youth, he was a force to be reckoned with in the MHL, Russia’s junior league, this past season. He had 23 goals and 45 points in just 35 games, placing him third among first-time draft-eligible players in that league. To top it off, he was dominant in the MHL playoffs, putting up 10 goals and 18 points in 13 games.
Trikozov does a little bit of everything. He’s an adept playmaker but he also has a dangerous shot. He’s got plenty of skill but he also has some size to go with it at 6’1”. He’s a strong skater but he’s not just a burner — he uses his mobility intelligently, making him exceptional at transitioning the puck up ice.
“His skating and game-processing are elite,” notes FC Hockey’s Jake Jonso.
The big question mark for Trikozov is in the defensive zone, where scouting reports note a lack of engagement. While he’s listed at both centre and right wing, he’s a lot more likely to land on the wing — or out of the league — if he can’t commit defensively. That might just be a reflection of playing against lesser competition in the MHL where he isn’t truly challenged.
Still, even with some defensive warts, Trikozov’s dynamic offensive ability might make him mighty tempting for the Canucks in the middle of the first round.
“If everything goes according to plan, I feel confident that you are getting an impact top-six forward with Trikozov at the NHL level,” says Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting.
3 | Isaac Howard, LW
The venerable Bob McKenzie has Isaac Howard at 15th overall in his mid-term ranking, but many had him much later in the first round.
The 5’10” winger was a force for the U.S. National Team Development program, putting up 33 goals and 82 points in 60 games to lead the team in scoring. He then absolutely crushed the World Under-18 tournament, scoring 6 goals in 6 games and adding 5 assists for 11 points. It wasn’t like he was just dominating lesser opponents — 4 of his goals came against Canada.
Howard is a natural goalscorer with a knack for finding open ice and a quick release to catch goaltenders off guard. He’s a dynamic skater, with excellent top speed that he can use to skate wide around defenders or burst up the middle for breakaways. He may not be the biggest guy, but he has no issues getting to the net to take punishment so he can clean up rebounds.
Beyond his goalscoring, Howard has added a little more playmaking acumen to his game, making him a more multi-dimensional threat offensively. He’s also a solid defensive forward with good positioning and the explosive skating to quickly attack loose pucks or pressure an opponent.
The question for Howard will be whether his gaudy point totals are a result of top-tier teammates like projected top-three pick Logan Cooley, potential top-10 pick Frank Nazar, and expected first-round pick Jimmy Snuggerud.
“There are games where Howard can be a primary offensive driver and then there are games where he is more of a facilitator or complementary piece on his line,” says Nick Richard of Dobber Prospects.
Is Howard a product of his teammates or is he a dangerous offensive player on his own merits? It's likely the latter, but the uncertainty might see him fall on draft day.
4 | Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW
Many of the players in this range have incredibly inconsistent rankings — some will see them as surefire first-round picks, while others might see them as going late in the second round.
Miroshnichenko remains high on many lists even after it was announced that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He has been informed that it is curable and he is reportedly already in remission. He intends to return to hockey as quickly as possible but it adds some uncertainty for his future. Hopefully, his treatment progresses well.
While his cancer diagnosis might dissuade some teams from taking a chance on Miroshnichenko, it seems certain that he’ll still be picked in the first round because he plays a game that teams crave. With his speed, size, shot, and style, he projects as a true power forward — a hard-skating, hard-hitting goalscorer.
Miroshnichenko scored 15 points in 20 games in the MHL — Russia’s junior league — last season and had a strong World Under-18s with 6 goals in 7 games. This season, he graduated to the VHL — Russia’s second-tier men’s league — and didn’t slow down in the slightest, scoring 10 goals and 16 points in 31 games
With his speed and shot, as well as some soft hands, Miroshnichenko is very dangerous off the rush, with a tendency to cut to the middle of the ice, then shoot back against the grain to fool goaltenders, like in his first-career VHL goal.
“Breakaways or odd-man rushes involving him are commonplace, and opponents who can actually keep pace are then subjected to Miroshnichenko’s superior puck protection via stiff shoulders and a series of close-quarter escape moves,” says Steve Kournianos at The Draft Analyst.
His release is NHL-caliber already and he can also hammer one-timers and deposit rebounds, frequently showing the patience to control the rebound and tuck it around a scrambling goaltender instead of just jamming at the puck. With his explosive skating, he can accelerate into open ice at a moment’s notice to create scoring chances.
To go with all of this, Miroshnichenko has a well-rounded game, with a high motor away from the puck that can create issues for opponents on the forecheck, as well as the playmaking and vision to do more than just shoot the puck in the offensive zone.
