Welcome to Hockey Wilderness’ coverage of the 2022 NHL Draft. We will not act like experts, nor will we act like we have watched hours of footage of these players. So instead, we have opted to rely on the opinion of people who have, and have compiled plenty of information from different publications regarding these prospects. Note: This is not a ranking, but just going down a list of interesting draft-eligible dudes without any order in mind.
At the top of the 2022 NHL Draft there are some powerful forwards, some dominant two-way centers, and others that will put butts in some damn seats; but the group so far is missing one key component and that is anyone that projects to be a very good defenseman. Simon Nemec is that and has been for a while now.
The Slovakian blueliner has hung around the top-10 in rankings all season long and has been one of the key figures to read about when discussing the new wave of talent coming from Central Europe. And it might just make sense for a team to be high on the talent that Nemec has put on display this season, because after all this dude has been playing professional hockey for three years already.
While most prospects we drool over are playing against peers or skaters even younger than themselves, Nemec is someone blossoming within the highest level of domestic hockey he can play in his country; along with hardened veterans who are surely not afraid to lay some body. That’s an asset for some teams and is certainly a reason why some are thinking of how well his game can translate into the NHL.
What Scouts Are Saying
Our team still believes that Nemec is the clear-cut best defender in the 2022 draft class, and the best player available after Shane Wright. He had 26 points in 39 regular season games with Nitra in Slovakia’s top pro league and now has six points through seven playoff games.
The 6-1 defender plays an offensively-minded, but solid two-way game and excels at both ends of the ice. What separates Nemec from many others, is his excellent hockey sense and ability to read the game. His smarts are on display in both offensive and defensive situations. He is very effective at leading the breakout, utilizing his mobility to escape pressure and his vision to make an accurate first pass. Nemec doesn’t hesitate to activate and join the rush when he sees an opportunity, either. He shows off his great puck skills when carrying it up the ice in transition, and when he controls the offensive blue line.
Defensively, he maintains very strong gap control and great positioning, which helps him to break up defensive zone cycles and intercept passes. While Nemec doesn’t have the hardest shot in the class, he has a knack for getting it through traffic and on the net. He also has the ability to quarterback a powerplay, thanks to his excellent hockey sense and high-level puck skills.
Though he didn’t see much ice time, Nemec also represented his country at the recent Olympics and he should get another chance to solidify his draft stock on the international stage at the men’s World Championships in May. — Eetu Siltanen, Dobber Prospects
This kid turned 18 in the middle of February and he’s already registered 65 points in 112 games at a professional level as a defenceman! Nemec’s statistical profile is as strong as any draft-eligible defenceman we’ve seen in recent years — and stronger than any player in this draft class. A poll of NHL scouts still gives Czech defenceman David Jiricek the slight edge, but I’d argue Nemec only further stamped what I believe to be the better case with his exceptional, record-setting play in Nitra’s playoff run and into the men’s world championships. This is a kid who has looked a class above his peers whenever he’s played with them, has excelled against NHLers on the senior stage, and is already a top player at his position in his top domestic league (albeit a difficult one to evaluate).
Nemec is a calculated and poised three-zone defender who is capable of organizing play from the top of the zone, executing through seams in coverage at a high level, and starting and leading his fair share of rushes. He’s got great edges and four-way mobility. And he also regularly flashes sneaky deception, which blends beautifully with his rare maturity for his age. Though I wouldn’t say he’s a dynamic, game-breaking type offensively, I see plenty of calmness and talent, he knows when and how to push (and when and how to sit back and defend), he’s already got pro size, he plays a polished game, and he’s a righty. I expect him to become the best defenceman out of Slovakia since Zdeno Chara and a true No. 2 (and maybe even No. 1) guy who plays an effective, efficient, play-driving modern game. The game just comes easy to him. — Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
He has been playing a strong defensive game in a pro league for almost two seasons. What stands out in his game is his intelligence on the ice. He uses his skating well, and his stickhandling benefits from his awareness. The hockey IQ that many scouts and coaches love to rave about is on full display and it will serve him well going forward. He adjusts well to new challenges; he struggled with the narrower ice in the Olympics at the start, but got better as the tournament progressed, albeit with limited minutes.
His decision-making is very strong. He uses that to read the game well especially in the defensive zone, even if he did take a bigger offensive role the longer the season progressed. The mental elements are backed up by his skating talent. It is smooth, strong, and he accelerates well. He uses this to carry the puck out or close down attackers with equal efficiency. It all comes together to make him a menace to bypass as his quick reads, quick hands, and quick feet can lead to a sudden counter-attack where he can provide an offensive edge that is just starting to blossom. — Patrik Bexell, Eyes on The Prize
Would They Fit In With The Wild?
Easily. Currently, the Minnesota Wild are focused on this five-man attack with steady control on the blue line and being able to easily push up and rotate through the zones, so Nemec’s agility and ability to control the puck could be an asset. Especially considering that Nemec is already playing professional hockey and that small-but-stoic style is something we’re all familiar with.
Can The Wild Get Them?
Similar to other players in this range, it’s a possibility but only if GM Bill Guerin is eyeing up the Ottawa Senators’ seventh overall pick as a return for winger Kevin Fiala. Then Nemec could be easily a Minnesota product — but also it seems like some scouts absolutely love him and have him going in the first three selections. Maybe!
A Minnesota Relation
Yeah, it’s an easy lay-up to say Jared Spurgeon and it’s not just the fact that they’re both slightly slender right-handed defensemen, but while skating isn’t the strongest characteristic of either player, they more than make up for it with their awareness and vision on the ice. He’s neat.