The first round of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft from Bell Centre in Montreal is over. The first round featured plenty of surprises and several trades. NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman was in Montreal and provided a brief description and analysis of each pick.
1. Montreal Canadiens — Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (FIN)
NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 (International skaters)
Slafkovsky had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 31 games in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, but he really stood out on the international stage. He was named the most valuable player at the 2022 Beijing Olympics after scoring a tournament-best seven goals in seven games to help Slovakia win the bronze medal, its first men’s Olympic hockey medal. His seven points tied for the tournament lead, and he led Slovakia with 24 shots on goal while averaging 15:50 of ice time despite being the youngest player in the tournament at 17 years old (he turned 18 on March 30). At the 2022 IIHF World Championship, Slafkovsky led eighth-place Slovakia with nine points (three goals, six assists) and 27 shots on goal in eight games, and his average ice time of 20:32 led Slovakia forwards. He puts his size (6-foot-4, 229 pounds) and reach to good use, acting as an effective checker in the offensive and defensive zone, according to director of NHL European Scouting Goran Stubb. He’s also strong handling the puck and is not easily knocked off of it.
NHL.com analysis: The Canadians take arguably the most NHL-ready player in the 2022 Draft class. Slafkovsky already has excelled against older, more developed competition at the Olympics and the World Championship. Slafkovsky is big and skilled enough to step right into Montreal’s top six and be a threat at 5-on-5 and on the power play.
2. New Jersey Devils — Simon Nemec, D, Nitra (SVK)
NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 3 (International skaters)
Nemec (6-foot, 199) stood out playing against older competition in the top professional league Slovakia and internationally for Slovakia at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2022 IIHF World Championship. His six points (one goal, five assists) in eight games at the Worlds are the most points ever for an 18-year-old defenseman at the tournament. Nemec is a mobile right-handed shot who is a skilled stickhandler and is effective on the power play. While he is not overly aggressive offensively, Nemec has high hockey IQ and is strong in transition.
NHL.com analysis: The Devils select arguably the top-rated defenseman available with Nemec. The right-handed shot has played in Slovakia’s top league the past three seasons and said he’d like to play in the American Hockey League or the NHL next season. With Luke Hughes, the No. 4 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft and Nemec, New Jersey is stacking top defenseman prospects to go with their three young centers, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer.
3. Arizona Coyotes — Logan Cooley, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)
NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 (North American skaters)
Cooley was second on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 51 games, his average of 1.47 points per game was first, and he had had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 15 games against NCAA competition. The 18-year-old was second for the second-place United States at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in six games. Cooley, who has high-end compete and will deliver in the tough areas of the ice, will play at the University of Minnesota next season but believes he needs only one year at the collegiate level before making the jump to the NHL. Cooley (5-10, 180) is one of 60 players invited to the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp to compete for a spot on United States team for the 2022 and 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.
NHL.com analysis: The Coyotes need top-end talent to invigorate an offensive attack that was last in the NHL this season with an average of 2.51 goals per game. Cooley has elite talent and speed, and the confidence to believe he’ll be NHL-ready after one season at the University of Minnesota. With Cooley and Dylan Guenther, their first-round pick (No. 6) in the 2021 NHL Draft, as well as Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, and Barrett Hayton, the Coyotes are putting together the pieces of a future potent offense.