Miroshnichenko has the raw skill to be a top-six forward in the NHL and potentially a star.
5 | Marco Kasper, C
A hard-working, speedy centre with a bit of size. Marco Kasper ticks a lot of boxes for what the Canucks could be looking for. While Kasper is generally expected to go late in the first round, some have him ranked a little higher.
“Big-time competitor plays a great two-way game and has smarts and skills to boot,” says Ryan Kennedy for The Hockey News, who suggested depth at centre for the future could be a priority for the Canucks.
Kasper played his first SHL games when he was just 16 years old and he spent almost the entire season in the SHL with Rögle BK in his draft year, putting up a respectable 7 goals and 11 points in 46 games. That was good for the sixth-most points among all junior-aged players in the SHL and first among undrafted junior players.
In fact, it’s very similar to how Daniel Sedin performed in the SHL at the same age. Or, for a more recent comparable, it’s almost identical to Adrian Kempe’s draft year in the SHL and he’s now one of the Los Angeles Kings’ best players, leading them in goalscoring this past season.
Kempe had 19 points in 20 games in the J20 Nationell junior league in his draft year and Kasper likewise racked up points at the junior level, scoring 6 goals and 13 points in 12 games. Kasper has been even more impactful in the SHL playoffs, scoring 6 points in 13 games.
With his size and reach, Kasper is excellent at controlling possession of the puck, holding off opponents until he can find a passing lane. It doesn’t hurt that he has a nifty set of hands to dangle around defenders.
While Kasper lacks some of the high-end finishing of other prospects that might be available, his strong skating and hockey IQ give him a high floor — at the very least, he should find a place on an NHL team’s third line and, from there, who knows?
What sets Kasper apart is that he is ready and willing to run over an opponent to win the puck.
“This prospect is violent,” says Mitch Brown for EP Rinkside. “Kasper’s physicality isn’t mindless. It’s integral to his game. He seems to thrive when turning hockey into pinball. Because when he’s locked into the physical aspect, he’s also winning footraces on pucks, turning board battles into inside-lane attacks, and stretching the ice with well-timed sprints to the opposing blue line.”
If his finish can catch up with the rest of his game, Kasper could wind up as a dangerous top-six forward. As is, his grit and motor will quickly endear him to many an NHL coach.
6 | Owen Pickering, D
Opinions on Owen Pickering are all over the place. Some see him going late in the second round, while others are big-time believers and think he should be a first-round pick. He landed at 15th overall in Sportsnet’s rankings from Sam Cosentino.
“Pickering has a unique combination of size, mobility, and two-way instincts that give him as much upside as just about anyone outside the top-10 picks in this draft class,” says Nick Richard of Dobber Prospects, who ranked Pickering 16th. “He has a fluid, powerful stride with great extension that allows him to cover a lot of ice.”
At 6’5”, Pickering definitely has the size that NHL teams crave on defence and he’s surprisingly mobile for someone his size, particularly since he’s still unaccustomed to being so tall. When he was selected by the Swift Current Broncos in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Pickering was just 5’7”.
Or perhaps he’s so mobile because he was undersized for so long — he needed to be a shifty skater to thrive at his size.
That speed and mobility make him a force to be reckoned with on breakouts, as he transitions the puck up ice with ease, combining his skating with deception to elude opponents and cruise through the neutral zone.
“The core of Pickering’s game is what he does with the puck,” says Mitch Brown for EP Rinkside. “On retrievals, he deceives, cuts back, then sprints to the inside. With head fakes and changes of pace, he misdirects forecheckers and then hits a teammate up the ice.”
With that size and mobility, it might be surprising that he’s not ranked higher. But Pickering is seen as an offensive defenceman and that offence didn’t show up as much as might have been hoped. His 9 goals and 33 points in 62 WHL games is good but not great and a far cry from the 65 points put up by Kevin Korchinski to lead all first-time draft-eligible defencemen in the WHL.
His profile as an offensive defenceman also includes some major question marks in the defensive zone. While he sprouted significantly in height, his weight and strength have been slower to follow, making him a little bit spindly as he attempts to battle forwards along the boards and in front of the net. And, while he’s quite mobile, there’s still some awkwardness to his skating that leaves gaps open for opposing forwards to exploit on the rush.
The big question mark for Pickering, then, is who will he become?
“There’s massive growth potential in this player, especially once he fills out,” says Cosentino.
