Don’t panic. We all know the 2022 NHL Draft is happening in less than 48 hours from when this was published, but we are trying to get you all covered and knowledgeable as best as we can by throwing some names out there and making you look smart for knowing stuff about these teenaged hockey players.
We already covered some names that the Minnesota Wild could select with the 19th overall pick, so even if some of those names are available at no. 24, we won’t repeat them, but assume that we would like them to be Wild prospects as well. Here’s a whole new crop of players that we could feasibly see in green and cream on Thursday.
D Lane Hutson
I already read some of our very smart and lovely commenters mention on the post earlier this week that I did not list enough prospects that had size as an attribute. Well, I’m sorry for including defenseman Lane Hutson on this list because he is 5-foot-8 and kind of kicks ass.
Hutson was named the best defenseman of the Under-18 Worlds and within reason. The American blueliner put his top-tier vision and awareness on display and with every viewing that each scout has had, Hutson keeps on rocketing up so many rankings. The Chicago native didn’t put up a crazy amount of points for the National Development Program — 32 in 27 games — but considering he is heading to Boston College in the fall, we might see some of that smart awareness and swiftness be able to keep some production as he moves to the next level.
The lefty could be selected anywhere from the first half of the first round, or drop like crazy into the middle of the draft just because of his size. But so many scouts praise him for his elusiveness and how well he plays because of his short stature and what he can do for his team, where other players would be simply worse. It’s an interesting pick, but maybe the Wild will go with their more safe selections for this one.
D Lian Bichsel
Here’s your damn size, you cool freaks. Lian Bichsel is a towering blueliner, standing at 6-foot-5, but can move well enough to not be shoved into that gross archetype of a tall defenseman that we have all come to dislike. Bichsel can see the ice well enough to defend at a top level and has been someone that — according to some scouts — teams are very interested in drafting high because of his size and not being afraid to handle the puck despite that.
Unfortunately, he suffered a concussion in March that ended his season early and he was unable to captain the Swiss for the Under-18 Worlds, where he surely would have gotten more attention and could have seen his draft stock rise even further. Again, interesting pick if the Wild want to go with a defenseman and he could feasibly go around no. 24. We’ve seen some defensemen get criticized for being just a tall, defense-first blueliner and going “too high” — Calder winner Moritz Seider comes to mind — so this can be at least a little secondary version.
C Noah Östlund
Okay, enough with the defensemen. We know that Judd Brackett has already mentioned that they will go with the best player available no matter what, but it would be much more fun for them to draft two forwards — maybe even centers! — on Thursday and have us all dreaming up the future lineups. One center that should be available in the Wild’s range is two-way Swedish phenom Noah Östlund.
Östlund is an all-situations player that is projected to be a coach’s dream. He is extremely comfortable with possession of the puck, and despite being 5-foot-10 and not the strongest skater on the ice, he can dart around with ease to beat opponents to loose pucks and make plays with enough speed where he will not need that overt size to bully his way to the puck. Also, considering his high work ethic and general ability to pay attention in all three zones, Minnesota must be drooling if they could select him.
For me, being all biased with wanting responsible forwards that can project to still be high-ceiling players, Östlund feels like a home-run pick for how the Wild want to play for the next decade and since they have two picks, why not do this one?
F Gleb Trikozov
Gleb! He’s not just a name, but he is feasible pick at this range as a shifty forward that might be a winger, might be a center, but has produced well enough at the Russian junior league (MHL) to have comparable stats to Nikita Kucherov and Kirill Kaprizov in their draft years. That’s pretty good company for a player that is very young compared to the whole class and some people have ranked out of the top-45 picks. Might be somewhat a stretch at this pick, but the Wild aren’t afraid of getting their guy.
Trikozov is most likely a long-term project and will need some patience from us as fans and Wild management, but if it all works out, waiting three years and not getting him to North America until he is 21 years old, will surely be worth it. Watch out for his name, wherever he goes.
C Jiri Kulich
Kulich is one of those players that — according to scouts — can either become a very good two-way play-driving center in the NHL, or just simply be an average player playing in some other league. He is good at a whole lot, but none of his tools are among the best in the class; he is a package of above-average skill that can comfortably develop.
Considering that Kulich spent his entire draft year in the top division of Czech hockey, playing among players of all ages, he might just be one of those prospects that are beyond their years and can jump into an even higher level with more ease than any player currently in a junior league.
I’ll leave it to The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler to describe Kulich’s whole deal and what he’s good at.
Kulich’s MVP performance at U18 worlds answered (emphatically) questions about whether he was a first- or second-rounder, impressing scouts with his like-clockwork one-timer on the power play. Kulich is a sturdy, driven player who can morph his game to his role and function as the detail-oriented, above-puck defender who makes quick plays and stays on pucks, can play off of talented linemates to free his dangerous shooting arsenal up, or can carry the puck and function as the primary handler on a line. I like his positioning off the puck. I like his the balance and control of his skating stride. I like how quickly and hard shots come off of his stick (not just with his one-timer but through a deceptive early release point). He’s got quick hands and flashes skill one-on-one. He’s got good feel around the net. He plays hard. He can play all three forward positions. There’s a lot to like about his makeup. — The Athletic
Yeah, there seems to be a good fit if the Wild can draft Kulich with either of their picks.
C Owen Beck
Owen Beck is an interesting forward from the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads. By many accounts he has NHL-level skating already and can zoom through the neutral zone, can pass the puck well enough, and his top-tier skating can get him to the front of the net, where he can finish well enough. But with the 5-foot-11 center, it’s a question about draft strategy and if you want to aim for high-ceiling players or just get a solid NHL contributor. For the Wild, with their two first-round picks, it’s a little bit easier to swallow if they want to go with a safe option for the second, and Beck might be just that. He can kill penalties and projects as someone that might even be a speedy bottom-six winger that can chip-in on the odd occasion. Players like that — if the Wild stay in the same system — simply bloom into top-six players in Minnesota because of either necessity or ability to tone and work those tools into above-average all-around players. He would be an interesting pick nevertheless.