It’s hard to argue. More strength will help him not just in battles but in the explosiveness of his skating. And, once he gets used to his bigger frame, he could become a far more effective defensive player to go with the offensive abilities that are bubbling underneath the surface. He could be a strong, two-way defenceman that can be an impact player in all situations in the NHL, the type of player that any team would be delighted to pick in 15th overall.
Or, maybe that player never comes out of Pickering. Maybe his defensive game doesn’t develop the way you might hope and the limited point totals are the best indication of his offensive upside. Maybe the rankings that have him outside of the first round are right. He’s an incredibly difficult player to project.
7 | Cutter Gauthier, C/LW
Draft Prospects has Cutter Gauthier at 15th overall in their rankings but he might not last that long. Craig Button has Gauthier in the top-10, while NHL Central Scouting has him third among North American skaters.
On a stacked U.S. Development Program U-18 team, Gauthier still managed to stand out with 34 goals and 65 points in 54 games. What sets him apart from many of his contemporaries is his versatility.
“Gauthier’s well-rounded game offers something for every team to find appealing in a potential first-round pick, providing the projectable floor of a top-nine forward with the potential to grow into a top-six scorer,” says Alexander Annun at Dobber Prospects.
Gauthier does a little bit of everything. Scouting reports praise his complete game and he can play at centre or on the wing. He can play a physical game in all three zones with his 6’3” frame but also has the skill to make jaw-dropping plays with the puck.
Gauthier has a superb wristshot that is one of the highlights of his game but he’s also an effective playmaker, drawing opponents in with his shifty skating and threat to shoot, then slipping the puck to a teammate for a better scoring chance.
“I see a potential very good top-six forward whether at centre or the wing with a chance to pop and become a true top-of-the-lineup type,” says Corey Pronman of The Athletic.
A do-anything forward who can slide up and down the lineup, either shutting down opponents or racking up points? The Canucks can only hope that he’s still available at 15th overall.
8 | Danila Yurov, RW
Danila Yurov is another top-tier forward that might not be available when the Canucks pick, but Smaht Scouting thinks he could be there at 15th overall. Several other rankings see him as a top-10 pick but Smaht Scouting isn’t alone in seeing him outside of the top ten, with Elite Prospects, Craig Button, and Sportsnet all suggesting he could slide.
At the junior level in Russia, Yurov has been dominant, with a whopping 36 points in 23 games to lead all first-time draft-eligible players in scoring in the MHL.
He would have had more points in the MHL if he hadn’t spent so much time in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, where his offence was non-existent. He had zero points in 21 regular season and 19 playoff games. It’s not really his fault, of course — he barely saw any ice time, averaging just 3:43 per game across the regular season and playoffs. In many games, he dressed as the 13th forward, then didn’t play at all.
Has that hurt Yurov’s development? Maybe a little.
“Instead of building upon his tools and high-end flashes at the U18s, Danila Yurov's hardly looked the part of a top prospect in the MHL,” says Mitch Brown for EP Rinkside, explaining why they dropped him from 6th to 13th in their draft ranking. “His NHL role looks closer to a middle-six forward with defensive value, rather than the clear top-six forward we once saw.”
Others still see a top-tier talent in Yurov.
“His stick skills and overall creativity with the puck are high end,” says Pronman. “He’s a good skater and shows excellent ability to beat defenders with speed or with dekes.”
“What stands out most about Yurov is his hockey sense and ability to read the game,” says Eetu Siltanen of Dobber Prospects. “He anticipates situations and can make great reads that most players can’t, providing great defensive value on top of his offensive instincts.”
With a little more opportunity and ice time, Yurov might still be able to develop the creative, offensive side of his game and become a dangerous top-six forward. Even if he doesn’t, his intelligent, two-way game will land him an NHL lineup.
9 | Elias Salomonsson, D
What’s this? A right-handed defenceman ranked where the Canucks will be picking? A Swedish right-handed defenceman to boot? Is it too good to be true?
Maybe. The only draft ranking this high on Salomonsson is The Puck Authority, who have him at 15th overall. Other scouting services see him as more of a second-round pick, with McKeen’s Hockey dropping him all the way to the third round at 78th overall.
That’s a massive disparity in rankings, though there are a few other rankings that still see Salomonsson as a first-round talent.
“A modern-type defenceman who shows strong lateral and straight-line mobility, a good first pass, and an initiative to join scoring plays,” says Costa Rontzocos of The Puck Authority, noting his ability to create offense off of both the cycle and the rush.
Salomonsson was trusted enough to play ten games in the SHL this season, which is a good sign for a 17-year-old defenceman — he doesn’t turn 18 until the end of August, making him one of the youngest players in the draft. At the J20 Nationell level, Salomonsson has produced, putting up 22 points in 35 games, but that same production didn’t show up at the World Under-18 Championship.
“Salomonsson continued to show who he is in this tournament — a fluid, rangy skater who can step around or on opponents with ease,” says David St-Louis of EP Rinkside of his World U-18 performance. “But he never really managed to elevate his game, to show that he could bring a play-driving element on top of his projectable defensive abilities.”
The issue for Salomonsson is that his hockey sense doesn’t seem to be at the same level as his physical tools.
“Salomonsson never showed us the poise and the play-reading ability, the anticipation, and the timing that we value in defencemen,” says St-Louis. “Be it at the SHL level or the J20 level, his game was always reactive.”
Still, he’s a superb skater with a ton of talent and he’s still so young. He has a ton of upside.
10 | Filip Mesar, C/W
One of the strongest skaters in the draft, Filip Mesar might also be one of the most underrated prospects in the 2022 draft. He might be a top-ten talent hiding in a mid-first-round ranking. Dobber Prospects has Mesar ranked 15th overall.
“His most prominent attribute is his skating as he carries tremendous edge work and explosive acceleration — he can burn defenders when he hits top speeds,” says Dave Hall of Dobber Prospects.
Perhaps the reason he hasn’t received top-ten buzz is that he’s playing in the top Slovakian men’s league, a league that is good enough to limit his ability to put up gaudy numbers, but not quite good enough to attract a lot of attention. But Mesar deserves the attention, even if his 16 points in 37 games don’t jump off the page.
“He is a dual-threat contributor in that he can beat opponents with his shot or an elusive pass,” says Hall. “With smooth hands, he is able to beat defenders one-on-one and uses his high-end motor to force himself into scoring opportunities.”
Mesar is a dynamic player because he has high-level offensive skill to go with his speed, making him exceptionally dangerous in transition.
“Mešár boasts some of the best transitional habits in the class,” says Cam Robinson of EP Rinkside. “When given a hint of an advantage, he attacks the midline with that crossover heavy stride, blending perfectly with his creative handling to push defenders back and create the time and space needed to make plays.”
Mesar isn’t just an offensive threat. He has a well-rounded defensive game too, using his excellent hockey sense and mobility to close gaps and take away passing lanes.
“He takes direct, decisive routes on the forecheck and attacking the wall,” says Robinson. “He has a good stick and the innate timing of when to sit back and when to pounce. He's been used on the penalty-killing unit for Poprad HK going back to his 16-year-old season. It's a feather in the cap and indicates his strong work rate, intelligence, and attention to detail.”
There is a lot to like about Mesar’s game and not a lot to dislike. Some reports pointed out a tendency to try to do too much with the puck but it’s hard to fault a creative, dynamic player for trying to use his creativity. He might be moving up the ranks by the time the draft comes around — will he move past the Canucks at 15th overall?
11 | Pavel Mintyukov, D
Finally, we have one more prospect to look at: defenceman Pavel Mintyukov, who landed at 15th overall in Cam Robinson’s mock draft for EP Rinkside.
The Russian defenceman is already in North America, putting up 62 points in 67 games for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL this past season. That was good for third among OHL defencemen and the two ahead of him were both over-agers.
“The 18-year-old quickly became one of the most decisive and threatening transition defenders in the CHL with his plus-skating, excellent puck skills, and high-end processing speed,” says Robinson.
Mintyukov is a mobile skater, who is dangerous in transition and knows when to jump up in the rush, but he’s equally dangerous with the puck already in the offensive zone. His shifty moves inside the blue line create a ton of space to keep the puck in the zone and generate chances and he’s adept at either escaping pressure or finding an open teammate to release that pressure.
“Simply put, we view him as the best offensive defenceman in the draft class, along with projectable defence and puck-moving,” says Mitch Brown of EP Rinkside, where he’s ranked 7th overall.
On top of his offensive abilities, Mintyukov is no slouch defensively. His mobility allows him to keep a tight gap and loves to break up plays at the blue line. He also loves to throw a big hit, though that also illustrates one of his weaknesses, as he can take himself out of position to make a hit.
“Defensively, he’s solid, showing an ability to use his long reach, mobility, and physicality to kill plays,” says Pronman.
There are just two real issues with Mintyukov for the Canucks. One is that he’s left-handed — he’d be perfect if he was right-handed. The other issue is that Mintyukov might be long gone before the Canucks pick. With a limited number of top-tier defencemen in the draft, a team in need of defence in their system could take Mintyukov higher than 15th overall.